105. Replay of Ep 40 – The Birth of NoSQL and DynamoDb – Part 2


Welcome to Mobycast! This is the second episode that we’re re-releasing from back when we told Chris’s personal story of starting Viathan, which was a software startup built to create one of the first internet scale databases. You’ll get to see how his work in the early 2000’s/late 90’s was instrumental to what later became the databases that we count on today. Anyway, the reason that you should listen to this is not because it’s a fun story but because we’re asking you to trust us here at Mobycast when we tell you what we think is the best way to do distributed systems and cloud-native development, and what better way to learn to trust us than to listen to how Chris got started in this whole world…

Show Details

Jon Christensen and Rich Staats learn about Chris Hickman’s first venture-backed startup (circa 1998) and its goal to build a database for Internet-scale applications. His story highlights what software is all about – history repeating itself because technology/software is meant to solve problems via new tools, techniques, and bigger challenges at bigger scales.

Some of the highlights of the show include:

  • Why Chris left Microsoft and how much it cost him; yet, he has no regrets
  • Chris’s concept addressed how to build a scalable database layer; how to partition, chart, and cluster; and how to make it highly available and a completely scale-out architecture
  • Chris couldn’t use the code he had created for it while at Microsoft; but from that, he  learned what he wouldn’t do again
  • Chris let the file system be the database at Microsoft, and the project was named, Internet File Store (IFS); it used backend code and was similar to S3
  • Chris named his startup Viathan; had to do copyright, trademark, and domain name searches
  • Data for the Microsoft project could be stored in files/XML documents; Viathan took a different approach and used relational databases instead of a file system
  • Companies experienced problems at the beginning of the Internet; rest of ecosystem wasn’t developed and there weren’t enough people needing Internet solutions yet
  • Viathan went through several iterations that led to patents being issued and being considered as Prior art
  • Viathan’s technology couldn’t just be plugged in and turned on, applications had to be modified – a tough sell
  • Chris did groundbreaking work for what would become DynamoDB

Links and Resources



AWS re:Invent 2018 – Keynote with Werner Vogels




Moby Dick

MongoDB Acid Compliance

Prior Art


Secret Stache Media

Coming soon…

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons