Software Development
Acquisitions / Data

How FoundationDB became an example of Apple expansionism

The Vienna-based company was quietly bought by Apple. As a result, it stopped software downloads and closed its GitHub account. Devs aren't happy.

A FoundationDB rep at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2012. (Photo by Flickr user TechCrunch, used under a Creative Commons license)

In many ways, Vienna-based FoundationDB was one of the success stories of D.C. tech: it produced a “rock-solid” scalable noSQL database, was cofounded by David Rosenthal and several other graduates of the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax and has now been swooped up by Apple for an undisclosed amount, according to press reports last week.
The company was founded on a $1 million seed round in 2009 and went on to raise a total $22.7 million, even acquiring Massachusetts-based Akiba Technologies in 2013.
But the quiet Apple buyout, first reported on Tuesday by TechCrunch, has caused quite a bit of handwringing among dev circles. First, the company hinted at the acquisition — later confirmed by the Wall Street Journal — by shutting down all downloads. “We have made the decision to evolve our company mission and, as of today, we will no longer offer downloads,” the company summarily noted on its website.
Then, it closed its GitHub repository account, as noted by Forbes.

Though the FoundationDB software was closed-source, it also fostered a community of open-source developments. Now, companies that once relied on the software and its future updates are on shaky ground, according to Wired:

In the meantime, nothing is certain for FoundationDB’s existing customers. It’s conceivable that it could become part of the company’s developer tool offerings, or be open sourced at a later date. But in all likelihood the project is dead.

It’s not clear where the company will go, either.
Bloomberg reported that the FoundationDB acquisition followed the purchase of a U.K. data analysis company called Acunu Ltd., indicating that Apple sought to bulk up its cloud computing capacities.

Both purchases show Apple is placing more emphasis on the development of solid data infrastructure to help provide services to its legions of global consumers beyond iPhones and iPads.

CNET notes:

Speculation abounds over why Apple would acquire FoundationDB, which was established five years ago, but it’s likely that the company’s platform will be integrated into the back end of Apple’s many services.

According to Wired, Apple could have some ulterior motives as well:

Or it could just be acquiring the company in order to have its employees build new infrastructure for Apple to use internally.

Companies: FoundationDB / Apple

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