The Six Five On the Road at AWS re:Invent 2022 w/ Andrew Davidson, SVP, Product Management, MongoDB

By Patrick Moorhead - December 2, 2022

The Six Five On the Road at AWS reInvent 2022. Patrick Moorhead and Daniel Newman sit down with Andrew Davidson, SVP, Product Management, MongoDB. Their discussion covers:

  • Evolution of the MongoDB & AWS partnership
  • How customers are utilizing MongoDB Atlas on AWS to build cutting-edge applications
  • Data-driven approach to the cloud
  • Cloud strategy in a hybrid world

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Patrick Moorhead: Hi. This is Pat Moorhead, and we are live at AWS re:Invent 2022 in the MongoDB experience. It is rocking, as you can hear. It’s early morning, and people are actually awake here in Las Vegas.

Daniel Newman: Yeah. I always give them a lot of credit. They get up, they get out of bed. It doesn’t really matter what time of day or night it is here. It’s always daytime, and they don’t let us out of the casinos for just that reason. But AWS re:Invent, always a rocking event. Very excited to be here in that MongoDB experience. We’re having breakfast, drinking coffee, and talking about data.

Patrick Moorhead: No. I know. It’s great. Data, as we’ve talked this entire week, is a huge enabler and a huge game changer to the enterprises who know how to deal with that. Hybrid cloud, multi-cloud, huge topics here. Why don’t we introduce our guest here?

Daniel Newman: Absolutely. Andrew Davidson, how are you? Welcome to the show.

Andrew Davidson: Great to be here, guys. Yeah. I’m Andrew Davidson, SVP of product at MongoDB. Love being back in Vegas. I’ve had my coffees. I needed my coffee in the room to get out of the room, and now I’m getting more down here with you guys.

Daniel Newman: Absolutely. When we’re done, we’ll have one more.

Andrew Davidson: There you go.

Daniel Newman: Enjoy the opportunity to sit down here. We know it’s a fast-paced event.

Andrew Davidson: Absolutely.

Daniel Newman: Let’s start off in the macros. What’s going on in the developer space, the demand around data, the need for your services, MongoDB? And maybe even just a little quick background around MongoDB itself.

Andrew Davidson: Yeah. Before I dive into MongoDB, I think it’s almost useful to demystify this broader topic of data. People talk about data being the new oil. Everyone has this intuitive understanding of, “Hey. I can answer questions from data. That’s got to be valuable.” But there’s something more to this data ecosystem that gets lost. It’s this magical hidden layer, and it’s what we call operational data. You could think of operational data as almost the lubricant of the digital economy. It’s what enables all these software layers and these businesses to interact in real time.

You think about, if I’m buying tickets to fly to Vegas, all of us doing that at the same time, tens of thousands of people, I’m on some flight search engine, I’m seeing results in real time, I’m seeing which prices exist, which tickets are available, how many seats are left. To enable all that, there’s all these layers of software that make that possible, and each of those layers of software, the ticketing engine, the search engine, the airline, they all have their own software with operational data in the mix.

Sometimes, we call this operational data transactional data. That’s where MongoDB’s sweet spot is. That’s where we enable this shift to the software of the digital economy in all these kinds of companies that exist all on top of each other, hidden away. But I like to demystify that because it isn’t the same as answering questions from data, though that’s also a part too. That’s important as well, downstream.

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah. In fact, that type of data you have to treat differently because, essentially, the antithesis of the operational data is data that might make the experience better in a way, downstream, but if you don’t get the operational data right, your business has stopped.

Andrew Davidson: That’s exactly right. You think about, if I’m an executive, a CTO today, what am I trying to do? I’m trying to make sure that my business can respond to threats, take advantage of new opportunities. That means that I have to be operating as a software company, bringing in elite architects and software engineers and retaining them and making them productive. To do that, I have to structure myself in a way where I’m building software. I can’t just buy that off the shelf anymore.

If you look at where these developers spend most of their time, these software engineers, it’s really wrestling with this data problem. This is the part of the stack that, going back decades now, it’s been slow moving and tough to deal with. MongoDB comes in with this new approach, an elegant, modern model that enables those software engineers to just feel natural, and MongoDB gives this super set of workloads behind the scenes to drive the vast majority of the applications needs for the vast majority of applications. That standardization that comes about for this operational data layer, it’s a game changer for people.

Patrick Moorhead: It is important. We’re here at AWS re:Invent. Obviously, things are going on between MongoDB and AWS?

Andrew Davidson: Oh, yeah.

Patrick Moorhead: You brought out Atlas, big play there. Can you talk a little bit about where the relationship is, maybe a little bit about Atlas, and what customers, how they’re optimizing it, using it for their benefit?

Andrew Davidson: Totally. Totally. Yeah. MongoDB Atlas is our global database service on AWS. We conceptualize it as a developer data platform. If you think about our relationship with AWS, it goes back to the very beginning in that origin moment of AWS when IaaS-

Patrick Moorhead: That’s very unique, by the way.

Andrew Davidson: Very unique.

Patrick Moorhead: We’ve talked to a lot of partners who literally just started working with AWS in the last two years.

Andrew Davidson: I know. It’s amazing because, in that origin moment of IaaS, when we used to think about it as … I remember when Google and Amazon started to realize, “Hey. Commodity hardware. I can change everything,” and Amazon just pioneered this game-changing industry of selling that commodity hardware as a service. In that moment-

Patrick Moorhead: 15 years ago, by the way.

Andrew Davidson: In that moment, a bunch of virtual machines weren’t going to be that useful if you didn’t have software that could give it the distributed system that made it relevant for building modern software. That’s where MongoDB comes in, this elegant model, this distributed system that basically allows developers to build incredible game-changing apps. Then, you see the rise of the mobile revolution, levels of scale never before seemed possible, and MongoDB just rode that wave on AWS.

But as our customers demanded more from us, more mission criticality, transactional capabilities that go deeper and deeper, richer global and geospatial capabilities to ride that mobile wave, eventually we realized, “We’ve got to go up a level of abstraction. Nobody wants to be managing virtual machines and all this low-level plumbing anymore.”

Patrick Moorhead: Especially when all the infrastructure is all over the place. Your own data center, colo, on the edge, and like you said, even now on mobile devices, when you’re looking at containers, it’s everywhere, and there’s so many different public clouds out there too.

Daniel Newman: Absolutely. It’s interesting what you said too about the layers of abstraction. We’ve been talking to AWS folks about things like their container services and how you’ve got all the levels of totally doing it yourself to wanting that entire App Runner experience. It sounds like, with what you’re doing, you’re really trying to say, “Hey. If you want to focus on developing, you want a platform that you can focus on building the best apps possible.” This is where Atlas-

Andrew Davidson: You’re hitting the nail on the head. Yeah. MongoDB Atlas says, “Hey. Instead of me having to think about all this plumbing, I should have a truly declarative model where I just say, “I want this database cluster anywhere in the world, over a hundred regions, all three cloud providers.”” Of course, AWS is where we’ve been the longest, and it’s the center of so much gravity. You can build so many great things on it. To be able to just have that developer data platform give you the back end of your app so you can use those with Lambda and App Runner and all the great AWS application tier services, services that specialize in stateless applications that interact with the stateful layer, the data portion in MongoDB Atlas. It’s two peas in a pod.

Daniel Newman: You talk about data developer platform.

Andrew Davidson: Developer platform. Yeah.

Daniel Newman: You keep saying it.

Andrew Davidson: Yeah.

Daniel Newman: Why are you guys leaning in so hard on that?

Andrew Davidson: Sure. If you think about going back to that CTO, they’re bringing in these elite architecture software engineers to build those truly transformational parts of their business.

Let’s think about some examples. I mentioned the airline ticketing before. That has to be an amazing experience. If I’m using Expedia, it needs to be just right in my face, everything I need, and it’s so competitive building that customer competitive experience. Making it the best experience possible, that requires you to focus on the customer, not on the plumbing. Having this layer that allows the developer to move super fast and operate with agility so that they can focus on all this white space that gets opened up, product experience, developer experience, the features in the application, it’s a game changer.

So many other kinds of customers build on this platform. Epic Games building the back end of Fortnite, the most popular game in the world. Companies like Canva disrupting the graphic design ecosystem in an amazing SaaS experience. The unsung heroes of the pandemic, government customers who recognize the need to modernize. I think about the UK Government Department of Work and Pensions who had chosen to modernize and move to this model of agile modern development teams. They did that before the pandemic, perfectly timed on MongoDB Atlas to enable 1.2 million claims to be processed every day, keeping the lifeblood of the economy moving through that tough time.

Patrick Moorhead: Andrew, I love your ability to go very customer-centric, talking about the true business benefits all the way down into the guts of the tech. I think that’s important, and I think it’s one of the characteristics we’ve seen of truly successful technology companies.

What I’d love to do now is maybe do the double click on two of one of the most impactful trends out there today, and that’s hybrid and multi-cloud. First off, I can’t even believe now there was a debate on whether the future was … By the way, check my white papers 10 years ago.

Andrew Davidson: There you go.

Patrick Moorhead: We called it. Okay. We were called cloud deniers, but it’s like, “No, no, no. This is not the way it’s going to work,” and here we are in multi-cloud. But everybody agrees, including AWS, the world is going to be hybrid. Now, the entire industry, there’s a little bit of question on how we’re going to get to multi-cloud, but the fact is I have yet to talk to a Fortune 1000 CIO who doesn’t have multiple public clouds. It’s here. It’s just not very efficient. How is MongoDB optimizing the experience for its customers on both hybrid and multi-cloud?

Andrew Davidson: That’s a great question. I think MongoDB is truly unique in this space because folks have been able to, before they went to the public cloud, take advantage of what MongoDB brought to bear in the on-prem context, which was scratching a lot of that same itch, giving those software engineers the ability to move fast, be agile, be cloud ready, and to be able to shift into the public cloud in almost a migrationless way. Imagine not having to rewrite your application in any way once you’re ready to move in. We can synchronize that data straight up to MongoDB Atlas the second they’re ready.

What I’ve seen is it doesn’t really matter when your cloud journey’s going to begin. Obviously, now, we see tens of thousands of people here. Everyone’s doing it, but pockets and critical use cases staying close to systems of record and the mainframe, those are all modernizing on prem. That’s okay, but they’re all going to be cloud ready if they start on MongoDB in that migrationless model. Then, once they’re in the public cloud with MongoDB Atlas, they can truly pick and choose from the best cloud provider for their needs.

Patrick Moorhead: Okay. Just a clarifying question. Regardless of the platform, and I saw what you did with IBM, and incredible work, whether it’s on prem, mainframe, x86 server, ARM server, whether it’s singular experience for the developer, whether it’s public cloud or on prem.

Andrew Davidson: Yeah. It’s truly a game changer to be able to lean into creating a modern standard. Think about it. For decades, folks have thought about data through the lens of tables, this model that feels like a big spreadsheet. We all get that. But that model is not how developers think and code today. That’s not how you bring in those elite software architects.

If you want to be able to upgrade that mindset, how do you light this fire and get millions of developers around the world to care about it? That’s where we have to focus. How do we enable all these folks, whether they’ve been in the industry for decades or they’re that next generation of developer in academia today, how do you invest in making millions of them able to understand it? You have to be everywhere. You have to be in every platform, and you have to be investing in broad-based, best-in-class documentation.

Our MongoDB University platform, literally, it’s like an online MOOC, massively online course, for MongoDB. We’ve got hundreds of thousands people signing up for that every month, and MongoDB Atlas gets 150,000 sign-ups every single month, people all over the world. It just shows that you can feel this movement as the change happens.

Daniel Newman: We only have a few minutes left, but I am curious. Nothing is as easy as … We’re great. We’re analysts telling the story of, “Hey. Everything to the cloud is easy,” the easy button, and you’re making it … Obviously, these clients are buying in. They’re working with you. They’re saying, “Hey. We see it. We get it.” But what are the challenges of those that have been building with Mongo for, say, a long time on prem moving to the cloud? Has it been fairly easy to overcome because of this transitional technology that you’re building, or are they still running into challenges, and how are you overcoming that?

Andrew Davidson: That’s a great question. Let’s be honest. Nothing’s easy. That’s why you need these elite software architects and software engineers to build what really makes you a software company, and everyone’s struggling with this challenge. But I would juxtapose it against the alternative model, is one in which … What we’ve seen people over the decades do is they’ll have to layer in a different engine, a different system for every little part of their software, and this leads to a massive sprawl of complexity and governance debt and different interfaces, and every app, every environment, it’s totally different.

What we’ve seen is, with this idea of a developer data platform that can do the vast majority of the needs for the vast majority of your applications, what that means is, if you take a big step back, you’re a CTO of a global enterprise, I’m going to have hundreds of different teams, two-pizza teams, probably, right, each operating with their own agility. But if I can have all of them operate on a standardized model rather than each of them doing this crazy chaos that I’m going to be super worried about in a couple of years when I realize I can’t govern this anymore, if all of those hundreds of two-pizza teams are operating on a modern developer data platform and taking advantage of their own customization to allow themselves to move fast, not saying everyone needs to be just shackled, but allowing everyone to do their own thing with standardization, that’s the need of the moment. We’re seeing that trend in partnership with AWS left and right. All the focus they’re putting into governance, we’re right there, front and center, in that shift.

Patrick Moorhead: That’s good. Andrew, it’s been a great conversation, and I can’t believe how much we got to accomplish in the booth here.

Andrew Davidson: I know.

Patrick Moorhead: But the great news, we’re all fast talkers, and we actually know what we’re talking about.

Andrew Davidson: That’s right.

Patrick Moorhead: You put those combinations together, and it ends up working. I just want to thank you for coming on The Six Five. This is your first time on the show. I think it is.

Andrew Davidson: First time on the show. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah. No. This is great.

Andrew Davidson: Great to meet up with you guys in person.

Daniel Newman: It’s not going to be the last.

Patrick Moorhead: No. We’d love to have you on again. Really appreciate the time.

Andrew Davidson: I look forward to it. Gentlemen, thank you so much for having me. Let’s go grab a coffee at the bar behind us.

Daniel Newman: Let’s do it. Let’s do it. All right, everybody out there. Thank you so much for tuning into this Six Five in the booth at the experience here at AWS re:Invent 2022 for MongoDB. We appreciate you tuning in. Check out all the videos that Patrick and I did here at AWS re:Invent 2022. Great show. Great event. Hit that subscribe button. But we got to go.

Patrick Moorhead: We’re out of here.

Daniel Newman: See you later.

Andrew Davidson: Thank you so much.

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Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.