What to Expect in 2021. Q&A with Jeff Morris

We really think that what 2021 will bring is an explosion of digital experience-based applications where time to market pressures are primary.“– Jeff Morris

Q1. How has the Database industry changed as a result of the pandemic? 

The database industry has begun to recognize that decentralization of users, employees as well as customers, creates opportunities for their database application developers to transform their digital experiences. While we characterize this as an opportunity, it is more realistically an urgent necessity to do so. This is accelerating the database industry’s shift from kitchen-sink style analytic processing popularized by Hadoop and cloud data warehouses to IT organizations developing digital experience applications that are personalized, mobile, easy to access and responsive wherever a user may be. This shift highlights the need to revamp operational applications using multi-purpose database technologies that blend the familiarity, dependability and trustworthiness of relational databases with the flexibility and distributed scalability of NoSQL platforms. And these data processing platforms must run from cloud to edge. This is a big challenge for organizations who are trying to act fast, avoid steep learning curves and avoid long development cycles. Fail fast and fail better is the goal in a cloud-native microservices based application world, database platforms like Couchbase are helping these organizations meet these challenges. 

Q2. Despite significant upheaval to organizations’ digital transformation plans, the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to a surge in innovative projects, according to research from Couchbase. Can you give us some examples? 

One example that comes to mind is BackpackEMR. BackpackEMR provides e-medical record software to NGOs for mobile clinics. These clinics occur where internet connectivity is spotty, consequently, BackpackEMR leverages the offline first capability of Couchbase Lite operating each clinic offline and syncing paitent data between clinic iPads. The ability to quickly and easily deploy Couchbase on Amazon Web Services provided BackpackEMR with the reliability, scalability, security, and global availability they required to manage data for all their customers and patients. In the early days of the pandemic BackpackEMR shifted to utilizing the services to help track COVID cases.  As the year progressed, BackpackEMR decentralized their mobile clinics to facilitate asynchronous offline virtual care where local team members who could travel out to the rural community and do home visits or just mini camps where they could collect that patient’s data and then they can upload it to the cloud where a physician, whether it’s a local physician or someone in the US, can remotely review those patient charts.  To date, BackpackEMR has helped provide healthcare to 50,000 patients across 20 countries. Additionally, the offline-first, peer-to-peer networking capabilities provided by Couchbase have created a seamless patient experience without access to electricity or the internet, and cuts charting costs by 20% compared to paper. 

Another innovative project that Couchbase was involved was it’s work with Prewave, a data analytics startup whose AI technology analyzes social media and news media data in over 50 languages and uses advanced machine learning to deliver predictions on critical risks to their customers’ supply chains.  As a result of their work with Couchbase, Prewave was able to reduce query time from minutes to seconds, stream thousands of queries during every 24-hour analyst period and go from proof of concept to production within two months.

Q3. How do you see the Cloud evolving in 2021? 

The cloud is evolving in multiple dimensions.  Multicloud deployments will increase in popularity as they give leverage back to enterprises in avoiding lock-in and price gouging.  Meanwhile the efficiency offered by cloud-native deploy deployments will become mainstream as DevOps teams gain successes in building and iterating microservices-based applications. The challenge here is to make sure that the underlying data processing services are equally as nimble as their development teams. This means that the flexibility of document-oriented databases will highly desirable, especially when those documents can be accessed via multiple database service functions like SQL queries, text search and real-time analytics while also being able to feed this data to each microservice without worrying about the mismatch between stateless microservices accessing and using stateful database information.  

Q4. When do you recommend your customers to use a Database-as-a-Service (DBaaS) and when not? 

We generally recommend DBaaS based on an organization’s available resources and infrastructure, as well as use cases. When an organization runs a database in-house (either on-prem or in a private cloud), they have to procure computing resources, purchase and install the software, then build their own database system. For a large Enterprise with plentiful IT resources, this may be fine or even preferred for it’s greater level of granular control over all aspects of the environment. But for many organizations, the self-managed route presents challenges if a database infrastructure is needed quickly, especially if they don’t have ready resources and expertise to implement it. For these cases, DBaaS is a perfect option, as it provides an environment that can be spun up and deployed with all required features in minutes, deployed using best practices. DBaaS is also ideal for its ability to enable quick development and testing environments that can be used as needed then discarded.

Q5. How do you see Edge computing evolving in 2021? 

In 2020, there was a massive jump in the understanding of how edge computing can deliver continuity, enabling business operations that are always on and always fast, regardless of network connectivity and speed. 

There are several factors that will continue to propel the growth of Edge computing this year. The COVID pandemic has triggered a new wave of applications and business models that benefit from data processing at the edge. Several of these will remain in the post-pandemic era with the key driver being the customer experience. 

5G and other emerging networking technologies like SpaceX Starlink, have matured to a point that they are now becoming viable options for connecting mission critical business systems. This connectivity is reaching ubiquity and allowing enterprises to decentralize their business systems like never before. Coupled with these networking technologies, edge computing enables these business systems to operate at speed and reliability levels that are physically unachievable without it – delivering consistent double, single, and sub-millisecond latencies, and reliability up to 100%. 

2021 will mark the end of the acceptability of inherently unreliable and high latency cloud-only business systems, and the beginning of 100% business continuity enabled by edge computing and the latest in modern networking technologies.

Q6. How is Couchbase helping their customers prepare for edge computing? 

Couchbase released the first database product for edge computing in 2014 – the first database on the market purpose built for the needs of edge computing. The Couchbase data platform enables data storage and processing in any cloud and at the edge, including  smart devices, laptops, servers to edge data centers that are on-prem, edge of cloud, edge of mobile operator etc.  Additionally, the Couchbase data platform provides secure data synchronization between the edge data processing sites.

Since the release in 2014, we’ve advanced our offerings in partnership with our customers – enabling them to evolve their mission critical systems and realize true business continuity with consistent 100% reliability and sub-millisecond latencies. 

The close partnerships we have with our customers along with our ability to anticipate their technical needs and evolve quickly has been key for us. Going forward, Couchbase will continue to focus on our customer and ecosystem partners as we work to deliver our next set of database capabilities purpose built for the evolving needs of the broad edge computing ecosystem.  At the top of the list, helping our customers and partners prepare to utilize our edge computing products on emerging network technologies and the latest edge computing infrastructure from the major cloud providers.

Q7. What is the path forward for analytics?  

Data is the foundation for analytics and we are in the age of the truly data-empowered. Data has become more democratic as enterprises empower employees at various levels to explore and analyze data from their desktops, mobile devices and wearables. These data reside in operational analytical databases, data warehouses or data lakes which are consumed either through self-service BI tools, visual discoveries and advanced augmented analytics with use of machine learning (ML) or model training techniques.

With data variety and data volumes multiplying in real-time, more and more of our customers are seeing the need to perform analytics on incoming operation transactions paving way for hybrid operational and analytics processing. Couchbase Analytics is well positioned to complement its NoSQL hybrid analytics from operational sources, perform in-place analytical querying from data lakes with no data movement and enabling insights at the speed of transactions and soon be able to blend ML models with analytical data. With the advent of these systems of insights, Actionable Insights will be the focus enabling more informed and in business real-time decision making.

Q8. Anything else you wish to add?

We really think that what 2021 will bring is an explosion of digital experience-based applications where time to market pressures are primary. This means avoiding high learning curves like learning proprietary query and programming languages. Database systems that can leverage the SQL skills and best practices of relational database application developers while enabling them to build more flexible, scalable and mobile applications upon a distributed NoSQL platform, deployed in the cloud, will ultimately be the winners in the race to reach decentralize


Jeff Morris, VP of Product & Solutions Marketing, Couchbase

Jeff Morris brings three decades of product marketing experience to Couchbase.  He’s been head of marketing at data integration startup, Datacoral for the last six months, and prior to that he was head of product marketing at Neo4j, helping graph databases break out from the NoSQL market. He spent three years at SaaS analytic vendor, GoodData in both Sales and Marketing. For over a decade, Jeff was VP of product marketing at Actuate, helping commercialize BIRT, their open source analytic offering by spearheading their entry into dashboards, marketplaces, mobile, and finally cloud. Jeff’s product management background was formed at open source pioneer, Sendmail and sales automation vendor Borealis, and he learned the fundamentals of software engineering and marketing at Forte Software and IDE.  He studied Electrical Engineering and History at Syracuse University. 

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