DataStax raises £29m in funding to expand NoSQL database business

NoSQL database provider DataStax has managed to raise $45 million (£29 million) in funding to help it expand internationally, support the open-source community and carry out further product development.


NoSQL database provider DataStax has managed to raise $45 million (£29 million) in funding to help it expand internationally, support the open-source community and carry out further product development.

DataStax has a number of enterprise customers, including eBay, Netflix and Adobe, which use its NoSQL database, powered by Apache Cassandra, to carry out real-time analytics on transactions that can be scaled dramatically.

It completed its series D funding round led by Scale Venture Partners with participation from existing investors Lightspeed Venture Partners, Crosslink Capital and Merritech Capital Partners, and new investors DFJ Growth and Next World Capital.

DataStax also announced the latest version of its Cassandra product this week, DataStax Enterprise 3.1, which aims to increase developer ease-of-use to shorten the product development lifecycle, and provide greater scalability and simpler manageability.

Computerworld UK spoke to DataStax CEO Billy Bosworth, who explained that the company’s growth has been propelled by dramatic changes in the database market, whereby enterprises that use traditional relational systems aren’t equipped to deal with the demands of a highly-connected world.

“The database market has been static for quite a long time - the past 20 years has seen the big three players (Oracle, IBM and Microsoft) just dominating this space without much change. Then all of a sudden, about four years ago, we started to see this upheaval and the burst of the NoSQL movement,” said Bosworth.

“This is because we have moved from thinking about doing things at the scale of a company, to doing things at the scale of a country or even globally. When an application is written today it is very common for it be written it for a world that is always connected and is always available.”

He added: “This change in scale and demand for availability is the driver, the old relational technology was never built to handle that.”

Bosworth explained that Cassandra’s distributed architecture allows enterprises to operate on cheap commodity machines, which can be scaled up quickly by simply adding extra nodes, and spread across multiple data centres. Or even across on-premise and in the cloud.

This means that if a number of machines are taken out for whatever reason, the company’s database isn’t knocked offline and doesn’t lose its performance capabilities – there is no single point of failure.

“In the old world when you wanted more power, you would scale up by creating a bigger machine. It got more powerful, but it also got more expensive, and you had a problem that there was a single point of failure,” said Bosworth.

“On Cassandra you have a single database that now spans across a bunch of different geographies and architectures, where you can lose big chunks of the machines, and availability will still be high.”

Bosworth claims that the company’s customers, on average, have been able to migrate away from traditional relational databases onto Cassandra in just six months. He said that it then takes approximately another six months to reach high performance efficiency gains.

Bosworth added that customers report that DataStax’s database is typically a tenth of the price of an Oracle implementation.

However, migrating away from older systems, such as Oracle’s, isn’t without its problems. Bosworth explained that if an enterprise is going to undertake a project of moving away from relational to NoSQL, then it must invest in skills.

“The biggest challenge is people – no doubt about it. If you ask anyone of our customers, they are going to say: we’re hiring. They can’t hire the experts in these new systems fast enough. That’s why I’m really trying to encourage the old relational brotherhood to transition their skillset. If they do that, they will be in more demand during their career,” said Bosworth.

“The problem of migrating away from Oracle, which we have many customers doing, is that it’s more about the thinking differently about your data model – how it’s blueprinted, how it’s laid down inside the database. Because it is different in a NoSQL system.”

He added: “As a developer you have to think differently about your data model. If you want to accelerate your learning from an Oracle database to a Cassandra database, I would tell you to absolutely start thinking about your data model. Understand how it’s different. If you do that, your challenges are going to decrease when you move into production.”

On the new funding, Bosworth said that it will be used to expand its employee base internationally to support the company’s growth and provide additional support to the open source community.

“We wanted to hire aggressively ahead of our growth curve,” he said.

“We need more people covering the ground and so we have been hiring rapidly – but we need to keep doing that. We are hiring very aggressively in Europe.”

He added: “We are also going to pour a lot more resources back into the open source community, that’s our lifeblood. We want to be able to give them all kinds of resources and capabilities for free. For example, we are investing into Planet Cassandra, a website with unbelievable free resources.

“You have got webinars, videos, white papers, downloadable products. Completely free, no strings attached.”

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