MongoDB investing 'heavily' on R&D down under

Its global community team is also headquartered in Australia.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

Australia isn't usually the first place of thought when discussing where research and development (R&D) is conducted by companies borne out of the United States, but document database darling MongoDB is bucking that trend.

The company's operations in Australia comprise a very large R&D and engineering focus and did well before it established a sales presence.

About seven years ago, MongoDB stood up a support office; it then boosted its Australian engineering presence less than three years later acquiring WireTiger.

WiredTiger comprised five engineers, three in Boston, and two in Sydney.

Speaking with ZDNet while in Australia last week, MongoDB co-founder and CTO Eliot Horowitz explained how this started the company's R&D operations down under.

"The team in Sydney wanted to grow, and it did pretty rapidly, what we found was that they hired really great people, very quickly, so the WiredTiger team started growing," he recalled. "We then had these other products that we wanted to build and we found talent -- really great talent -- in Sydney."

WiredTiger has since grown "tremendously", Horowitz said, but also the company has charged its Australian operations with its MongoDB Charts product.

"That is built entirely out of the Sydney office ... all the engineers are here, the product managers are here, the designer is here," he continued.

"We find that we get great talent -- it's an interesting market for us."

The company also expanded its internship program to Australia, with the first intake seeing six interns join the team. Horowitz plans to "doubling down" on that number next summer.

The global community team is also run out of Australia.

When Gavin Jones joined the company's local operations as its regional VP of Australia and New Zealand around a year ago, there was around 7,500 people in the MongoDB user group in Australia. He said that has since grown.

Over the last 12 months, MongoDB's Australian customer base has also exploded, with the company claiming two of the big four banks, two of the country's largest telcos, and two large insurance providers.

"Most of our [Australian] customers have been into our office and spoke to the people that are building the products that they're betting their business on," Jones said.

"A lot of businesses are struggling with relational databases ... hitting barriers where making a field change could take months and cost half a million dollars -- those sort of barriers just aren't viable," he said of what is seeing Australian customers flock to the database vendor.

"In this sort of digital environment, it's developers that are making choices as to what databases allow them to deliver business outcomes, that they're being pushed to deliver for business stakeholders."

Going public also somewhat validated the company, he said.

"We see some of the biggest and most risk averse financial institutions and government agencies trust us with their most sensitive data, [going public] was certainly a big catalyst for the Australian organisations to embrace it, but what we also saw was that because they'd had so many barriers with relational ... they're trying to replace those systems with ones that are far more versatile and allow them to move at the speed they need to."

Jones said he expected MongoDB to be used by large Australian companies for their edge or mobile plays, but instead the company has been injected into their payment platform programs, CRM programs, and other mission-critical, heavily regulated systems.

"The same capabilities that we're selling to the biggest banks and insurers in Australia is being deployed across some of the smaller startups that are betting their business on MongoDB," he added.

"We're seeing blockchain companies, and crypto companies, and companies in the IoT space ... embedding MongoDB as part of their go-to-market offerings."

Neither wanted to comment on whether the spiel to blockchain companies was that a database would be sufficient for their needs.


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