Cloudant has brought ad hoc search to NoSQL. The company has just released a developer preview of full text indexing and search for CloudDB. It takes all of the benefits of CouchDB and applies them to search. If you have big data, you might want to take notice.

Who Is Cloudant

Cloudant provides data hosting and analytics solutions based on BigCouch and CouchDB. Saying Cloudant was founded by smart guys, is kind of like saying Mother Theresa was a nice chick -- an understatement and a little silly. In fact, the founders of the company are three MIT particle physicists who became frustrated with tools that were available to manage large datasets after working to analyze the data from the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider. Their frustration led to the development of Cloudant in 2008. Their work with big data eventually gained the attention of start-up venture capitalist, Y-Combinator, and, as they say, the rest is history.

Cloudant initially built their own toolset, later switched to an open source product and finally settled on CouchDB due to its API design and native support of RESTful interfaces. At the end of last year, the company released the first production versions of BigCouch and their CloudDB hosted services.

The Search Solution

Ad hoc queries are a well-known weakness of NoSQL databases. However, products, like ElasticSearch have emerged that address it. So why should we be excited about Cloudant’s new search solution? I spoke with Alan Hoffman, Founder and CEO, and David Hardtke, Director of Search, for Cloudant about their new search feature and why we should care. (David was previously a nuclear/particle/astro-physicist before giving up all of the fame and girls for search technology -- I told you these people are smart.)

Cloudant’s product is the only one that integrates search directly into CloudDB to provide real-time access to data. According to Dave, many of their customers were storing content in two places CouchDB and in Solr; Cloudant saw an opportunity to provide an easier, low cost solution.

We wanted to create something extremely simple to use. Our goal was zero configuration, and that’s what we achieved. Users can make their CloudDB databases searchable by clicking ‘Search -- On’. It’s that easy.


Enabling search in Cloudant

Cloudant built the search feature using popular open-source search platform, Lucene. With very little effort, users gain the sophisticated search capabilities of Lucene with the horizontal scalability and fault tolerance of CouchDB. Although the solution supports one-click search, more sophisticated organizations that have existing Lucene investment can import analyzers directly into Cloudant -- allowing searches to be completely customized. In addition, Cloudant offers customers:

  • a REST interface to perform searches
  • enhancements to Lucene to support all JSON types for indexes instead of just strings
  • very little setup and configuration
  • a single administrative interface for managing search and the database

How Do You Find It?

The search feature is available now to hosting customers at no charge. The initial release only supports databases less than a few gigabytes. An upgraded version that uses distributed search for larger databases will be available in early February. The February release will also include extension of search to Cloudant’s custom and private solutions.

As data continues to grow due to the impact of Web and Enterprise 2.0, more organizations will be seeking novel solutions to ensure the data remains accessible. Cloudant might have found at least one answer to these challenges.