Billy Bosworth

Out with the old… in with the new

By Billy BosworthMarch 3, 2014

That’s how the old saying goes, right?  Today marks a historic moment in our company’s history.  Just under 3 years ago, we moved our team of 8 people into a “huge” 7,000 sqare foot space in San Mateo. I thought we had overreached.  The company only had approximately 25 people in total, with the rest spread remotely around the US and the world.  In what seems like the blink of an eye, today we have over 225 employees and we’re moving more than 70 of us into our new 36,000 square foot office in the heart of Santa Clara, right next to the new Levi’s Stadium.  The 49ers get a new home and so do we.  (Let’s hope they get some college games to the venue!)

The massive industry growth has made this move imperative for us.  And I can’t help but be nostalgic about what’s happening to the database world as a parallel. The world of data has taken on a whole new meaning. It holds a message of great personal relevance to those in technology looking to reinvent the world—to usher in an era of change the likes of which only comes along once every several decades in technology. Over the last year, I watched these possibilities move from theory to fact. What we do now will have impact for years — decades —  to come.

What made the last few years so exciting is not just what happened but rather what it signified in terms of what is happening.  And what is happening is that we are seeing the beginning of the end for the relational database being the de facto database type for modern online applications. Leading industry analysts are saying that developers facing issues with existing database implementations or designing online apps should look beyond relational. More importantly, customers are saying it — and doing it.  The cost and complexity of these platforms has become a major inhibitor of innovation.

We are growing fast and widespread adoption of Cassandra as well as DataStax continues. 400 companies in 38 countries across 20+ industries are using DataStax. Countless more are downloading and exploring open source Cassandra.  Why? Because Cassandra breaks down barriers to innovation and allows businesses to do things they couldn’t otherwise do. It’s an always-on, fully distributed database that was built for the world of dynamic and high performance applications, where data is king. At DataStax we get to deliver Cassandra to the enterprise, which is beyond exciting. It doesn’t matter if you’re a small company with just a couple of servers or an organization that spans the globe, Cassandra and DataStax is there and it is so exciting to watch.

Modern applications need to be available anytime, from anywhere  and at scale. That requires multi-datacenter. Increasingly, it also means cloud hybridization.  Relational databases are 30-year old technology built for another era. They don’t work for modern online applications with those kinds of requirements. Companies like Netflix, Adobe, Intuit, and eBay considered relational technologies, but chose Cassandra and DataStax instead. What’s more, companies and individuals outside DataStax now get to participate in our technology with the power of open-source.  These things represent massive paradigm shifts from the past.

And, no, it’s not just Internet companies. Businesses of all sizes and types are migrating from Oracle to Cassandra for their critical applications. And the press has been aggressively sounding the bell that a massive shift is occurring (e.g. USA Today, TechCrunch, Silicon Angle, etc.)  Now, it seems that even Wall Street is catching on.  Consider this takeaway from a recent Cowen and Company report [emphasis mine]:

“We surveyed about 100 Trend Spotting attendees roughly a year apart in Jan 2013 and again in Dec 2013. We asked which legacy vendors were going to be the biggest beneficiaries of Big Data. In January, 22% of respondents thought ORCL was the biggest beneficiary while 26% said None of the Above. One year later, 0% thought ORCL was the biggest beneficiary and 52% said None of the Above.”

These are clear signs that we have reached a tipping point.  A new model is breaking out that allows you to put your data anywhere you want it.

One of the things that most surprises me as I see this trend unfolding (because it tells me that I am getting old!) is that there is a current wave of developers who simply do not even consider Oracle (or any relational technology for that matter) when building their new applications. That is quite astounding to a guy like me who spent 20 years of his life living and breathing relational technologies.

I live in the Bay Area and as I drive up and down 101, I see wave after wave of companies that are building next-generation applications, and they’re not building them on Oracle. They’re building them on technologies like Cassandra, and with good reason: the world has changed and 30-year old technology is not the answer.

You now need a database where your data can reside anywhere your users want it.  Multiple datacenters, multiple regions, multiple countries, or even a hybrid of all of the above plus some cloud datacenters.

That is the new normal.  I’m trying not to sound like a doomsayer, but if you are not thinking about your applications with this kind of global scale and redundancy, you will become increasingly irrelevant with each passing year because your competitors are thinking that way.  None of this is theoretical.  The fact is your applications can withstand nearly anything — even losing an entire data center without a hiccup as was explained by a Cassandra user in an article on the one-year anniversary of hurricane Sandy.

It is no longer just the new development generation who understands this.  In an open letter to Oracle DBAs in May of this year, one of our Cassandra experts (and a former Oracle DBA) wrote a transparent note to his colleagues about these market changes.  It was one of our most visited posts on Planet Cassandra with an overwhelmingly positive response.  This prompted another long-time Oracle expert on our team to write an insightful series of blog posts entitled “Confessions of an Oracle DBA” that detailed his journey from a 20+ year, self proclaimed “database geek” into the world of NoSQL.

It is such a great time to be in technology.  The science fiction movies that many of us saw as kids are manifesting before our eyes.  It is a technology dream come true in many respects.  The choices you make in the next few years are going to mean everything to your career and your business.  Embrace the change around you and impact the way we live and interact like never before in human history.

That is the opportunity upon us.  Right now.

So as we move our headquarters into a space that is nearly 3 times where we lived before, I can’t help but wonder how long we will have there till we need to expand again.  But like our Cassandra database, we’ll just keep adding “nodes” to handle the scale!

Lastly, the only reason we are doing any of this is because of our phenomenal team of people at DataStax.  We’re trying hard to build a great company along with great software, and that takes special people.  What a privilege to be on this ride with this team at DataStax.


Here are a few pictures before anybody arrives. Throughout the day, you can check out #NewDataStaxHQ on Twitter.



  1. eric says:

    A historic new chapter begins for an EPIC team of awesome, dedicated people! Thrilled to be associated with such greatness!


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