Couchbase CTO: IT change is a transformative business asset

Couchbase - a company known for its open source, distributed multi-model NoSQL document-oriented database software package optimised for interactive applications - shares its views on the transformative forces driving enterprises to new platforms, tools and technology suites.


Some 100% of technology surveys are contrived, fabricated and pre-loaded to deliver a payload designed to validate the vendor commissioning the research in the first place. We could argue the toss on this subject and look for some genuinely impartial study, but (arguably) that might only turn out to be the exception that proves the rule.

Open source database company Couchbase carries out an annual tech market survey designed to try and provide the market with some pointers and weather patterns, so are its ‘findings’ born of any value, or is this more valueless puff and nonsense?

Pandemic pain points

Almost amusingly, Couchbase reports that 99% of enterprises say they learned lessons from the pandemic. Companies said that they learned about the importance of supporting remote and hybrid working (45%); the need for continuous investment and research in digital transformation technologies (41%); and how to better engage the wider business in digital transformation strategy (34%).

It kind of begs the question, what was the firm that said it learned nothing about technology change during the pandemic? Was it a remote working, cloud-based, web collaboration-centric operation that only employs freelance home workers with an ability to self-manage and understand the importance of human wellbeing? Who knows.

Looking at other news and views from Couchbase we find things getting more interesting when we look at IT investment priorities. Improving cybersecurity is still the number one enterprise technology target, while supporting hybrid working has (perhaps unsurprisingly) taken a massive jump. Of more interest is a small but noticeable shift around the technologies enterprises use.

Attention has shifted from modernising existing technologies in 2019, to adopting new technologies in 2022. Couchbase suggests this is because enterprises have realised they need a large-scale refresh to support their technology platform progression ambitions.

Don’t stuff our turkey

This is the part of these analyses where so many technology companies fall foul of generalised padding, we don’t need extraneous stuffing to tell us that enterprises are looking at ‘large-scale refresh’ programmes to bring about change, we need to know what that actually means in terms of software platform and tools being brought to bear upon the modern stack.

What it most likely means for the people actually locked away in the server rooms of corporate enterprises is a new approach to X-as-code technologies. Spanning everything from Infrastructure-as-Code to Analytics-as-Code, we are now seeing a large element of the corporate IT estate built in code-centric cloud-first frameworks where many of the logic functions and even physical machines are now virtualised and abstracted away by virtue of one cloud service or another.

We don’t necessarily now need to think about installing new servers and provisioning them for security, service and scalability because we can now deploy Infrastructure-as-Code to replace the physical cables and connectors of yesteryear. We don’t need to buy the big data analytics engine service that our database provider used to sell because we can now plug that in as an Analytics-as-Code cloud service.

We can do the same thing with enterprise search functions for the company website i.e. not Google-type search, but inventory-based search for ecommerce. The list goes on, but this may be what Couchbase’s analysis refers to when it talks about platform level change.

“This is an exciting time for the IT industry. We are entering a period of extreme creativity, as organizations shift from digital transformation driven by reacting to outside events, such as the pandemic or competitors’ progress, to a more proactive approach driven by ideas from within the business,” continued Ravi Mayuram, senior vice president of engineering and chief technology officer at Couchabse.

Change is a transformative business asset

Mayuram insists that for this new creativity to work, it needs to be driven from the top. “Digital transformation shouldn’t only be aligned to strategic goals. As a transformative business asset it needs to be the responsibility of, and driven by, the whole C-suite, rather than left solely in IT’s hands. If businesses can do this and put the lessons they learned from the last two years into practice, then the future looks very bright indeed.”

The suggestion here is that technology-centric change itself - and God forbid we call it digital transformation - should be viewed as a transformative business asset. This is either a case of more corporate spin designed to lull us into buying the next ‘cloud solution’ (in whatever form that may take), or it is actually an insightful way of encapsulating and commoditising technology change so that we can track it as an asset in the business, just as we might track stocks, profit or some other Key Performance Indicator (KPI).

Why does any of this matter? Probably because we’re now living in a consumerised world where users get the first say in most things, including what applications and technology services they are going to consume in the workplace. If users are driving bottom up - as opposed to top down - change, then we need to think about the User eXperience (UX) factor when adopting any new tiers of technology.

“More organizations are experiencing the drawbacks of deploying first-generation cloud architectures and one of the main disadvantages is the cost of cloud instance sprawl,” said Mayuram. “As a result, companies today are looking to consolidate infrastructure resources to spend less and reduce the complexity of their data architectures with multimodel databases.”

So there’s our payoff, the database company that surveys the global IT market finds that cloud sprawl is a real thing and that multimodel databases (which it might just happen to specialise in) are a great way of combatting the complexity that enterprises are experiencing today.

Technology surveys may never carry that much value, but nothing we can say here will stop them being carried out and promoted. If change itself is now becoming a trackable entity in and of itself, then perhaps that’s what we can take from this lesson. How do we know if this trend is real? Perhaps we need a survey, right?