General Manager and Editorial Director,
Techstrong Group


In this Digital CxO Leadership Insights series video, Mike Vizard speaks with Rahul Pradhan, head of product and engineering for cloud databases at Couchbase, about how document databases are driving digital business transformation.



Mike Vizard: Hello, and welcome to the latest edition of The Digital CxO videocast. I’m your host, Mike Vizard. Today, we’re with Rahul Pradhan, who is head of product and engineering for cloud databases at Couchbase. Rahul, welcome to the show.

Rahul Pradhan: Thanks, Mike. It’s great to be here.

Mike Vizard: We hear a lot, of course, about all things digital transformation. Going into 2022, do you think that we have passed some watershed mark in terms of people’s adoption? It feels like, to me at least, there was this first wave right after the pandemic and then I think people took a step back and tried to figure out, well, one of these things are working and which ones are not working.

What’s your expectation for digital business transformation initiatives in 2022? Is it still something of a kneejerk reaction, or is something else afoot?

Rahul Pradhan: No, absolutely. I think at this point, people have—people and enterprises have gotten to the realization that the distributed nature of whether it’s a workplace where their customers are is a reality. There were trends that were going in that direction over the last several years, but the pandemic has obviously accelerated some of these trends.

So, it’s becoming even more critical for enterprises to essentially meet where their customers are or meet where their employees are, and that means giving them that seamless experience no matter where they are, whether they are at work, whether they are at home. And to do all of that is kind of the next phase, what I view of digital transformations that’s gonna happen.

And a lot of that is going to be based off the technology that has evolved going cross clouds from a distributed cloud perspective to the edge. So, those are some of the key trends that I see companies and enterprises starting to embrace as we get into 2022 and beyond.

Mike Vizard: Do you think there’s some fundamental shifts going as it relates to IT? One of the things that I think I’m seeing is, we are processing and analyzing data closer to the point of consumption. So, we’re trying to make sure that that round trip isn’t to the cloud and back again, but actually at the edge. Do you think that that’s kind of a new IT architecture? Because historically, we relied a lot on batch processing, but it looks like we need to kinda shift that whole mindset.

Rahul Pradhan: Yeah, absolutely. And I think this again goes back to the trends and some of the technology evolution that has happened over the last several years. And if you look at some of the key trends that you highlighted with regards to IT and the moving of their applications and data, if you will, closer to the edge, that’s really more about cutting down on latency, giving the end user the best performance and availability for their applications. And to do that, it becomes critical to essentially move those applications or that data to the closest area where that data or the application is going to be consumed.

And that’s kind of what is triggering the momentum towards edge computing and moving a lot of these, what were viewed as traditionally on prem or more of a consolidated in the cloud model, closer to the edge.

Mike Vizard: Do you also think, as a result, we’re gonna have a lot more types of databases that people are gonna work with? We’ve clearly seen developers vote with their feet for more document style databases that they don’t have to wait on a DBA to set up for them and have all the back end overhead that goes with that. It looks to me, at least, that there’s a lot more experimentation that goes on and then eventually, that database and the application moves into a production environment where it gets managed by somebody on the IT side.

But it looks to me like the underlying databases are much more diverse than they’ve ever been.

Rahul Pradhan: Yeah, I think that’s a great point, and that’s a reflection of the plethora of use cases and application as some of the evolution of these applications and use cases have happened. You highlighted document databases—that’s probably the fastest growing segment in the database market at this point.

Just looking at the newer applications and the digital transformation, the digital transformation initiatives that companies have kicked off, then it is actually triggering a lot of people to look at document databases. But at the same time, there are existing use cases for databases that they use today, and there are new and emerging use cases that some of the new database technologies are going to be more adept at actually handling.

What enterprises need to look at is, looking at what’s the database or what’s the underlying solution that meets their business requirements or meets their business needs. And at the end of the day, it comes down to the rest of the application their infrastructure to be able to be consumed by these applications, whether it’s as a service model or however have you, but having this notion of being able to compose different kind of services and different infrastructure at the application level so that you can deliver a holistic experience to your end user.

Mike Vizard: Do you think that the average Digital CXO who’s not a CIO or CTO who understands the nuances of these data architectures as they apply to driving this next generation of applications, or do they somehow just think it’s all magically gonna happen, and to what degree should they be aware of that or have an appreciation for it?

Rahul Pradhan: I think they definitely need to understand what going down any of these paths mean. Because there is, like you mentioned earlier, with the digital transformation and the shift happening, moving closer to the edge and the moving applications closer to the end user as well, the key thing is understanding what it means to the product, to the overall architecture that they’re developing and what changes need to be made.

And you kind of understand those changes, you need to kind of go through in terms of what are my design principles with regards to these changes? What kind of an architecture actually aligns closely with those changes, and then comes down the second decision of, or the secondary decision on most of what technologies is this going to leverage in order for me to give my users the best experience, also, of their business needs?

Mike Vizard: Do you think that part of this equation is, a lot of times, each of these initiatives gets launched in isolation from each other, and you wind up with different database architectures, platforms, and all kinds of things are going on. Do you think that people need to take a step back a little bit and say, “What platforms and what architectures are most extensible so that we’re not reinventing the same wheel over and over again?”

Rahul Pradhan: It is—yes and no, I would say. I think that there are certain applications that might be geared very well towards a specific data platform or a database, and then there are others that are going to be built especially on microservices, which are probably going to consume multiple different databases.

So, it’s almost—this is kind of where we’re going back to identifying what your core design principles are. Because as you kind of get into that, then you can decide, what are the decision criteria that I’m using in order to make these decisions to enable the efficient selection of technology as well as developing an architecture that, at the end of the day, you are building something that is solving a need for someone. And it’s not necessarily about the architecture, but how are you able to do it, and more importantly, how are you able to adopt that in order to give them the agility and flexibility that they will demand as the application gets used.

Mike Vizard: There’s been a divide between IT and the rest of the business for years, and some would argue it’s getting closer or narrower because these digital transformation projects are requiring C-level people to have a better understanding of IT, and hopefully, IT people conversely understanding more about the business.

Are you seeing that in the conversations that are out there, or is that divide still pretty wide?

Rahul Pradhan: No, I see that a lot, especially across our customers as well. What’s happening, like you said, IT is becoming a key enabler for a lot of these businesses.

So, to do that, they need to get IT involved early on, kind of getting some of those business requirements and their goals out to the IT organization sooner. And that’s kind of, from an organizational perspective, also driving the transformation of IT itself. The reason we are kind of starting to see the adoption of these trends by the various IT organizations is because of the fact that they actually recognize that they need to move faster and be able to address their business needs at a much faster cadence than they have been able to in the past. And to do that are some of the underpinnings that we have today that are going to trigger some of the shifts that we’ve been talking about.

Mike Vizard: What’s your best advice to folks to help them bridge that divide? Do we just throw everybody in a room or send them on a retreat and hope for the best, or is there some set of best practices or behaviors that you’re starting to see out there amongst your customers?

Rahul Pradhan: I think there are, one big thing when you’re talking about transformation is really around communication and making sure that you’re, not only are you getting people along as you move forward, but also clearly articulating and communicating what are the drivers? If there are changes involved, it’s gonna take people out of their comfort zone, and what does that really mean?

And once you kind of do that, get that communication and socialization going, there may be some aspects of change management that kind of get involved in that. But it’s really more about laying out the vision in terms of how we are going to improve and how, more importantly, not only it addresses the business challenges as well as accelerates the momentum in whatever industry they are in. But at the same time, it makes the company a better and more responsive place for their customers to come to.

Mike Vizard: Alright. As we go along, where do you think we’re gonna be a year from now? If you pull out your little crystal ball and based on what you’re seeing in here in about 2022, what will we be talking about at the end of this year?

Rahul Pradhan: I think, by the end of this year, we’ll be talking a lot about edge computing in general. There is—the 5G technology and what it’s going to unlock, all of that is really pretty much based on the fact that we need to get edge computing, we need to get people thinking more about the various different applications. And people are already doing that. We have had customers on the edge trying to consume their data and there are some interesting algorithms that process the locally generated information and then gives insight to their end users.

So, a lot of that is gonna come into focus, and all of this is really based or predicated on the fact that, as people have moved their applications into the cloud and are now starting to look at the various different distributed cloud platforms that are out there, whether it’s a public cloud and multi-cloud, regional and edge clouds as well as their on prem versions is, how do we kind of get all of that? The application, the data, and ________ intelligence that enables them to move things around.

Mike Vizard: Alright. We’re gonna try to pull it all together one more time. Hey, Rahul, thanks for being on the show.

Rahul Pradhan: Great. Thanks so much. It was great being here, Mike.

Mike Vizard: Alright, and thank you for all tuning in. Take care.

Show Notes