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MongoDB Atlas: Not Your Parents’ Cloud Database

Author: Esayas Aloto | | September 17, 2019

MongoDB Atlas is MongoDB’s managed database-as-a-service (DBaaS). Mongo CTO and Co-Founder Eli Horowitz published a blog in June 2016 officially announcing the Atlas service as the “simplest, most robust” way to use Mongo in the cloud at deployments of many different sizes. More recently, in November 2018, Microsoft Azure announced MongoDB Atlas free tier would be available in limited regions.


While there are a large number of options within the realm of NoSQL databases for big data, MongoDB has the majority market share. S&P Global Market Intelligence data indicates the company experienced 182.1 percent growth in shares in 2018. But how do you know if MongoDB standard offerings or MongoDB Atlas are a better fit for your technology roadmap?

When are MongoDB’s Standard Offerings the Right Choice?

MongoDB Atlas is managed MongoDB offered as a service, which means your organization is able to outsource the responsibilities of hosting, managing, and securing your MongoDB clusters. Installing and provisioning users within MongoDB Atlas is very quick compared to MongoDB standard offerings. Other standard Atlas offerings include self-healing clusters, global scalability, virtual private cloud (VPC) security, and easy-to-use performance optimization tools which can be visualized with real-time dashboards. Some common use cases, or “giant ideas” which can be mobilized quickly with a MongoDB Atlas deployment include:

  • Gaining visibility across enterprise datasets in multiple cloud environments
  • Turning fast-moving internet of things (IoT) data streams into insight
  • Building mobile-ready applications which can scale to a global user network
  • Performing real-time or predictive business analytics with minimal latency
  • Launching personalized content and recommendations to customers
  • Creating a centralized catalog for multimedia content

Is MongoDB a Better Choice?

There are some limited use cases when MongoDB is a better choice for companies than Atlas. MongoDB Atlas can be run on Amazon Web Services (AWS), Azure, or Google Cloud Platform. Workloads that are incompatible with these cloud service providers can be a primary reason why an organization may opt against MongoDB Atlas.

Some use cases where MongoDB may be a better choice than MongoDB Atlas include:

  • Security reasons to avoid storing data with a 3rd-party cloud service provider
  • Unusual or strict compliance requirements
  • On-premise-based applications which are not internet-accessible

What Are Some Key Differences Between MongoDB and MongoDB Atlas?

Getting started with MongoDB Atlas for test development is free if you simply want to determine how NoSQL DBaaS could fit your organization’s use cases. The pricing is highly scalable and determined based on an hourly rate for dedicated clusters. Costs are largely calculated according to the size of the storage used and the number of servers.

If your business has already deployed MongoDB, Atlas has several key features that are different than the non-managed version of the NoSQL database. These include:

  • Security features cannot be turned off in Atlas
  • Atlas does not offer support for custom database roles
  • MongoDB supports specialized replica set members which is not available in Atlas
  • Atlas does not support reconfiguration of replica set member priority
  • MongoDB has less support for advanced configuration options, such as maxConns

While Atlas can significantly simplify the burden of secure big data storage in the cloud for the majority of organizations and use cases, it is not the right choice for everyone. If your organization uses one of these features on a regular basis but is interested in the convenience of a DBaaS deployment you may not be a candidate for Atlas.

Conclusion: Flexible, High-Performance DBaaS

MongoDB Atlas is the right choice for many big data applications that require a NoSQL cloud deployment. It combines the power and storage capabilities of MongoDB with the flexibility to choose your own cloud provider from AWS, Azure, or GCP. It’s simple to get started, and easy to maintain a high-performing application with built-in tools to advise you on optimization. While some organization may face unique security, compliance, or configuration requirements which require the use of a customized MongoDB cloud deployment, Atlas can significantly simplify the journey to the cloud for most workloads.

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