Kurt Mackey, co-founder and CEO of Compose
Kurt Mackey, co-founder and CEO of Compose

Database as a Service (DBaaS) provider Compose has been acquired by IBM for an undisclosed sum.

DBaaS has been growing in popularity over the past three years. IBM quotes a valuation for DBaaS of $14 billion by 2019 based on research from industry analysts Markets and Markets.

The accuracy of that valuation is anyone’s guess but after buying Cloudant last year to gain an initial foothold in this market, Compose seems like another interesting buy.

Why Compose?

There are a lot of small companies in the DBaaS space so why Compose?

Since it launched, Compose has been able to attract over 3,500 companies to its services and claims to have over 100,000 database instances running at the moment. Having achieved this on less than $6.5 million in investment is interesting and will have no doubt made them an attractive target for IBM. What isn’t clear is who initiated this purchase. Did IBM go to Compose or were Compose tapping up IBM for investment?

According to Derek Schoettle, General Manager, IBM Cloud Data Services: “Compose’s breadth of database offerings will expand IBM’s Bluemix platform for the many app developers seeking production-ready databases built on open source. Compose furthers IBM’s commitment to ensuring developers have access to the right tools for the job by offering the broadest set of DBaaS service and the flexibility of hybrid cloud deployment.”

Linking the acquisition to Bluemix is a sensible move by IBM. It has attracted a large developer base to Bluemix since it launched last year. By making Compose and its various offerings available to developers as part of that, it will hope to satisfy existing Compose customers that it is serious about the existing business model and does not intend to cut them off.

The IBM press release lists a range of features that make Compose interesting to developers:

  • 24×7 monitoring and management by DBaaS DevOps experts
  • “Containerized” DBaaS platform technology –enabling fast deployment and scaling of popular open source DBaaS services for customers;
  • Auto-scaling with predictable performance;
  • Built-in redundancy, backup, failover for uninterrupted DBaaS service & application uptime;
  • Valuable add-ons including Compose Transporter, which helps developers move data between services like MongoDB and Elasticsearch for easier application development and to provide a better end-user experience.

How do users see this deal?

In the press release Kurt Mackey, co-founder and CEO of Compose said: “By joining IBM, we will have an opportunity to accelerate the development of our database platform and offer even more services and support to developer teams. As developers, we know how hard it can be to manage databases at scale, which is exactly why we built Compose –to take that burden off of our customers and allow them to get back to the engineering they love.”

As the deal was announced, it was interesting to see the reaction on Y-Combinator which was kicked off by Kyle Hotchkiss. He voiced the concern than many users often have when a company they use is purchased by a much larger company.

The discussion, which included Kurt Mackey included some users predicting he would lose his job inside 12 months while others were supportive of the deal. A good part of the discussion focused around IBM’s attitude to small developers who make up a considerable portion of the Compose user base. What will surprise many is that there was a lot of positive comments around IBM, its support for open source and Bluemix.

One question that came up was what would this deal mean in terms of platform support. While Compose already sits on top of SoftLayer, users were concerned that this deal could mean the loss of AWS and DigitalOcean. Others wanted to know if it would mean support for more platforms. After all, IBM recently announced a deal to support Microsoft Azure.

The response from Mackey was: “We’ll target more. We should have a good GCE [Google Cloud Engine] option soon.”


This looks like a smart move for IBM especially as it has been quick to identify Compose as part of its future Bluemix plans. While some users have reservations, if Mackey is able to deliver on his statement that Compose will continue to be available on multiple cloud platforms then it is hard to see how existing customers will lose out.


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