The CouchDB community is made up of a unique network of individuals with different backgrounds and skill sets. Glynn Bird hails from Middlesbrough, UK and found his way to CouchDB via research and development for the steel industry, writing CRM systems, and eventually NoSQL. Now Glynn works for IBM Cloud Data Services as a Developer Advocate and Author. He recently shared his experience working with CouchDB with us.
Do you want to talk about your background, or how you got involved in CouchDB?
I started my career in the research and development arm of the steel industry, making sensors and control & instrumentation systems. I then moved into web development for a business directory service. During that time I was looking for a database that could store fairly complex JSON objects and ended up choosing CouchDB after evaluating it against other document stores. CouchDB was the only one that had an HTTP API, a free-text search feature, and the ability to scale up (in terms of data size and traffic) by adding more hardware to the cluster. I ended up choosing Cloudant as a hosted solution.
What areas of the project do you work on?
I’m not a CouchDB “core” developer – I don’t know a word of Erlang! I have worked on the Nano project which is the official Node.js client library for CouchDB. It started life as an open-source project written by Nuno Job who kindly donated it to the Apache Foundation.
Nano is a general purpose library but I’ve also written or worked on other libraries such as Silverlining for new users, nodejs-cloudant which is Nano plus some Cloudant-specific functions and cloudantlite for folks who want to learn the API.
What’s a recent development/event/aspect of the project that you’re excited about?
CouchDB’s replication engine is one of its major strengths and is going to see a significant iteration shortly. Combining a server-side CouchDB cluster with PouchDB running in a web browser means your web app can operate completely off the grid. This Offline First approach is central to the Progressive Web App movement which aims to allow web applications to compete with native, installable phone/tablet apps.
Building an app the replicates between a local and remote copy of the data often follows a “database per user” pattern. Check out the Hood.ie framework or the Envoy library which can help you get started.
What do you think are the top three benefits of using CouchDB as a database solution?
Schema flexibility – if your data model is evolving, just modify the form of JSON you save.
Scale – just add servers! It’s not quite that simple, but it’s getting there.
High availability – CouchDB is lots of servers behind a load-balancer. When a node goes offline, there are others with the same data that continue to provide service.
Replication – oops that’s four!
What advice do you have for someone who just discovered CouchDB?
CouchDB doesn’t know about or ask for your database schema, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think about your schema in advance. Consider the questions your application is going to ask of your data and how that can be achieved in a performant way using the querying, indexing and aggregation functions available.
Joan Touzet’s 2013 “Misconceptions about CouchDB” talk is essential viewing for a developer new to CouchDB, especially if they are coming from a relational background. Joan’s presentation pre-dates the “Mango” query language and the other “2.0+” features, but has otherwise aged well.
Other than that, ask the community who are very friendly and willing to answer your questions. Chat on Slack or IRC or raise question tagged
couchdb on Stack Overflow.
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