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Interview: Why businesses should be paying attention to NoSQL in 2014

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Interview: Why businesses should be paying attention to NoSQL in 2014

Billy Bosworth, CEO at Datastax, explains why the NoSQL database will continue to grow in popularity in 2014.

TechRadar Pro: Why should people be paying attention to NoSQL in 2014?

Billy Bosworth: First, it's already infiltrated your world and you probably don't even know it. Whether you are shopping, gaming, reading news sites, watching movies online, or getting a prescription filled, you're likely using our technology. We're past theory and into reality.

Second, The "always on" world cannot be serviced by databases with 25-year-old technology. They weren't built for the kind of architectures that can avoid disasters and deliver performance that was unheard of just a few years ago

Third, no matter your business, data is the new currency. I'm pretty sure Google did not buy Nest for over $3B because they wanted a pretty thermostat. We're seeing new industries born and old industries radically changed by changing how we perceive the value of data. Before any of that vast amount of data can be analyzed, it must first be created. We are the engine that allows all that data to be created.

TRP: Why will the team be able to take on Oracle this time around? What's different?

BB: MySQL was brilliant for its time because the team understood something that is very difficult for software developers, and that is reductionism. Relational databases were bloated with too much bolt-on technology, so MySQL went after an audience that needed one thing (web transactions) above all else, and they blew away all the other chaff.

They made it simple, and they made it free in the open-source world. That was a massive disruption to the relational market, but make no mistake about it, it was a cost disruption more than anything else. It was still a relational database.

Today, we get incredible value out of my leadership team members who come from MySQL because they know the open source software model (no trivial thing) and because they learned how to disrupt a huge incumbent. But the reason they are here is because they know that this time, the primary market driver is not cost -- it is technology.

The real disruption is that our technology is built for an "always on" world where data is massively distributed. The fact that we're typically 1/10th the cost of something like Oracle is fantastic, but incidental. Spending more money, or using clever marketing, cannot fix a bad architecture.

That is not only true for relational databases, but also applies to NoSQL databases that suffer from architectural limitations not sufficient for a fully distributed world.

TRP: What will be the key areas for NoSQL in 2014?

BB: This year will see NoSQL become a lot more mainstream and get adopted by companies who you wouldn't think of as modern innovators - like the Post Office or manufacturers. Well, they've already begun making the transition, and many others will soon follow. So it's not just for web and "cloud native" businesses any longer.

Undoubtedly, the demand for skills around NoSQL will go up this year as well – we are helping the community here with access to free training around Cassandra, expanding the number of people with skills and making it easier to support these innovative new apps.

If you are well versed in NoSQL, and can write applications at global scale, then you can pretty much write your own ticket because you are the most in-demand employee a tech company can find. So we see a lot of growth happening in the community because the top engineers really want to learn these new skills and also have fun with a really exciting technology.

TRP: How do you see areas like telecoms taking on NoSQL?

BB: I see the telcos absolutely needing the power of NoSQL for a variety of reasons:

Always-On: The amount of data points that the telco's need to consume is astounding. They're one of the top data generation industries in the market because of all the data points they need to capture. If the system is down or slow -- even for milliseconds -- it creates a backlog such that the system cannot catch up. They *must* start embracing fully distributed ways of dealing with ever increasing data flows.

Messaging: The backbones for messaging architectures are some of the most demanding in the world. Openwave Messaging, a DataStax customer, provides messaging services for half of the top tier telcos. A few years ago while using a relational database, they experienced a critical failure that left 800,000 subscribers without email access.

They activated their experimental Cassandra cluster and regained operations within 20 minutes and have migrated over to DataStax Enterprise full time. They haven't experienced downtime since.

New business opportunities will emerge as our personal devices become a bigger and bigger part of our daily lives. The telcos must have the internal database infrastructure ready to handle the launch of massively successful new services to customers. If the infrastructure isn't there, massive market share will be squandered.

TRP: Databases are a dry subject – will corporate IT teams look at NoSQL this year, or will they stick with Oracle?

BB: Let me give you an analogy… when I played football in college, I was an offensive lineman. That position doesn't have the flash of, say, a wide receiver. That is, not until your $80M quarterback gets injured because a lineman didn't do his job -- then nobody wants to talk about anything else!

Our job at DataStax is to deliver the Cassandra database in a way that does amazing things with mind-bending performance, and yet have the database remain a "dry" topic. When we do that, it means we're doing our job because there are no crises to talk about and applications are humming along!

To answer your question specifically, IT departments are the ones who will ultimately take these technologies used by the various application teams and make them standard inside their organizations. That is a very useful thing for numerous reasons, so IT has an important role to play going forward as databases like Cassandra propagate within companies.

TRP: Where do you think the next big challenge for IT will come from?

BB: Everyone faces a challenge of scale because data is growing so quickly. Whether you are a startup looking to grow or an established company that is reacting to market forces, IT is critical to your success.

Being able to keep pace with huge growth in consumer demand and application traffic is essential. Alongside this, there has to be an appetite for working in closer partnership with business around their needs. This is that age-old problem of how to get past IT being seen as a straight cost center; it needs to be a valuable partner in a business' success.

TRP: What do you think will be the biggest success opportunity for IT this year, and what will flatter to deceive?

BB: If IT can proactively approach the business with the infrastructure required to handle the demands and SLA's of the business application teams, they will be nothing short of rock stars within the company. Most application teams do not want to own the infrastructure of their application, but often they see IT as slowing them down. It is a tough problem for myriad reasons, but it is a huge opportunity for IT to be seen as truly a catalyst to the business.

Apart from NoSQL, the cloud is revolutionizing IT as you can see from the emphasis coming out of Google Cloud Platform and Amazon Web Services.

Deploying applications into the cloud and providing a reliable, performant cloud infrastructure will revolutionize how companies do business and which applications they provide their customers. IT will have to figure out how to balance the demand for cloud infrastructures with standardization and governance that they deliver with on-premise solutions.

TRP: Do you think the Internet of Things will take on the mantle of cloud or big data as the biggest hype term? Or will it actually start to prove its worth?

BB: The Internet of Things has received strong interest in Europe for some time, but is now also gaining strong traction in the U.S. The IOT is very real and already proving it's worth. Google recently acquired the smart-thermostat provider, Nest, for $3.2B.

They didn't do that because they want to be in the thermostat business - they did it for the data. Everything is going "live" and it's actually frustrating to the younger generations when things they have are not "connected." IOT is just a nice umbrella term for describing what is already happening.

TRP: Cassandra is based on the support of its community, like most open source products. How do you plan to support this community going forward?

BB: Cassandra forms the core of our business, and the Cassandra community is the lifeblood of this technology. We are 100 percent committed to fostering the community, adding value to all of its members, and providing them with the tools and knowledge they need, even if they aren't DataStax customers.

Any open source company worth its salt knows that they will have far more open source users than paying customers, so you know going in that the real success for your company will be a thriving community.

We offer a website called PlanetCassandra.org that is packed with resources. We also offer free online training for anyone who wants to build their skills with Cassandra, and we recently announced a startup program that allows small companies to deploy DataStax Enterprise for free, thus investing in their growth at an early stage.

Last year, our first European Cassandra summit held in the UK sold out so quickly that we added a whole extra day to meet demand. Our US Cassandra Summit 2013 was the largest gathering of Cassandra community members ever.

We are planning to run the same style events this year and we expect even more success when we hold our U.S. Cassandra Summit in September and our EU Summit in December 2014.

TRP: There are so many NoSQL companies hitting the market now. Do you think the market risks getting confused, and how do you plan to set yourself apart?

BB: Sure the market risks getting confused. The market is confused already. NoSQL databases are revolutionary and the opportunity is as large as they come. Here's the first step to sorting out the real players… look for documented customer information. DataStax for example serves 20+ of the Fortune 100 and more than 400 customers - and more than 1,500 companies form the basis of the open source Cassandra community.

Today you can visit our site and read through 40+ case studies and interviews conducted with our customers, and more than 200 interviews on the open source page, www.planetcassandra.org. Now, many of the largest and most recognizable brands aren't the most forthright about their deployments - but that's generally because they are hesitant to share the "secret sauce" of their success. But if you are evaluating a technology and they can't provide 10 really well documented use cases, don't bother.

I can tell you with absolute confidence, and with no marketing hype, that we offer the very best database for online applications -- period. Cassandra is an always-on, fully distributed database, that is built specifically for the world of online, dynamic applications where data is absolutely king.

At DataStax, we deliver Cassandra to the enterprise, helping our customers overcome serious obstacles to innovation that they need to revolutionize the way they do business, and that they can't get done with old, relational technology.

There is nothing else out there that delivers our performance in the face of ridiculously challenging environments. With Cassandra, you can lose an entire datacenter and never miss an SLA for a transaction. Think about that for a minute… that is a concept so radically different from anything we've ever done with databases that it's easy to pass over. That kind of power is rare, and we deliver it in real life -- not just on whiteboards and in marketing speak.

We need to do a much better job at communicating those benefits to the market. There is a trend in technology to rest simply on the strength of your solution and expect the market to understand it organically. In a sense this is true, given the strength of our community - but you also need to educate people, and that is a huge focus for DataStax in 2014. But we are looking forward to an absolutely phenomenal year and are expecting massive growth in Europe and globally.


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