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Q&A With DataStax Co-Founder Matt Pfeil

date: July 25, 2018

In celebration of Apache Cassandra’s 10th anniversary, we had Patrick McFadin, our VP of Developer Relations, have a Q&A with DataStax Co-Founder Matt Pfeil.

Q: You and Jonathan Ellis decided to quit your jobs and start a company devoted to supporting Apache Cassandra. What was is about Cassandra that impressed you so much that you you decided to make such a crazy move?

A: I came from a world where we ran MySQL in a very distributed format. Hundreds of machines and we did all the sharding ourselves. Cassandra's P2P architecture and resiliency was incredibly attractive. Also, we had worked with it pre-Riptano at Rackspace.

Q: In those early days, there was a lot of new and different databases arriving on the scene. Did you ever get worried about the Cassandra project being viable?

A: Definitely. During the 2009 to 2011 timeframe it felt like a new NoSQL project was launching weekly. It's sort of like how Crypto is today. New coin every week. We spent a TON of time just making sure we had community users who were happy.

Q: What was one of the most important moments you saw in the Apache Cassandra community?

A: The Cassandra Summits we ran. They kept attracting bigger crowds with bigger company names with bigger use cases.

Q: You spent a lot of time trying to convince big companies that they should use Cassandra. What was the biggest challenge then and how does that contrast to today?

A: It was never a challenge of the theory of Cassandra. People would ask questions and the tech spoke for itself. The challenges in the early days were more about how early the software was.  People are scared of new, pre-V1.0 things in production. As time progressed and you had big names using it, it iterated to implementation challenges. It's new, so people had to learn new things and that takes time.

Q: What advice would you give to someone working on an early stage technology with breakout potential?

A: Get users. Do whatever you can to make them successful in production and get them talking about it to the world. Repeat.

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