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Tensions between the U.S. and China have been frosty at best where trade is concerned. But MongoDB, based partly in Palo Alto in the heart of Silicon Valley, and with a HQ in New York, today announced that it was partnering with Chinese conglomerate AliBaba to bring Alibaba cloud users MongoDB-as-a-Service. While it’s probably not going to bring Trump’s ongoing trade war to an end, it could help MongoDB to position itself as the leading NoSQL database on the planet.

What does the MongoDB and Alibaba partnership actually mean?

In practical terms, it means that Alibaba’s cloud customers will now have access to a fully supported version of MongoDB on Alibaba’s data centers. That means complete access to all existing features of MongoDB, and Alibaba’s support in escalating issues that may arise when they’re using MongoDB.

With MongoDB 4.2.0 released back in August, Alibaba users will also have the ability to take advantages of some of the database’s new features, such as distributed transactions, and client-side field-level encryption.

But that’s just for Alibaba users – from MongoDB’s perspective, this partnership cements its already impressive position in the Chinese market. “Over the past four years the most downloads of MongoDB have been from China” said Dev Ittycheria, MongoDB’s President and CEO.


For Alibaba, meanwhile, the partnership will likely only strengthen their position within the cloud market. Feifei Li, Vice President of the Alibaba Group spoke of supporting “a wide range of customer needs from open-source developers to enterprise IT teams of all sizes.” Li didn’t say anything much more revealing than that, choosing instead to focus on Alibaba’s pitch to users: “Combined with Alibaba Cloud’s native data analytics capabilities, working with partners like MongoDB will empower our customers to generate more
business insights from their daily operations.”

A new direction for MongoDB?

The partnership is particularly interesting in the context of MongoDB’s licensing struggles over the last 12 months. Initially putting forward its Server Side Public License, the project later withdrew its application to the Open Source Foundation over what CTO Eliot Horowitz described as a lack of “community consensus.”

The SSPL was intended to protect MongoDB – and other projects like it – from  “large cloud vendors… [that] capture all of the value but contribute nothing back to the community.” It would appear that MongoDB is trying a new approach to this problem: instead of trying to outflank the vendors, its joining them.

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