Wednesday, Jan 17, 2018
HomeFeaturesInterview with Peter Nichol, CEO of Instaclustr

Interview with Peter Nichol, CEO of Instaclustr

Analysts have the global Database-as-a-Service (DBaaS) market continuing to grow significantly through 2020 — what’s your take on why that is?

PN: As a DBaaS provider, it’s true that we’re continuing to see significant growth across many sectors. The trajectory has been especially apparent in industries where more traditional enterprises are now moving ahead with large-scale digital transformation projects and working towards transitioning to the cloud.

In many ways, the managed services and support capabilities that DBaaS providers deliver offer confidence – and an insurance policy – for that critical transition. The ability to acquire a reliable database intended for the cloud, and the expertise to manage it without needing to build out a team and infrastructure internally, is proving to be a more efficient and cost effective approach for these businesses. This DBaaS strategy also frees organizations to concentrate resources more narrowly on product development, an advantage that organizations large and small are realizing the benefits of.

Where do you see organizations tripped up when self-managing their databases? What are the most common pitfalls there?

PN: The most common pitfalls of database self-management that organizations encounter really center on a lack of continued maintenance and health checks. Continuous availability is essential to the business operations of most companies, but achieving it requires constant diligence and awareness of the state of your cluster, your data layer technologies, and your components. Without continued maintenance, small issues can snowball into more significant and challenging troubles (whether quickly or over time). Many issues often arise when attempting to scale rapidly, and these are also usually related to a lack of effective maintenance – allowing problems to fester and add up as time goes by. Properly maintaining an always-on database calls for teams with robust operational experience and expertise, attributes which many businesses can find it difficult to supply themselves.

The reality is that, more often than not, organizations don’t seek to completely replace their internal database operations and management with a DBaaS strategy. Rather, they look to supplement and enhance their internal wherewithal with the expertise required to ensure a smooth experience. In this common use case, DBaaS providers work to ensure that the pitfalls which businesses remain exposed to are more deftly avoided.

Switching to Apache Cassandra specifically, what makes the open source NoSQL database well-suited to be offered as a managed service?

PN: Fundamentally, Apache Cassandra delivers on the database holy trinity: performance, scalability, and availability. Cassandra is typically used for global-scale applications, and, when tuned and maintained effectively, it provides exceptional performance against those KPIs every time.

However, issues inevitably arise – you can’t simply have the ultimate combination of performance, scale, and availability without arriving at some kind of technical debt. In the case of any type of global-scale solution, that technical debt is complexity. That’s where managed services can provide value by offering the expertise to address that complexity for the customer.

It’s also true that personnel in possession of extensive Cassandra experience are always very much in demand. Because of this, businesses that undergo staff changes and lose expertise – or face new challenges, such as maintaining operations at a growing scale – frequently get high value from enlisting the experienced professionals in residence within a managed service provider.

What types of businesses and use cases are best for what Cassandra provides?

PN: In our experience, there are three typical and predominant Cassandra use cases that we see in our managed environment: Internet of Things, Customer Personalization, and Teams & Networking applications. The breadth of customers we see interested in Cassandra covers many different sectors and industries – however, there are definitely concentrations in advertising and marketing technologies, and in high tech sectors (such as social or teaming solutions), and within the gaming industry. We have a growing number of customers in the retail industry as well, using Cassandra to deliver applications from rewards systems to customer personalization and experience solutions. We’re also working with a number of traditional financial services customers, as they undergo digital transformation projects.

Speaking more generally, Cassandra is an apt choice for businesses in position to benefit from an open source NoSQL database – and who need one of with high availability and the capabilities to meet any level of scaling demands (up to and including global scale applications).

Instaclustr recently announced support for Elassandra — what makes the open source Elassandra technology a compelling new solution?

PN: It really comes down to the fact that so many of our customers are looking for us to do more than simply manage their databases. Our customer base has consistently and continuously communicated a desire for Instaclustr to provide integrated management of core data layer services. Offering support for Elassandra helps to fulfill this demand.

At the same time, Elasticsearch has quickly become the most popular open source search solution, and having it integrated with Cassandra just makes so much sense – both in terms of performance and ease of implementation and management. This Elassandra offering joins our offering of managed Spark with Cassandra, enabling us to now provide enterprises with appealing solutions for three essential areas within their overall big data needs.

What’s on the horizon for Instaclustr over the next 4-6 months?

PN: While we continue to improve our managed service offering, we’re also broadening our capability by supporting additional open source technologies that sit in the data layer, as either add-ons or standalone offerings. What’s important to us is that we continually work to identify those open source projects that offer real benefits to our customers, as they strive to deliver highly resilient and scalable applications. When we recognize any open source technology component that can help to deliver performance, scale, and availability, we absolutely then begin exploring the opportunity with the goal of including the technology into our integrated platform.