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VMblog Expert Interview: Peter Guagenti Talks about Cockroach Labs and Distributed Cloud-native Databases

interview cockroach labs guagenti 

VMblog recently spoke to Peter Guagenti, CMO at Cockroach Labs to find out more about the company and their recent growth, as well as learn more about distributed cloud-native databases and the problems they solve.

VMblog:  To kick things off, talk about what Cockroach Labs does and why were investors so excited to get involved? 

Peter Guagenti:  Cockroach Labs is all about helping make breakthrough applications easy to build and effortless to scale. We enable developers and IT professionals to build and manage data intensive applications in the cloud with our next-generation, cloud-native SQL database, CockroachDB. Over the past few years, the Cockroach Labs team has built a new type of database from the ground up that uses distribution and replication of data to deliver bulletproof resilience and elastic scale, as well as provide the unique ability to lock data to specific locations for optimal performance and regulatory compliance. We have introduced a whole new way of thinking about data management -- one much more aligned with a world dominated by the cloud and containerization.

Legacy players have long dominated the enterprise software market. But with the rise of cloud and with the proliferation of always-on, real-time services at the heart of every business, there is a clear changing of the guard. Companies are looking to replace legacy software tools that have struggled to adapt to this changing world. As the world's first cloud-native, geo-distributed SQL database, CockroachDB is the only player in the space purpose built for the needs of this new market.

Gartner forecasts the worldwide public cloud services market to grow nearly 20% at the end of 2020, to a total upwards valuation of $260 billion. It also expects that by 2022, 75% of all databases will be deployed or migrated to a cloud platform. That growth describes the larger move away from legacy players, including behemoths like Oracle, as companies look for more nimble, cloud-native infrastructure. Investors have seen the potential of CockroachDB to be the system of record in a post-Oracle, cloud-native world, and we believe we have the vision, the world-class engineering team, and the right product architecture to make that real.

VMblog:  Why did you raise more money now, and what will it be used for?

Guagenti:  Cockroach Labs is using the financing to double down on investments in R&D. It will be used to continue fueling innovation in our database, and in CockroachCloud, our fully-managed, elastic cloud service. Our customers are seeing the potential for CockroachDB to become the new standard for transactional data, and we will be doubling down on our investments to fulfill on this early promise and earn the right to become their database of choice.

VMblog:  What problems does a distributed cloud-native database uniquely solve?

Guagenti:  Cloud-native distributed SQL databases, like CockroachDB, provide a level of resiliency that is virtually unprecedented in the data space. Distribution of data, when married to our database guarantees for data consistency, meaning that you can lose instances, or even entire data centers, and not lose any data or have your users see any disruption of service. Additionally, this architecture means that you can have a single database that elastically scales by simply adding more resources, as opposed to the awkward and complicated efforts of data "sharding" or manual distribution of resources. These two characteristics are what we expect when we use cloud services, but for the most part, data platforms were never architected to do these things. Our latest generation of databases were built specifically to work this way. In addition, CockroachDB has a specific capability to distribute data across multiple cloud providers while still behaving as a single database, meaning that we can fulfill on the promise of true multi-cloud in a way that very few other technologies can claim. 

The benefits of all of this are significant. We see dramatically less time being spent managing data and data infrastructure and more time spent on improving and extending the applications that rely on that data. We see better utilization of resources and, with that, significantly lower costs. We also see the ability to more easily choose and more flexibly manage deployments.

VMblog:  How quickly has Cockroach grown since its inception?  What's about customer growth?

Guagenti:  Cockroach Labs has seen a year over year commercial customer growth of 295%. And once these users found what they were looking for in CockroachDB, they have doubled-down - first-year customers have, on average, expanded their usage 2x, and have renewed at a rate of over 90%. We attribute this growth to the ardent and loyal following we have built up among architects, developers, and app owners who have seen the power of this new type of database. We're very proud that we have customers ranging from the smallest start-up to the Fortune 50 getting value from CockroachDB.

VMblog:  What sets you apart from competitors?

Guagenti:  We've been approached by new customers who have struggled with the capability, costs, and quality of service provided by our database competitors. They come to CockroachDB because they see our database as providing them the freedom to use best-in-class tools across clouds -- giving them better control of their data and deployments, and the flexibility they desire. Unlike the databases from large cloud providers like AWS, CockroachDB doesn't lock customers into a single ecosystem and platform. And unlike legacy players like Oracle, Cockroach Labs provides more modern tools that are a better fit for new applications at a fraction of the cost.

VMblog:  How does CockroachDB make developers' lives easier?  Why should a developer consider using CockroachDB over MySQL, Cassandra, Aurora or all of the other DB's on the market?

Guagenti:  CockroachDB provides developers with a quick and simple way to build and manage data-intensive applications in the cloud-without worrying about the performance, scale or resilience of the data to support those apps. Developers have access to a database that works the way they work, is familiar and easy to use for anyone who knows SQL and traditional relational databases, but removes the operational headaches of scaling and recovering from outages.

There are numerous databases available to the modern developer; each of which may suit a discreet need for their application or service. However, many of these options were simply not designed to meet the needs of scale-out distributed systems and no matter how much they are modified or extended to address these unique needs, they still struggle. We have focused on building the database that a developer will be able to rely on from the seed of an idea, all the way up to being a billion dollar app.

CockroachDB uses standard, developer-friendly SQL, works with most major ORMs, and is node-based to provide linear, automated scale for your data without manual sharding. CockroachDB replicates data across multiple nodes so that even with the loss of a node or region, you can be sure data is always available and transactions can always be committed. It guarantees distributed, transactional consistency at local and global scale and provides the unique ability to tie data to a location so you can counter latency issues and comply with data privacy regulations.

VMblog:  You describe CockroachDB as "cloud-native".  What does it mean to be a cloud-native database?

Guagenti:  The evolution of the database is divided into three waves or generations. The first generation of database tools (dating back to the ‘80's) gave us structure and accessibility, but ran exclusively on single machines and were very difficult to manage. These platforms worked fine in the client-server era and on up to Web 1.0. The second generation, exemplified by the tools needed to support Web 2.0 and the earliest web scale companies like Yahoo, gave us NoSQL. That unlocked the earliest data-intensive applications and served the developer well, but consistency, reliability, and support for users outside of the core developer audience suffered. In particular, the loss of SQL locked out an entire universe of users and systems from working with that data.

Now, in the third wave, we've brought those two generations of technology together by bringing a distributed computing approach to relational data structure and standard SQL. In doing so, we updated the distributed architecture to not just be able to be deployed on any type of infrastructure, but also to fully utilize the elasticity and global nature of cloud infrastructure. In our opinion, this is what it means to be a "cloud-native" database, which is a similar approach to how you see Kubernetes operate. We believe that CockroachDB, Google Spanner, and Microsoft's Azure SQL platform fit this definition. Cloud-native databases are in contrast to what we would consider "cloud adapted" databases like Amazon Aurora or MySQL clustering tools like Vitess, which have made running a traditional relational database much easier on cloud infrastructure, but has done so through automation tools without fixing the underlying architecture. 

It is our belief that applications require cloud-native data infrastructure to fully realize the efficiencies, flexibility, and management ease of the cloud. Cloud-native databases were built to accommodate cloud-specific behaviors and development methods, enabling for a smoother and more efficient transition to and operation of the cloud.

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Published Thursday, May 21, 2020 7:32 AM by David Marshall
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