IBM Cloudant: The Do-More NoSQL Data Layer

IBM Cloudant: The Do-More NoSQL Data Layer
IBM Redbooks Solution Guide
Cloudant represents a strategic acquisition by IBM® that extends the company’s Big Data and Analytics
portfolio to include a fully managed, NoSQL cloud service. Cloudant simplifies the development cycle for
creators of fast-growing web and mobile applications, by alleviating the burdens of mundane database
administration tasks. Developers are then able to focus on building the next generation of systems of
engagement – social and mobile applications – without losing time, money, or sleep managing their
database infrastructure and growth. Critically, Cloudant is an enterprise-ready service that supports this
infrastructure with guaranteed performance and availability.
Built atop a CouchDB-based NoSQL data layer, Cloudant’s fully managed database-as-a-service
(DBaaS) enables applications and their developers to be more agile. As a part of its data layer, clients
have access to multi-master replication and mobile device synchronization capabilities for occasionally
connected devices. Applications can take advantage of Cloudant’s advanced real-time indexing for ad
hoc full text search via Apache Lucene, online analytics via MapReduce, and advanced geospatial
querying. Mobile applications can use a durable replication protocol for offline sync and global data
distribution, as well as a geo-load balancing capability to ensure cross-data center availability and optimal
performance. Cloudant’s RESTful web-based API, flexible schema, and capacity to scale massively are
what empower clients to deliver applications to market faster in a cost-effective, DBA-free service model.
This IBM Redbooks® Solution Guide describes the IBM Cloudant features. Figure 1 shows the Cloudant
Do More Data Layer.
Figure 1. Cloudant delivers the most flexible, scalable, and always available solution for developers of big
mobile and “Internet of Things” applications, via a fully managed database-as-a-service
IBM Cloudant: The Do-More NoSQL Data Layer
Did you know?
The NoSQL data management market is burgeoning: forecasts expect the value of the market to grow to
USD $14 billion between 2014 and 2018. Additionally, over 50% of NoSQL solutions use JavaScript
Object Notation (JSON)-based document data stores (including Cloudant).
Business value
It is clear that the momentum behind big data, mobile, social, Internet of Things (IoT), and cloud initiatives
is transforming the modern IT profession. We are already seeing an explosion of new products and
applications developed for these platforms, and the expectation is that these products will experience
ever-increasing consumption by established and emerging markets. Agility and elasticity are key in the
mobile application environment, where being able to rapidly scale up performance is necessary to
accommodate fluctuations in usage and load on your infrastructure. In the mobile space, the demand on
these systems can change on a day-to-day basis, and it is necessary for developers to have a solution in
place that allows them to scale up without having to scale their internal resources, as well. Web and
mobile application databases – and their administrators – must be prepared to face issues of cost,
performance, scalability, availability, and security head-on; all of which carry uncertainty and risk.
IBM Cloudant eliminates this complexity by enabling developers to focus on building next-generation
applications without the need to manage their database infrastructure or growth. A fully managed cloud
data layer service, Cloudant offers its clients the high availability, scalability, simplicity, and performance
that modern web and mobile applications demand. The scalability of a fully managed cloud DBaaS
solution simplifies the application development cycle and offers Cloudant clients greater agility for
launching new products or responding to an ever-changing market: build more, grow more, and sleep
Cloudant provides the following benefits:
Offers a NoSQL data layer, delivered as a fully managed service. Liberates developers from the cost,
complexity, and risk of do-it-yourself data layer solutions.
Monitored and managed 24x7 by Cloudant’s big data and database administration experts.
Uses self-describing JSON “document” storage schemas to allow for flexible and agile application
Mobile device and web replication and synchronization support for offline and occasionally connected
Built using a master-master (also known as “master-less”) clustering framework that can span
multiple racks, data centers, cloud providers, or devices.
High availability and enhanced performance for customer applications that require data to be local to
the user. Supplied by global data distribution and geo-load balancing technologies.
Delivers real-time indexing for online analytics, ad hoc full-text search via integrated Apache Lucene,
and advanced geospatial querying.
Supplies a RESTful API for ease of access and compatibility with developers that live and work on the
modern web.
Based on open standards including: Apache CouchDB, Apache Lucene, GeoJSON, and others.
IBM Cloudant: The Do-More NoSQL Data Layer
Solution overview
The data layer solution offered by IBM Cloudant delivers a fully managed cloud service that is always on,
fast, and scalable. Cloudant provides all the database administration for their clients’ applications,
providing a fast-growing and scalable framework on which clients are able to focus purely on
development of their next generation of applications.
IBM Cloudant provides database solutions tailored to address the following scenarios for its clients:
Inadequate database performance is currently (or has the potential in the future) to hamper user base
or business growth.
Unreliable service availability has negatively affected user experience or resulted in lost revenue
Access required to application features and data on sometimes offline (mobile) devices, where
network connectivity is poor or unavailable.
Performance of advanced analytics on customer data and application metrics needed.
Storage solutions need to use “variable” or multi-structure JSON data for maximum schema flexibility.
No in-house database administration solutions; company does not want to hire DBAs.
Developers of mobile and web applications can host their business on a global network of service
providers, including IBM SoftLayer, Rackspace, Microsoft Azure, and Amazon Web Services. Regardless
of the service provider, Cloudant’s data layer ensures that a company’s underlying services are fully
supported by a scalable and flexible NoSQL solution. Full-text search, advanced analytics technologies,
and mobile data replication and synchronization further extend how clients interact with and use their
data. For this reason, Cloudant typically targets verticals in the areas of online gaming, mobile
development, marketing analytics, software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies, online education providers,
social media, networking sites, and data analytics firms. Figure 2 shows how IBM Cloudant’s fully
managed DBaaS solution fits into the database market.
IBM Cloudant: The Do-More NoSQL Data Layer
Figure 2. How IBM Cloudant’s fully managed DBaaS solution fits into the database market
At the time of this writing, the Cloudant service is hosted in over 35 data centers around the world. IBM
Cloudant allows for total flexibility in document and database design – as well as geo-location choices – to
ensure maximum control and security over customer data. Cloudant is able to scale out these
deployments up to millions of databases; furthermore, you can instantiate individual databases to isolate
data on an individual database level. This combination of scaled development and deployment across
geospatial locations – as well as partitioning of data across individual databases – enables the client to
isolate and tightly control how data is persisted in the network. Figure 3 illustrates the IBM Cloudant
NoSQL database, services, and API layer view.
IBM Cloudant: The Do-More NoSQL Data Layer
Solution architecture
Figure 3. The IBM Cloudant NoSQL database, services, and API layer view
Notice in Figure 3 the fully integrated capabilities that are inherent in the Cloudant API and available
without the need for third-party integrations. IBM Cloudant was designed to reduce the complexity of tasks
and services that developers otherwise are required to manage themselves: complete synchronization
and geo-load balancing features are tunable within Cloudant’s toolsets, and its replication API is
consistent across both Cloudant and CouchDB. No additional services or components between your
device and storage endpoints are required to take advantage of these features. The advantage to you being able to source database synchronization activity to only particular subsets of your data reduces
network load and increases performance via targeted, geospatial-specific synchronization tasks.
One of IBM Cloudant’s key API differentiators, which set it in a class apart from competitors, is a
feature-laden JSON API, including document data stores, primary indexing, MapReduce-built secondary
indexes, and full-text search. JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) is a lightweight data interchange format
that has become the de facto data interchange format on the web because of its language independence
and self-describing data structures. Data representation and structure can vary from document to
This schema flexibility allows you to describe all the aspects of data (in any formatting that you might
encounter); moreover, JSON allows you to avoid the use of NULL values – such as you find in relational
databases. Consequently, IBM Cloudant can be described as a “flexible schema” approach to data
storage: this is not meant to imply that there is no schema, rather that the schema varies across subsets
of documents and their data. No database downtime or table locks are required to alter a single
document’s schema, and because of this Cloudant is aptly suited for scenarios where database schema
flexibility is key. Cloudant comes embedded with a variety of real-time indexing options to query your
data. Secondary indexes built via MapReduce, also known as views, are ideal for searching for secondary
keys or ranges of keys, and for doing heavy online analytics. Search indexes built using Apache Lucene
are excellent for performing ad hoc or full text search; additionally, Cloudant’s indexing supports search
facets and groups, as well as search by both distance and bounding box.
IBM Cloudant: The Do-More NoSQL Data Layer
Finally, advanced geospatial indexing allows for querying against complex structures, such as polygons
and calculating advanced relations, such as overlap or intersection. All of these features are accessed by
a RESTful web-based API, which is natural and intuitive to programmers familiar with developing for the
web. Figure 4 depicts that the sole concern for clients of a database-as-a-service (DBaaS) solution is the
design and development of their application. IBM Cloudant guarantees availability, eliminates risk, and
ensures that service is able to scale out as clients (and their applications) grow.
Figure 4. The sole concern for customers of a database-as-a-service (DBaaS) solution is the design and
development of their application. IBM Cloudant guarantees availability, eliminates risk, and ensures that
service is able to scale out as clients (and their applications) grow
For modern web and mobile applications, the speed of deployment onto a database is critical: databases
need to adequately support usage requirements, scale (and downsize) rapidly, and provide high
availability. IBM Cloudant’s distinguishing feature is the delivery of these necessary services and rich
portfolio of proprietary tools via a cloud-distributed, database-as-a-service (DBaaS) solution. Unlike
do-it-yourself (DIY) solutions, which ask developers to handle everything from provisioning the hardware
to database administration at the top of the stack, DBaaS handles cloud database provisioning,
management, and scaling as a paid service to the client. The client receives guaranteed availability and
reliability of their business, hardware provisioning that can grow elastically as required, and a rapid time to
value with the greatest mitigation of risk. Hosted services simply cannot claim to offer the same degree of
comprehensive services: hosted cloud solutions provision hardware and instantiate an image, then turn
the keys over to you – the developer. Only a fully managed service, such as IBM Cloudant, can liberate
developers from the burdens of database administration and allow clients to focus their energy on what
really matters: building the next generation of web and mobile applications for their customers.
IBM Cloudant: The Do-More NoSQL Data Layer
Usage scenarios
Consider the scenario of a small start-up developer for mobile and web-browser games with a problem:
the runaway success of their newest mobile game. This company is of modest size and equally modest
budget, with a game that is named a “Featured App” in the App Store the day of the launch. The
unexpected success of the application required the studio to rapidly scale out their service in order to
accommodate the increasing demand for the application. At present, this development studio and their
application are at a standstill; the load on their inadequate database architecture is so great that the
mobile game has become unusable. Despite their best efforts to prepare for scaling - including a soft
launch of the game - no one on the team has ever faced such an onslaught of users. Negative customer
reviews are piling up and the company’s ability to conduct business is gridlocked. Without experts in
database administration on hand to support the product’s demand, the financial repercussions of this
ongoing service outage might prove disastrous.
The design studio had five criteria that needed to be satisfied before they are able to commit to a solution:
1. The improved database back end needs to scale massively and elastically (up and down) in response
to fluctuating demand on the App Store.
2. It needs to be available nonstop in order to not interrupt the delivery of entertainment to their users
around the world.
3. They need to be up and running on it fast, while there was still a chance to capitalize on the initial
popularity of the game.
4. The solution needs to be managed – hiring DBAs did not make sense for the company’s long-term
objectives of developing better games for their customers.
5. The solution requires improved tools and techniques for data management over the messy and
frustrating relational database management systems (RDBMS) that were used previously.
Enter IBM Cloudant, which delivered the robust scalability needed by the game developer – who was able
to migrate to Cloudant within just a few days and without hiring a DBA. Cloudant addressed challenges of
availability, synchronization, and geography. Millions of new users were able to interact with the online
game’s world, without requiring the studio to hire (or have on staff previously) DBAs to administer the
solution. Cloudant also provided monitoring of user activity and monetization analytics: tools that allowed
the developer to track how customers were purchasing through in-application markets and ecosystems,
as well as trace usage and application exposure. Key decision makers in this process were the
company’s chief technology officer, as well as the lead application development team – for whom a fully
managed Database-as-a-Service, such as Cloudant, was able to alleviate key pain points and drive new
IBM Cloudant: The Do-More NoSQL Data Layer
As you might expect, IBM Cloudant is as equally appealing to enterprise developers as it is for small
start-up companies. Nearly any system that needs to elastically scale concurrent access to data or
manage multi-structured data can benefit from Cloudant. Several examples of enterprise success stories
are described:
Elastic scaling. A major consumer financial services company created a customer-facing web and
mobile app for storing and sharing personal financial data. It was intended to serve as a digital safety
deposit box. Providing this to customers generated better self-service and brand loyalty; however, the
company did not have the experience or know-how needed to scale a system to serve up to 20 million
users. They chose Cloudant over other offerings due to Cloudant’s superior service, performance,
and security.
Messy data. One of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies uses the Cloudant DBaaS to stage
and transform clinical trial data for a large data warehousing and analytics project they operate.
Cloudant’s ability to handle the wide variety of clinical studies data (via self-describing JSON
indexing) - and ability to index it incrementally as new data is loaded - reduced the time needed for
data processing from 18 hours (in Oracle) to just a few minutes. It also eliminated the expense of
Oracle’s hardware and software overhead.
Internet of Things. A fitness metrics company collects data from Internet-enabled fitness devices
(including mobile phones) to collect information about product usage and workout information. Users
can subsequently tap into and monitor their fitness metrics online. It also collects product “health”
readings to determine whether the devices collecting this data might require maintenance. The client
relies on Cloudant to handle the large volume of data being concurrently collected and read by its
products and users.
Social learning. A publicly held developer of desktop language learning software wants to deliver their
software as an online service. Additionally, they want to enable language learners to connect and
communicate with each other, in order to practice their newly learned languages with other users.
They use Cloudant to handle the large scale-up of course material and user data, including
connections between users, states of conversations, full-text indexing, searches of curriculum and
correspondence information, and more. Cloudant provided the scalability and eliminated the need to
use separate databases for structured data, graph (connections) data, and full text.
IBM Cloudant: The Do-More NoSQL Data Layer
The IBM enterprise-ready Big Data and Analytics portfolio enables clients to address the full spectrum of
challenges across areas of mobile, social, big data, and the cloud. Cloudant extends these capabilities by
providing another leading solution to an already market-leading portfolio. Table 1 describes IBM product
integration points with Cloudant.
Table 1. IBM product integration points with Cloudant
IBM product
Integration points
IBM Worklight®
IBM Bluemix
BigInsights is the IBM Hadoop platform.
Cloudant is complementary to BigInsights: BigInsights handles analytics and Cloudant
handles transactional data.
The tight integration between Watson Foundations product architectures allows data from
Cloudant to be pushed into BigInsights for analytics.
DB2 BLU is the IBM in-memory, high performance, relational database system (RDBMS) for
Data from Cloudant can be loaded into DB2 BLU directly, or ingested via BigInsights, by
using the interoperability of the Watson Foundations framework.
Information Server is the IBM data integration platform.
Information Server is complementary to Cloudant: Information Server can deliver trusted
data from the enterprise to Cloudant.
Clients who use Information Server as part of the enterprise data warehouse (EDW) and
Analytics landscape will find it simple to import data from Cloudant into that infrastructure.
Worklight is the IBM platform for extending clients’ businesses to mobile platforms.
IBM Worklight enables the development of HTML5, JavaScript, and native mobile
applications on the front end, and integration with enterprise-scale data applications and
services on the back end.
There is a Worklight adapter available for Cloudant to facilitate service-based access to
various components of Cloudant’s data layer.
Bluemix is the IBM cloud-based delivery system for composable services.
Bluemix provides a marketplace where developers can rapidly provision, experiment, build,
and test applications from a catalog of IBM and IBM partner-built services.
IBM Cloudant will be one of many components deployable from Bluemix’s catalog of
composable services.
IBM Cloudant: The Do-More NoSQL Data Layer
Supported platforms
The IBM Cloudant Database-as-a-Service (DBaaS) solution enables you to buy into a guaranteed data
management service level agreement (SLA), rather than locking you into a database technology.
Considerations must be made for a client’s storage, throughput, latency, up-time, data access, and
support requirements. Pricing and service tiers – offered without lock-in – are detailed in the following
Ordering information
You can try Cloudant at no charge at Table 2 explains the available service
Table 2. Service tiers
Service tier
Gold Support
Scalability: elastic scaling; handles billions of transactions
per day.
Rich, NoSQL Database as a Service (DBaaS) API.
Guaranteed database performance and up-time.
Dedicated DBaaS cluster hardware.
Over 35 cloud hosting locations on IBM SoftLayer,
Rackspace, AWS, or Azure.
Bare-metal performance on IBM SoftLayer or Rackspace.
Usage is measured against three metrics:
 Data volume (in GBs per month).
 “Heavy” API requests (including PUTs, POSTs, and
DELETEs). API requests that read or write multiple JSON
docs in bulk are considered one API call per request.
 “Light” API requests (including GETs and HEADs).
Systems monitoring: APIs collect and report on system
metrics (read load versus write load, disk saturation, cache
utilization, and CPU core utilization).
Cluster resizing: Cloudant manages the expansion or
downscaling of dedicated clusters, the reconfiguration of
hardware, and the rebalancing of data – as required.
Continuous enhancement: code deployment (fixes,
optimizations, and new features) across the data layer on a
biweekly basis.
Elastic: based on cluster size
(number of server nodes in
$ 1.00 USD per GB/month
$ 0.015 per 100 “heavy”
$ 0.015 per 500 “light”
No charge ever if your
monthly usage is under $
$ 500 USD per month on
Multi-tenant tier (included for no
charge with Enterprise tier).
Related information
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IBM Cloudant: The Do-More NoSQL Data Layer
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IBM Cloudant: The Do-More NoSQL Data Layer
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IBM Cloudant: The Do-More NoSQL Data Layer