Companies House, the UK registry of companies, has deployed the open source database system MongoDB to rebuild its core services. Instead of revamping the existing (web) services based on Oracle, the agency decided to lay a completely new foundation for its digital services. The very same REST API that will be used by the Companies House to build their new web interface will also be made available to the public. That allows others to develop their own applications or to integrate these services into their own software and infrastructure.

MongoDB is the most popular document-oriented database system. Where traditional relational databases are based on tables and relations between their records, document-oriented or NoSQL databases work on semi-structured data and lack the relations. That makes them the better choice for big data applications requiring horizontal scalability.

Simplicity in use

The main reason to replace Oracle with MongoDB is its simplicity in use, for developers as well as users, Mark Fairhurst, head of architecture at Companies House, told ComputerworldUK. Our data doesn't need to be stored in a relational way; it is just simply presenting a blob of data to consumers. Rather than trying to revamp existing services we decided to take the opportunity to create a service from the ground up which has consolidated what we already do, and over time we will add new functionality. The main benefit is an improved interface. We are improving the search for company data and we are improving the way it looks on the screen.

Access to the data and the online services provided through website and API will be made available for free, making this a perfect example of open government. We can offer that API out to customers so that they can develop their own software, to either consume or modify company data.