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One-on-One with James Phillips
SVP of products at Couchbase

by Steve BogdonWednesday, February 23, 2011

Dashboard Insight recently spoke with James Phillips and his newly formed NoSQL database company Couchbase.


Dashboard Insight: Can you tell us a little bit about the merger between CouchOne and Membase and why it made sense to join forces?

James Phillips: Damien and I were introduced by one of our investors – Robin Vasan at Mayfield Fund. It became clear very quickly that Membase and CouchOne were a great fit in terms of technology, people and business. On technology, Membase development had focused on caching, cluster management (sharding) and the high-performance management of memory-to-disk data flows. CouchOne, on the other hand, had been focused on a different part of the technology stack -- advanced indexing, document-oriented operations, real-time map-reduce, replication and support for mobile/web application synchronization. We had Membase customers asking for the features of the CouchOne platform. CouchOne had customers asking for Membase-like features. By merging, we have eliminated 18 months of redundant R&D we would have done separately. On the team side, it just so happened at the time of our conversations that Damien was looking for a CEO while Membase had just started a search for a CTO -- something easily solved with the merger. And our technical team is now twice the size of either individual team.

DI:  Membase and Apache CouchDB are both open source projects. Will both projects continue separately, and if so, how will this affect the product offerings of Couchbase?

JP: That’s the beauty of open source -- the projects have a life of their own. CouchDB is an Apache project with a great group of core developers outside of Couchbase contributing to its evolution. While Couchbase is the major contributor to the membase.org project, Zynga and NHN are both co-sponsors of the project. Our technical team will continue to contribute to both projects, which will remain underlying technologies for the Couchbase family of products.

DI:  What makes Couchbase unique from other NoSQL database solutions out in the market?

JP: The technology “under the hood” of Membase powers 18 of the top 20 most heavily trafficked websites, and tens of thousands of others, as it is ideal for deployment in the cloud behind very large-scale web applications. CouchOne technology has more than two million active installations and has proven itself to be the most reliable NoSQL database available. One specific thing that differentiates Couchbase is its mobile-cloud synchronization support. Native mobile applications, iPhone applications from the Apple App Store, for example, are the primary model for software consumption on mobile devices. Synchronizing the data between the mobile version and the web version of an application is difficult. With Couchbase technology underneath the native application on mobile devices, the sync problem is eliminated. This technology can keep millions of mobile devices synchronized with the cloud database to ensure data consistency.

DI:  Why would someone choose Couchbase’s solutions over all the other NoSQL providers?

JP: It all depends on what you’re trying to do or the problem you’re aiming to solve. If you are building a web application that requires low-latency access to data, where cost-effective scalability is a requirement, then Couchbase products would make sense. And if you are in need of mobile-to-cloud synchronization, there really is no good alternative.

DI: What is the process if someone wants to evaluate your solutions?

JP: We plan to ship our first integrated release by summer. But users don’t have to wait to get value from each technology. Many users already deploy Membase and CouchDB side-by-side in production. See our new website for more information on our roadmap.


Couchbase is the name of the new NoSQL database company and product family created through the merger of CouchOne and Membase. Couchbase technologies represent the most comprehensive data management solution for building scalable web and mobile applications, with indexing, flexible querying and ease of use that developers love; and elastic clustering, robust storage management and consistently high performance relied on by system administrators and operators. Couchbase is a privately held company funded by Accel Partners, Mayfield Fund, North Bridge Venture Partners and Redpoint Ventures. Visit www.couchbase.com for more information.

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