AWS Partner Network (APN) Blog

Helping Customers Do More with Data – Introducing mLab, Formerly Known as MongoLab

Formed in 2011, MongoLab’s goal is to make software developers more productive. An Advanced APN Technology Partner and AWS SaaS Partner, MongoLab offers customers a fully managed cloud database service featuring automated provisioning and scaling of MongoDB databases, backup and recovery, 24/7 monitoring and alerting, web-based management tools, and expert support. Looking forward, the team has a strong drive to build and offer services up the data stack to provide additional value to customers. Yesterday, MongoLab announced new branding, and will be called “mLab” to reflect its expanded focus moving forward.

I sat down with Will Shulman, CEO and co-founder of mLab, to learn more about the company’s journey on AWS, the team’s experience as an APN Partner, and to get a little bit more information about what the brand change signifies for mLab’s customers and partners.


Will, thanks for chatting with me today. Let’s begin with the most important question: day-to-day, what’s mLab’s mission? What do you want to empower your end customers to do?

In a lot of ways, what we’re trying to do, and what we feel is our purpose in life, is similar to AWS: we want to make software developers more productive, via tools and cloud infrastructure. A lot of the folks who started the company worked together at a previous start-up. We shared a common love of data and databases, and the idea of cloud infrastructure. At the time, cloud infrastructure was just starting to take off and was something that a lot of companies didn’t yet know, and didn’t yet use. It was starting to blossom into what we see today.

We quickly identified AWS as a platform we wanted to use, and we built mLab, our database as a service, on top of AWS. It’s one layer up from the infrastructure as a service (IaaS) level. Customers want to use MongoDB, but don’t want to have to deal with the complexities of hands on management of their infrastructure, both the database infrastructure and below – VMs, disks, networking, security, OS patches, maintenance, etc. Customers want to be able to say, “I want a database. I want to have ‘x’ nodes, I want it to have ‘x’ storage, I want it to perform, and I want it to scale. Go.” That simplicity is what we strive to provide our customers through our managed database service for MongoDB.

What value do your customers find in your product?

I think there are two sides to it. One is the automation of cloud elements that go into managing a database deployment, and the automation to provision, monitor, backup, and scale a fault-tolerant, multi-node MongoDB cluster. Our customers don’t have to think about it, and they can focus on what their own solution’s value-add is to the world.

The other part we pride ourselves on is our support. The database tier is a complicated part of the app stack, and we help customers grow and scale their applications. Bundled with their subscription, a customer gets a high-level of support from our team, on anything from troubleshooting, to advice, to emergency support. Having that as a part of the subscription and cloud service, we hear a lot of feedback from customers that they find it to be a great integration of technology and human expertise.

Can you tell me about mLab on AWS? How long have you worked with AWS, and been a member of the APN?

We’ve used AWS since our inception as a company in early 2011, and we’ve been an APN Partner since 2014.

We’ve been working very closely with AWS teams since the beginning, as our platform integrates tightly with the AWS platform. We’ve developed close relationships with the AWS product and sales teams, and have had great opportunities to provide our technical feedback and give talks to internal groups in AWS. Building these relationships has helped us do more with AWS, and reach more customers who are working with MongoDB on AWS. Similarly, we’ve worked closely with our AWS Partner Managers, who’ve been great. They’ve helped us better understand the AWS ecosystem and have been really helpful resources. We’ve really enjoyed working with the APN.

Why did you decide to use AWS, and become an APN Partner?

Some cloud services that application developers might integrate with don’t necessarily need to be hosted particularly closer to their application. That’s not true with databases. It’s really important for your database that it’s physically close to your application servers.

By supporting AWS, we can provision customer databases in the same AWS Region that they run their application. We run on AWS, along with other providers, and from the very beginning we chose AWS as our core platform. AWS is the leader in the space, and most of our customers are also running on AWS.

When we joined the APN, it really helped us grow our presence with AWS, both on the product side in understanding who to work with and collaborate with technically, as well as on the go-to-market (GTM) side. Being able to work more closely with the sales and solutions teams to identify and support MongoDB customers who are looking for a MongoDB solution on AWS has been really helpful for us. We really value our relationship. In the last year, we’ve doubled our paid customer account, and had our fourth quarter of profitability this quarter. We continue to expand our presence on AWS, and we have some great stuff in the pipeline.

How does mLab use the AWS platform?

mLab integrates very tightly with AWS. When a customer provisions a multi-node database deployment with mLab, our automation infrastructure uses the AWS API to provision VMs, disks, and other AWS infrastructure to build the database cluster on demand. All the customer needs to do is specify a plan and an [AWS Region] and mLab takes care of the rest, freeing the developer from the complexities of the underlying infrastructure and allowing them to focus on their application.

mLab hosts databases directly in AWS, and is a software as a service (SaaS) Partner. Have you had a good experience running SaaS on AWS?

We’ve had a great experience. We almost exclusively use the AWS APIs for everything we do. It’s completely automated, and our interface to AWS has been the AWS API, and it works really well.

Frankly, it’s one of the things I really appreciate about AWS: things just work as advertised. It’s really been a great experience.

Since mLab’s inception as a company, to where the company is today, what’s changed in terms of the company’s focus, philosophy, and goals?

Our goal definitely remains to focus on the developer. When we started the company, we envisioned mLab to be the first part of a larger vision that we had around cloud infrastructure and cloud data services. We wanted to allow people to have a single place where they could build the types of data services they need to run their applications. The database simply isn’t the whole story in the data layer, and our original idea was to start with MongoDB, and then start building some other services that are adjacent to the database.

“MongoLab” was a great name for us when our only product was MongoDB-as-a-Service. But now we feel it is time to change our name to one that accommodates our larger vision. There’s always been a plan to start moving up the stack and we’re now looking to build services that will help our existing customers to do even more with their data.

How do you feel your brand change impact your customers and your partners?

We want our customers and our partners to know that we’re still focused on being one of the best places to run MongoDB on the cloud, but that we’ll also be coming out with new solutions that will radically simplify server-side development. We’ve found our channel market to be an incredibly effective way to reach customers, and we hope our new offerings will enable new ways to partner with us.

Has being an APN Partner influenced any cultural shifts at mLab?

One thing we very much admire about AWS, and I think it resonates well with our natural culture, is the straightforward way AWS engages with customers, partners, and the marketplace. The content coming from AWS is always helpful, and our interactions across teams are always sincere. Everyone is focused first-and-foremost on addressing the needs of the customer, in a professional manner. And it’s been very consistent across teams, whether it be the sales, product, or partner team. It seems to be very much a part of the culture. Seeing that at a small company is one thing. But in my opinion, seeing it done at such a large company is quite another thing. It’s been very encouraging see a company so large value and drive that type of culture. It’s refreshing.

What’s next for mLab on AWS?

We’re going to be coming out with solutions that will help our customers to develop higher-level data services with MongoDB. There’ll be more information to come this year. In the near future, we’re going to be doing some cool stuff with our core MongoDB service around Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) that our core customers have been asking for.

We are also working to support a lot of new mobile customers as a result of the Parse shutdown. We have been working with the Parse team for some months to help ensure that Parse customers have a great option for where they host the database component of their app. They have published an official migration guide, which recommends that customers use mLab to manage the database piece. AWS also has a guide to help AWS customers on the mobile development blog.

No doubt there will be a number of exciting announcements from mLab in the coming year. If you’re interested in learning more about mLab, don’t hesitate to reach out to their team:

For general information about mLab, visit the company’s Partner Directory listing.