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MongoDB releases version 3.2 of its popular NoSQL database

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November 11, 2015

MongoDB made some headlines last week with the release of version 3.2 of its popular NoSQL database.

Consistent with MongoDB’s prescribed messaging, it inserted the moniker “enterprise” into every headline, touting MongoDB’s new storage engines for better data security, among a few other elements.

However, one thing was left out from that enterprise messaging, perhaps because it went missing from MongoDB’s Enterprise product: joins.

The plan was originally to charge for joins, or $lookup, as MongoDB is calling the functionality. Yet MongoDB’s ever-watchful community resisted.

MongoDB’s capitulation is a testament to the company’s willingness to heed the voice of its open source community, but it’s also an indication as to just how difficult it is to make money on free software.

Put simply, 'joins' are table stakes in the relational database world but somewhat of a revelation among the NoSQL class. As the most popular NoSQL database, MongoDB’s decision to extend its relevance to the RDBMS crowd was smart and likely to make it even more popular.

When originally announcing this new functionality, dubbed $lookup, MongoDB CTO Eliot Horowitz told users that $lookup would only be available to paid subscribers.

Whatever Horowitz’s attempts to explain the decision, as someone that spent no less than fifteen long years working for open-source companies, we can probably give a one-word reason for $lookup: Money.

Historically called “Open Core” many open-source companies have attempted to charge for “enterprise” features. By introducing product differentiation between enterprise and “community” (open source) products, firms hope to turn a significant percentage of open source downloaders into paid subscribers. And that's perfectly understandable.

However, a peculiar thing happened on the way to $lookup-driven product differentiation. As the news started to sink in, a disgruntled group of 'live-free-or-die' MongoDB community members started storming the corporate castle.

For example, a MongoDB community member called Ben Rotz said-- “Feature split with functions at this level makes me nervous about what the next ‘most requested’ feature is going to get the enterprise-only treatment.”

Can you blame him? It's rather typical of the closely-knit open source communities yearning to use free software, but that's the way it's pretty much always been when you think of it.

Source: MongoDB.

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