Ep 133 Startup Spotlight: Cambium with Ben Speiser
Baruch Spieser: Hi, my name is Baruch Speiser. Many of you might know me as Ben, and I'm the CTO of Cambium. And today we're going to discuss how Cambium is using MongoDB. Stay tuned. This is the MongoDB podcast.
Shane McAllister: This is the MongoDB Podcast. Welcome to the show. My name is Shane McAllister, and as ever we're grateful to have you tune in to another episode of the MongoDB podcast. In this episode, Mike talks to Ben, the CTO for Cambium, a software development house based in Israel, working with clients both large and small in many different areas, but particularly the retail eCommerce space. Cambium is a MongoDB customer, and Ben and Mike discuss why Cambium chose MongoDB in the first place and about their use of Atlas Search and our other developer data platform products across multiple projects and clients. Ben illustrates the path of taking customers from on- premise servers and into the brave new world of the cloud and being their technology partner and how they meet their clients' needs. Let's listen to their conversation.
Mike: Well, welcome to the show, Ben. It's great to have you on the podcast. How are you today?
Baruch Spieser: I'm doing great. I'm really excited to be able to come in and talk with you guys and just share about a lot of what we're doing.
Mike: Fantastic. So you are the chief technical Officer for Cambium. Let's begin by talking a little bit about what Cambium is, and what you do for them.
Baruch Spieser: Sure. Cambium is a software development house that was opened by David and Shira Salzer in Yeruham in Israel. We're in the Negev desert, and we provide software development services and consulting services to many customers in the Israeli market, ranging from retail to government to private business in many different spaces. And we were associated with a larger company. We're a child company of Matrix, which is one of the larger technology providers here in Israel. And we do basically projects big and small across a broad range of technologies.
Mike: And I noticed that you do a lot of things in the eCommerce space. Is that the specialization of Cambium?
Baruch Spieser: It has become one of the specializations of Cambium. We do it in many different spaces. One of our largest clients is Fox, the large retail conglomerate here in Israel. And we currently supply the website for five of Fox's stores. So the largest one is probably Footlocker. That's probably the one that people outside of Israel would, at least a brand that'd be familiar with, but also Shilav, which is a baby good store, Lelene, which is kind of like soaps and fragrances and other kinds of things like that. As well as Dream Sport, which is an athletics gear company and Dream Time, which is kind of like their partnership program that they do with various companies for employee benefits and things like that.
Mike: And MongoDB, how do we work together?
Baruch Spieser: Well, that's a pretty broad question. We've been using AtlasDB and MongoDB for a really long time now. We have it on multiple projects, not just in our retail space. Our whole retail eCommerce platform, which is basically a complete modern retail platform that we wrote and engineered, completely built on modern technology, serverless- based, sitting on top of an AtlasDB cluster. And we have that that we've been using now for all of our implementations for the Fox retail space. We've also been using it in many other projects. We have projects that have huge loads that run on AtlasDB as well as projects that we're now doing in the education space where we're being able to serve custom content to children with special needs. And so we really have a broad use of where we're using Atlas and many different projects, and we're always looking for the next project to apply it to.
Mike: And so why MongoDB?
Baruch Spieser: Well, there's a lot of reasons and I could probably go on forever and ever, but we'll start with the basics. So the first thing that's really there is the managed platform as a whole really makes it very easy to do all the undifferentiated heavy lifting that is associated with modern development. So we don't have to worry about backups and encryption at rest and encryption in flight, all the various different SLAs and all those things that make modern software development a pain that don't really differentiate you from your competitors. And so just being able to rely on Atlas to provide all of that as a baseline, which is kind of expected for managed database services these days. But the thing about Atlas is that it makes it particularly easy, and when you look at the ability to be super flexible in terms of your deployments, easily upscale and downscale, sharding, increased cluster sizes, things like that, the ability to also to real time monitor the cluster as a whole and to get really good insight as to what's going on just from a sheer operations perspective, having Atlas as a platform really enables us to focus on the software development side of things and worry less about the infrastructure, hardware, operations side of things that it takes to manage large scale high- performance databases.
Mike: And as a software development house, choosing a single unified data platform, I would imagine that gives you some economies of scale from project to project. Is that the case?
Baruch Spieser: I think it's an interesting question because it's not quite targeted. I think that when we take an approach to looking at our customers and their needs, we kind of make an assessment as what does the project require? And listen, there's times where the right technology choice for whatever reason is to go with an alternate platform, whether that be Sequel or whatever. But when we do have a project, we feel that this is the right technology choice, and let's be real, in a lot of modern development. The ability to rapidly adapt with a no Sequel database is really what makes it a complete differentiator. The ability to say, I need to add a new field and I can just chuck it into my object whenever I want and I don't have to worry about all the existing objects in the database, because I don't have to change schemas or anything like that. That flexibility can allow us to respond quickly and adapt quickly to the market changes. So if we have a retail customer, they all of a sudden," Hey, we need to throw up this new feature to make this new sale or go to market with this new capability," the ability to quickly adapt and drive forward can often be a major driving force that allows our development to be just accelerated. And that kind of quickened pace in the development life cycle is really what allows us to differentiate ourselves from our competitors because those crystal building, these very stead platforms are kind of very established platforms that are built on let's say older technology, not just from perspective and compared to AtlasDB, but also compared to modern infrastructure, server- based, serverless, kind of cloud based technology, et cetera. So it's really that ability would be adaptive that really matters. And so when you talk about economy of scale, adaptivity is relative to the customer. And so economy of scale is really dependent on when you talk about within the specific domain of a specific product and the kind of adaptivity that you need to deal with people who want to go buy the latest pair of shoes, is very different than the kind of economy of skill that you need when you're talking about, okay, we need to go deal with children with special needs and how do we adapt to them? It's just a very different approach.
Mike: And so from a personal perspective, Ben, you're the chief technology officer for Cambium, and I'm curious how you made that transition. I did some research, I was looking at your background, you spent most of your career as an engineer and a developer. How did you make that leap to becoming someone who's responsible for technology for a software development house?
Baruch Spieser: Well, I have a little bit of an interesting story. I started development 30 years ago when I was 10 years old and my father decided," Hey, what was this computer thing that maybe I would like?" And as I slowly took some summer courses and in a university to learn how to program. And by the time I was out of high school and even in my early years of college, I was already teaching computer science, and it wasn't very long before I was done with my education and I went into the business as a software developer and of course started as a software development and having so much experience behind me even as a junior developer led me to move up the ranks. And I worked for Accenture, which is a global company that many people may have heard of. And I worked for their software for life insurance and annuities platform. And there I was a developer and became a technical lead and eventually moved into basically the head of research and development and then the assistant head of research development as we grew even larger and where I did a lot of high level software development and also managed large teams. And then I really came to a juncture in my life, and I was really looking for a little bit of a change and I wanted to work with people a little bit more face- to- face and have an opportunity to work within my country that I lived in to work in Israel as opposed to just working over the phone. And so I found this small, high tech company down the street from my house in Yeruham of all places, here in the Negev desert. What kind of high tech company could be there? And so I sat down and I met with David and I was very impressed. I was truly surprised that this small at the time, 30 person company had such impressive clients and an impressive resume. And I said," You know what? This is a place where I think I want to be." And I was really drawn to the home environment, and I came to Cambium, and we've had from there on just explosive growth. So even only two years ago we were around 30 employees, now we're close to 90, and we've taken on bigger and better projects, more interesting technology projects where we deal with the kind of scale of systems that have to deal with 236,000 requests per second. And just all of the experience that I'd gathered over the years and managing people and was first came in as a technical lead and then managed a team. And then as we got large enough to finally have a CTO position, it was the pinnacle of my career to finally make it here, and that's how I arrived.
Mike: That's a great story. I love that. And congratulations on the success of, well, not only your own career but the success of Cambium. So I understand there's some interesting things happening from the product perspective at Cambium. Do you want to talk a little bit about some of the latest developments?
Baruch Spieser: We have lots of different projects going on. And as our customers come and tell us what are their challenges and their obstacles to further growth, we come and sit down with our clients and our customers and say," Okay, how can we engineer a solution that meets your needs? How can we revolutionize your business? How can we take it to the next level?" And that often involves taking the customer by the hand and saying," Hey listen, you're used to the old world, on- premises server, self- install database, whatever it might be." And then explaining the world is the cloud. And here in Cambium we have a very large number of people who are AWS certified. I just passed the AWS certification test myself. And we have, we're kind of an AWS partner with our retail platform and we basically take our hands for the customer. We work with other clouds too. We work with Azure a lot. We work with GCP. But we'll take our customers by the hand and say," Okay, here's how we're going to take you forward into the new world." And so this is what a cloud is, this is how modern architectures work. And we ditch the servers and start going with serverless, container based, lambda based, function based, whatever it might be to meet the needs of the customer. And we start driving them towards the concept of managed services. And whether that's a managed proxy cloud front or AWS or Azure Front Door, or whether that's a managed database like Atlas, and saying the days of installing your own database are over. We don't do that anymore. It's time to put that aside and understand that they're going to do it better than you ever will, and let them rely on the platform to take care of the heavy lifting, and then we can do the development in the end. We can deliver a better product, in a better timeline, for a better cost and meet the client's needs to get them to the next level.
Mike: And how has it changed the operating model at Cambium for your clients?
Baruch Spieser: For a lot of our customers, I think the operating model is, there's always that question when you're a client. Do you go in- house, or do you find someone else to do it for you? And for a lot of our customers that are on the smaller side, the option to go in- house was never a solution. And so they come to us and they say," Hey listen, we're looking for someone to help meet this need." And whether that's building an application that's going to sit in a car, or whether that's building a server side application that's going to manage a portfolio of transport vehicles, or whether that's going to be an eCommerce site that powers the largest retailers here in Israel, the solutions that our customers sometimes look for is really about how can they reduce costs? How can they reduce development times? And how can they drive their business forward? And it's really, I want to say almost like a planer shift. It's not just about how do we change our operating model, but it is how do we create a partnership? And the goal of Cambium is not to just sit and say," Here's your project, thanks, have a nice time." But we're partners. We become the client's partner, and the client understands that we're in this together. Their success is our success and our success is their success. And the purpose of the project is not to just create value for the customer, but to create value for our relationship. And so that when it comes to the next great feature, or the next great thing, or the next great project, that's how we worked with Fox. And we started with One Project, Dream Time and then it became Footlocker, and then it became Lelean, and then Shilav, and then eventually Dream Sport. And because we're constantly building value with our customers, constantly working with them to deliver them their needs, constantly making sure that they have someone who stands behind them and says," Hey listen, we're here. We're here to give the service. We're here to be your team, to be your partners, to be the people who help bring you forward." And when you get that kind of relationship with a customer, it drastically changes their operating model, because they don't look at you as a vendor, they look at you as a teammate and partner. That look is what kind of helps drive us forward together.
Mike: Yeah, it's a partnership. Yeah, I love that. And that's a really great attitude to have, and I think it's relatively unique. So here we are, we have this great partnership between Cambium and MongoDB, and you're doing great things. What's next for Cambium? Do you foresee continuing along the lines of doing projects for your customers, helping them achieve success? Or are there projects that maybe you are going to build for a SAS model? Will Cambium ever offer a SAS- based solution?
Baruch Spieser: So first of all, we already do offer a SAS- based solution. Our eCommerce platform is effectively a SAS model. And so that is something that we're already in that space. I think that when you talk about the SAS space is how mature you are. Again, it depends on exactly, I wouldn't say that we're ready to do SAS provisioning the same way that customers like some of the larger SAS provisioners are out there. But in terms of the overall SAS model, we're certainly driving in that direction. But I think that it's also dependent on the needs of the customers and the needs of the market. We're much more of, I want to say, a partnership and services and delivery than we are of a product- based company. So we do have products, we've had products in the past as well. We had a Covid defense product that we used for health declarations during that really awkward period of everyone's life. And so we've certainly had products model and pushed those products forward. And in particular with our eCommerce platform, we're working with AWS's restack program in a technology partner to become be able to deliver this as off the shelf product on the AWS marketplace. But for most of our clients, we're really looking at meeting their needs and whether that's delivering applications for mobile development or for mobile devices or whatever it may be. We kind of look towards meeting the needs of our customers, and that's how we've managed to have long running relationships with our customers. So we have a relatively high retention rate amongst large customers. We've been working for many years with Sport Five, which is one of the major TV channels here in Israel. We have a long running relationship with ICL, which is one of the largest companies here in Israel. The aim is, I want to say not more to be a SAS- based company, but really to be a partner for our companies and to really deliver on the promise of having people that stand beside our customers and help bring them to the next level.
Mike: So you mentioned Atlas. Atlas is obviously our database as a service. Are there other features that you're using from the Atlas developer data platform?
Baruch Spieser: Oh yeah, for sure. Atlas Search is the best. It's awesome.
Mike: Oh, fantastic. I wasn't aware you were using Atlas Search.
Baruch Spieser: Oh yeah. We're full in on Atlas Search. It has saved us in so many ways for our retail sites where we have these massive product catalogs and the end customers, the end users, the people who use the website are looking to find the things that they're looking for, whether it's a pacifier for their kid at two in the morning or whenever it might be. Search is essential. And before we really had Atlas search available to us, we were kind of jerry rigging all these many complicated solutions around elastic search. In Hebrew search is complicated, because in the Hebrew language there are many words that when you conjugate them, they don't even match in the same letters. So for example, for when you're looking for women's clothing, well in Hebrew, foreign language or foreign language one is the plural and the other is the singular. But they don't have a single letter that matches between. Basically you don't have a single letter that matches between them. And so search can be kind of complicated. And so we were looking for all many different kinds of options to make that work. And we had an elastic search program, and we were looking to a custom provider for natural language processing, and it was just very, very clunky. And then we said," What if we just switched to Atlas search?" And I think it would took us three days and we had search working and it was I think 10 times faster, 17 times faster, some ridiculous number I can't even imagine. forget just the fact that it worked, because the concept that something just works is really amazing. But there were so many features inside it that were just total value adds. The ability to have fuzzy searches. You have a typo. No one cares. It just goes along for the ride and you get all that stuff. I mean just the delivery and the promise of how fast it took us to execute. I think we turned over five retail sites in the span of a month when you count all the testing and everything else that went in. And then we had customers that were now searching and it just brought the hit levels down on the sites because the searches were so much more efficient that people were more easily able to find what they were looking for. And it was just a big win from top to bottom. One of the key features of Atlas that we've been really excited about. And then when the latest platform of Mongo came out and they expanded the search features. So now you have multi collection indexing, and it's a real big deal.
Mike: Yeah. I'm curious why is search so valuable in the retail space? I mean it lends itself to the catalog, and the catalog, I guess, use case. I mean it fits so perfectly with MongoDB because of the extensibility, the polymorphism. But when it comes to search, it just seems like a natural fit. Literally every eCommerce play just demands a really good search engine.
Baruch Spieser: Yeah. And it is a hundred percent essential. And when you look to trying to provide a solution, you know what Gordon Bell says," The best kind of architecture, the best kind of infrastructure is that which isn't there." And so the fact that it's just built right into the database, just having natural text free based search, free text based search just naturally tacked on, it's just huge. It just simplifies everything to deliver on that promise. And even when you compare to other managed databases that have similar kind of text searches, it's the convenience, it's the ease of it being co- located, the ease of managing it's just easy. And it goes back to what I was saying about one of the reasons that how much we love to use Atlas is because it does all of that heavy lifting, and it's just get that out of the way and then focus on meeting the business needs of your client.
Mike: So I want to give you some time to talk a little bit about how customers can find you. How can your potential customers learn more about Cambium and the things that you do?
Baruch Spieser: Well, we have a website, Cambium, that's co.il, and you're certainly welcome to find us Cambium Applicable Innovation on Facebook and LinkedIn. And we would certainly love to hear from you. We're always excited to hear what people are doing. And if you're interested in possibly hanging out with a bunch of really exciting, warm, and friendly, smart people who like creating innovation every day, we'd love to have you come take a look.
Mike: So much good stuff in the conversation. I want to thank you for the kind words around search that's really helpful for folks out there looking for a solution to search. What else is on the roadmap for Cambium?
Baruch Spieser: So we have a lot of things in the pipe. We have two particularly large projects. One is an IOT solution for a very large Israeli provider of water services. And they're looking for a major IOT implementation. Actually they're going to be doing that. We're hoping to get that pipeline resolved pretty quickly. And if all goes well, we'll probably have that on Atlas, too. We have a really interesting research project associated with one of the Israeli HMOs, health managed organizations, here around being able to do trial runs of working with sample health data. That's not real health data, but to give third party providers the ability to understand what the data might look like even though it's not real data, but to be able to learn what It's like to process it and be able to provision these environments that would allow them to do all this research. And that's probably if things go also going to be in Atlas. We also have a bunch of other projects too associated with many of our existing customers are now doing things like digital wallets and a bunch of other interesting projects that are down the pipeline. And so we're always looking to keep things real. We do a lot in streaming video space. This is I think the third or fourth project that I've worked in streaming video over just the past year. And so we have all those projects that continue to come to the pipeline as the Israeli market continues to look for streaming video solutions, and who knows what'll happen. We're coming into the holiday season here in Israel and I'm sure that the market will begin to pick up after another month and the holiday season begins to settle in.
Mike: What a fascinating role you've got at a company that is so varied. I'm curious how you stay up on current technology. What do you read and who are you listening to?
Baruch Spieser: Well, okay. So I think my go- to resource on a daily basis is InfoQ. They just have a really good news service where they kind of summarize a lot of things. And of course any good CTO is going to be following up on the major blog providers by AWSs inaudible blog, the Azure blog, Mongos blog, and all the rest. I follow Marcus. He's great. Marcus Segan, who I think is the head behind Atlas Search. He's just been great every time I've had a chance to interact with him. And I met with him recently when he was in Israel last time, and that was just fabulous. And basically trying to keep on track of a lot of the changes. I'm a little bit of a Java nut and so the serverside. com and trying to keep track of all the various different changes to the JDK over the years. And I remember recently having an opportunity to go through inaudible of no JS with some of the people on my development team. And so there's a lot of resources out there, a lot of places to keep up to date. But I think the most important thing is to really talk to people. There are experts everywhere, and I think that one of the things that I've learned as a CTO is that I learn more from the developers who work for me than I think from anybody else. When you have a really warm environment where everybody feels at home and everybody can communicate and share and everybody feels like they have something to donate, the amount of knowledge that people bring with them from their own experience is just fathomless. That's really where you learn the most.
Mike: Yeah, I love that. So is Cambium hiring?
Baruch Spieser: Yes, we are. And we have numerous positions to fill junior, senior, QA, architects, pretty much everything for one of the many projects in our pipeline. And if you feel like you're up to the task, we'd love to hear from you.
Mike: Great. So I'll include links in the show notes to Cambium's resources there. So check the show notes for more information there. Ben, thank you so much for spending time with me. Is there anything else you'd like to share with the audience before we wrap up?
Baruch Spieser: Having been in the technology space for 30 something years now, whether it was being a teenager writing their own video games to writing massive system architectures in the cloud, I think the thing that is really important is that you never lose sight of the passion that brought you here in the first place. If you bring the passion and you know can really apply and meet with people and share that energy and just bring the people up around you, you'll be amazed at what you can accomplish.
Mike: Thanks once again for your time.
Baruch Spieser: It has been an absolute pleasure. Thanks so much.
Shane McAllister: That was a really great conversation with Ben and Mike, and we do hope you enjoyed it. It's great to get insights as to how they introduce MongoDB to their clients and projects and the various ways that MongoDB be helped them deliver on their process. Do check out the show notes for more information. Have you heard of MongoDB. local events? What is a. local? A. local event is a day filled with educational breakout sessions, an announcement- packed keynote presentation, customer stories, free one- on- one, ask the experts consulting sessions, networking opportunities, and much more. In October, November, and December where you are running. local events in San Francisco, Dallas, London, and Toronto. And you can find out more @ mongoDB.com/events. And the best part of all, MongoDB. locals are free to attend. Thanks as always for listening, and if you did enjoy this episode and haven't done so already, please do leave us a rating and a review on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or wherever you listen. It really does help us a lot and we appreciate it. So for me, Shane McAllister, until next time, do take care, and thanks for listening.
In this episode - Mike Lynn talks to Ben Speiser, CTO of Cambium, a software development house based in Israel working with clients both large & small, in many different areas, but particularly the retail e-commerce space. Cambium is a long term MongoDB customer and Ben & Mike discuss why Cambium chose MongoDB in the first place, and about their use of Atlas, Search and our other developer data platform products across multiple projects and clients. Ben illustrates the path of taking customers from on-premise servers and into the brave new world of “the cloud” and being their technology partner and how Cambium helps meet their clients needs.
Vist Cambium - http://www.cambium.co.il/
Ben on LinkedIn - https://www.linkedin.com/in/bspeiser/
Mike is at @mlynn and Shane is @shaneymac
As mentioned in the show
MongoDB .Local events coming to a city near you - check out - https://www.mongodb.com/events
If you enjoy the podcast, please leave us a rating and review on Apple podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen - it really does help us a lot. Many thanks.