Not long back, IBM announced intentions to acquire Cloudant, the CouchDB-as-a-Service provider. The press hailed the event as a coming-of-age for NoSQL. I am not sure Cloudant’s acquisition makes the case better than MongoDB’s billion plus dollar valuation or the impressive logos collected by NoSQL companies in the last year. But I do know one thing – most of the coverage misses what I believe makes this acquisition a watershed moment – and it has everything to do with scale.

First, Cloudant will be the first NoSQL company integrated into a sophisticated, global sales channel. This means exposure to the corporate buyer on a scale NoSQL technology has never seen. Forget Oracle’s NoSQL DB. That never counted. CouchDB has hit the big time. This is great for other NoSQL companies unless it turns out it isn’t. I think other large vendors will watch with interest what happens when a relatively unknown technology hits the mainstream. Positive results will no longer be measured in hundreds of users or double digit millions in revenue. NoSQL as a product category is about to be tested.

Second, and far more interesting, is that IBM embraces Cloudant’s distributed approach to serving data. Pairing a distributed database architecture with a global network pushes databases in a direction we have only just begun to explore. Once we agreed (well, most of us) there was room for different approaches to consistency in enterprise databases, the network took on a new importance. Applications are consumed globally. Serving data from one location degrades that experience for most users. Databases must become more distributed. Cloudant is all about distribution of data – geo-replication, client synchronization.

So a multi-network distributed database service just got acquired by a company with a global sales channel and a global network.

That is the story of the IBM-Cloudant acquisition. Everything NoSQL-related up until now has been about breaking from the past, the old architectures. It has been prologue.

NoSQL has just started. Chapter one begins.