MongoDB Q4 revenues surge on cloud business

In spite of new competition from Amazon, MongoDB finished the year beating Wall Street estimates. MongoDB’s Atlas managed cloud service was the epicenter of growth, with business quadrupling over the year.

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MongoDB's growth accelerated during Q4 with revenues of $85.5 million, up 71% year over year, beating the street by nearly $10 million. For the full year, MongoDB closed out at $267 million, up 61% over the previous year. MongoDB's Atlas managed cloud service was the engine for growth, with revenues up 400% year over year.

Overall, the company has over 13,000 customers, which is up 130% over a year ago. 5000 of the new customers came through the cloud in Q4, with 4200 of them coming from the $68 million mLab acquisition that closed in November.

The mLab deal was not so much about MongoDB taking out a rival, but instead, opening an entry level self-service tier with small-midsized customers whose annual billings typically hover around $5000. For now, the impact of mLab on MongoDB's top line will be modest, with the company estimating it to add about $18 - 20 million over the next year. More to the point, mLab is about MongoDB not wanting to cede low-end customers to its rivals.

But with mLab and Atlas, MongoDB is unmistakably becoming a cloud company. The Atlas service is now operating at a roughly $100 million annual run rate. During Q4, Atlas accounted for 34% of MongoDB's business, and 24% for the full year.

While Wall Street still considers MongoDB a growth company, as the numbers are still in the red, it is keeping a lid on losses. While revenues grew over 60%, losses stayed flat around the low $20 million range, dropping per-share losses by half.

While imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, for open source platforms like MongoDB, it's also an existential threat. And so, with the Q4 results, the ghosts in the room were the controversial changes in licensing and the long-awaited entry of Amazon into MongoDB's market.

MongoDB is one of a wave of open source companies that are now taking defensive maneuvers in licensing to ward off rivals making money delivering cloud services based on the technology they developed. The Server Side Public License (SSPL), introduced with the current 4.x version, discourages MongoDB rivals by compelling them to open source any technology utilized in delivering their cloud service. The company failed to get approval of its license from the Open Source Initiative, and as a result, Red Hat removed MongoDB from Fedora Linux

MongoDB is hardly alone in perceiving the threat; Confluent, Elastic, and Redis have taken comparable strategies. In the long run, the solution for most of these companies will probably be an open core strategy that formally differentiates between open source and proprietary content. Watch this space as we'll have more to say about that shortly when we add our two cents about the latest spat between Elastic and Amazon.

While MongoDB share prices dropped after Amazon's January 10 announcement of DocumentDB, to date, the company maintains that the AWS offering has had no impact on their pipeline. AWS is still early in its DocumentDB rollout, which is currently confined to a few regions in North America and Western Europe. Nonetheless, Wall Street shares MongoDB's optimism as share prices soared 12% in afterhours trading.