DataStax has made its name in helping enterprise customers get to grips with the highly scalable NoSQL Apache Cassandra open source database. Now it's looking to drastically simplify the technology and take the next big step in its growth curve following the release of the new cloud platform Constellation.
Computerworld UK sat down with the DataStax CEO Billy Bosworth last week as he wrapped up a two-week European tour to talk about the vendor's recent tie-up with Google Cloud under its new CEO Thomas Kurian, as well as his high hopes for its new cloud platform and as-a-service solutions under the Constellation banner - and how relations with the wider Apache Cassandra community have been mended.
"I think that I am being fair when I say any sober-minded technologists would acknowledge the power of Cassandra," Bosworth said. "What hasn't been quite so synonymous with Cassandra is: is it simple? That's been the knock, that it's just too hard to use."
The answer for DataStax emerged in May with the beta release of DataStax Constellation. "Constellation is our entire cloud platform," he said, "so by way of analogy, Constellation is to DataStax what Azure is to Microsoft or what AWS is to Amazon."
The idea is to make Cassandra available with "push button ease", with not just an as-a-service offering, though that will be available soon, but to build out a broader cloud platform that will give customers insight into their clusters.
"Taking the knowledge that we've amassed over the past nine years of dealing with the largest companies in the world, and applying that learning to you and your clusters so that you can make knowledgeable decisions on performance and improvements and provisioning," he explained.
Now Bosworth and the rest of the company is focused on executing on the above promise, starting with a general availability release of the as-a-service database around September to October, soon followed by the AI-powered insights product.
Google Cloud partnership
DataStax found itself as one of a select group of open source partners to be chosen by Google Cloud back in April, alongside Confluent, Elastic, InfluxData, MongoDB, Neo4j and Redis Labs.
Was that programme the brainchild of new Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian?
"Google reached out to us," Bosworth confirmed. "That happened a few weeks after Thomas [Kurian] had gotten there. I assume, therefore it was part of his initiative, but I don't know that for certain. He and his team are the ones we engaged with straight away."
Bosworth believes the most compelling aspect of this programme is the commercial element, where Google will bring together the user experience, billing and support of all of these solutions into the Google Cloud Platform.
"I think with this announcement of these first-class services, where we have the commercial integration, along with the technology, all of it makes much more sense to be able to do that," Bosworth said. "That's why it's an exciting announcement for us and we were proud to be part of a group."
Bosworth grew up in the relational database world, like Kurian, who worked at Oracle for 22 years.
"He has an excellent reputation of being a very, very deep technologist, and also a good sense of what customers need, where markets are going," Bosworth stated in his assessment of the CEO. "They are making very bold, aggressive moves on the cloud, at least as it relates to the partners with us. So it's been a very good partnership thus far."
Bosworth also talked about a broader market shift that has taken shape over the past year around the reality of enterprise demand for simple hybrid- and multi-cloud solutions and interoperability.
"We have been talking about [hybrid cloud] for my entire eight plus years at DataStax," he added. "Our architecture is so well suited to a multi cloud or a hybrid cloud environment. However, it really has only been, I would say, the last 12 to 18 months, where I feel like the market has hit that decided tipping point, that multi cloud is not an option, it's a reality."
With Constellation, Bosworth hopes to offer a true hybrid- and multi-cloud solution for customers who don't want to be dictated to when it comes to infrastructure.
"When you're spinning up an instance, do you want it on Google? Do you want it on AWS? Do you want it on Azure? We're going to make that very easy and will also make it easy for you to move things around between the clusters," Bosworth said.
"So it opens up, we think, a lot of opportunity for our customers, to be able to think differently about what they can do with their cloud infrastructure, if they get the data piece solved, which is often the hardest part in the stack to get right, we make that part easy."
DataStax itself has had a rocky few years of relations with the wider Apache Cassandra community, which includes high-powered community members like Uber, Netflix, Facebook and Apple, and is busy working on the 4.0 release of Apache Cassandra. DataStax vacated leadership of the Apache Cassandra project a few years back and subsequently allowed its annual community event to lapse.
Now, Bosworth is building bridges as he grapples with the two sides of his business: maintaining a vibrant open source community, alongside growing a commercial business that is on a rumoured fast-track to an IPO.
He points to the presence of the project chair of the Apache Cassandra community Nate McCall at its annual Accelerate event earlier this year as a sign of the thawing relationship between the two sides.
"You can see now the alignment with the Apache community and with DataStax is in a very healthy place," Bosworth said. "We're doing a lot of the contributions to get Cassandra 4.0 released, probably later this year, but that's an Apache timeframe."
DataStax is also broadening out its community outreach around education and training, offering access to its new Cassandra-as-a-service offering on Constellation as an easy first step towards certification as part of any bootcamps. "We think that is the absolute complimentary synthesis with community and DataStax," he added.
Another step the vendor has taken is the release of a low-end DataStax distribution of Apache Cassandra. "This is the no-brainer offering for somebody who's running Cassandra, but wants a stable supported version," Bosworth said. "That's new, we haven't had that prior to this year."