How FatCloud Is Bringing NoSQL To The World of Microsoft

Story by Benjamin F. Kuo


One of the hottest areas in enterprise and cloud software has been the move by the industry to adopt technologies like NoSQL, a way to tap into the distributed nature of the cloud to accelerate distributed applications. One of the startups in that area--born out of a .NET development organization here in Los Angeles--is FatCloud (, which develops a NoSQL database which ties directly into Microsoft's SQL Server database. We caught up with CEO Ian Miller to learn about the company and its NoSQL database, and its roots here in applications built for companies like Yahoo and CBS.

What exactly is FatCloud?

Ian Miller: FatCloud is a data management and software platform company with a NoSQL database. It's a distributed data platform built for scale, and build for accelerated application development. The company was actually born in Los Angeles, out of a company which was a .NET development organization. That company had done a number of very large products for clients like Yahoo and CBS. Every time they did a distributed, web-based project, they realized they were reinventing the wheel. They were constantly figuring out ways to pass messages between servers, and to handle recovery and fault tolerance. FatCloud was originally born out of solving their own problems. The software was built, and test, and pre-integrated with software, to build some very scalable systems. That system was launched as its own, separate company in late 2011. Over the last few months, we've been coming out to the market much more aggressively.

For those not familiar with NoSQL, can you briefly explain why it's important?

Ian Miller: The traditional database market was based on what is called the relational model. It's based on something called SQL - structured query language, which works very well. However, it tends to work only on a single server, or a single computer. That means there are limits to how much it can scale, and deal with the kind of applications people need today for web applications, e-commerce applications, and cloud applications. What you really need, is something based on a distributed computing architecture, running on 10's, 100's, and thousands of computers, to deal with the number of people who want access to that data. NoSQL is a recently new technology, and represents not only SQL, but does SQL like things built on many computers, and which has intrinsic ability to deal with the scale that today's applications require. We are one of those NoSQL databases, one of several on the market, but what I think makes FatCloud special, is we're very focused on first of all the Windows market and the Microsoft server ecosystem, and we're focused on providing a great, bridging technology for people using Microsoft's SQL server database. Rather than treating the previously relationships databases and SQL as the enemy, we've embraced it, and built the ability to interface directly with SQL server into our software. You can both export between our product, FatDB, and Microsoft SQL server, and we also support two-way, real time synchornizing of data. That means legacy apps can continue to update SQL server, and in turn, those updates get transmitted to our database, so new apps can use that data, and vice versa. We've build some evolutionary technology for Microsoft customers, so they can move forward and distribute their computing into the cloud, or use whatever future technology on their roadmap might ask them to do.

What is your background?

Ian Miller: I'm a Brit by birth, and was born in the U.K. I started my career in Europe, and spend my first decade working out of there. I then spent the next ten years in the Far East, spending five years in Hong Kong, and five years in Singapore. I moved to the states with my first acquisition. I was running the Far East for Sequent, then IBM bought them and moved them to the States. Since I've been back in the United States, I've really been working on how to make commodity microprocessors do un-natural things, and scale well. All of the companies I've been involved with have been about scale and performance. The most extreme was Cray, the supercomputer company, where we built the biggest computers on the planet. Because of my interest in scalable technology, and building applications that work in that environment, this was just a natural fit.

What's the biggest challenge you see for the adoption of NoSQL?

Ian Miller: I think NoSQL is relatively new, and the Microsoft community is really at the beginning of figuring out how to take advantage of distributed computing. Part of what we have had to do is to educate and inform the market about what it can do, and how some of these new computing applications can be done in a much easier way than they probably think. We've reinforced that, through integrating with SQL server, to make that easy. We've also built a learning section on our website, so that people who are not familiar with our technology or with NoSQL can download sample code, and really comes to grip with it really easily. We also run a free, weekly clinic for our customers who have downloaded our free community product. We have a free community edition of FatDB, where developers can learn about the product. They can ask questions by turning up at our free clinic. I think the real answer, is to educate and inform people, so that they appreciate what they can do with this technology.

Can you talk about the free community edition, and the thoughts behind offering up that software for free?

Ian Miller: It's important in this environment to allow people to build software without feeling like someone is breathing down their neck asking for a check. We have a free, community edition, and as that implies, it only has free community support, bulletin-board type support. That said, it's unlimited, and it is the production software, and they can use it and build very large, scalable applications on it. If they put it into production, we offer 24/7 enterprise class support, and it's only at that point they need to reach into their checkbook and enter into a software subscription. We are making it as easy as possible to try the software, come to grips with it, and have that evolve into a paid relationships.

What's the next big thing for you?

Ian Miller: The next big thing for us, is to continue building out what we've started working on. We have a very ambitious roadmap, to make the software even more powerful, and capable of supporting a wider range of applications. We already have one customer with a mobile application, and is supporting over 2 million users. We know that FatDB scales extremely well. But, we want to cotinue making it as easy to use as possible. We recently started that journey by delivering a management studio, which is the easiest and most elegant management tool for distributed computing. It's nothing startlingly different, but it's containing to build out what we started.