We covered first ScyllaDB on ZDNet back in 2017. Its history is one of deep tech, open source and pivots. Started by Hypervisor and Linux Red Hat veterans Dor Laor and Avi Kivity, the database that positions itself as a faster Apache Cassandra did not publish at all as a database.
After embarking on this course, however, it remains set. Today ScyllaDB announced version 4.0. of what it retrieves a high-performance NoSQL database for real-time big data workloads. This release marks a significant milestone as ScyllaDB moves beyond functional parity with Apache Cassandrawhich now also acts as an open source drop-in alternative to Amazon DynamoDB.
ZDNet connected with ScyllaDB co-founder and CEO Dor Laor to discuss the details of the new release, as well as developments in the database world.
Turning the tables on Amazon
Improved performance is always good to have. ScyllaDB is built on that premise and has always been great at benchmarks. This release is no different, with ScyllaDB’s own performance comparisons showing that it delivers more than 5X higher throughput and nearly 10X lower P99 latencies than the upcoming Apache Cassandra 4.0 release.
There are also some new and noteworthy features, such as lightweight transactions, data capture change and a Kubernetes operator – the latter two in beta. However, what is probably most notable about ScyllaDB 4.0 is Alternator, an Amazon DynamoDB compliant API.
DynamoDB, Cassandra and ScyllaDB are all branches of the same root, so to speak Bigtable. DynamoDB and Cassandra have evolved separately, though Amazon recently unveiled Keyspaces, an offering for Cassandra DBaaS (Database-as-a-Service). ZDNet’s Tony Baer recently Compared keyboards with Apache Cassandra and DynamoDB.
In a way, ScyllaDB 4.0 brings these branches together by offering an offer that can work with both Cassandra and DynamoDB. Scylla 4.0 delivers a production-ready Amazon DynamoDB compliant API that lets DynamoDB users switch to ScyllaDB without changing a single application code is lifted. Laor also noted that ScyllaDB’s strategy towards Amazon Web Services (AWS) is like a wrestling fluctuation:
“Where AWS makes money from open source (Keyspaces, DocumentDB), ScyllaDB brings open source to open source capabilities along with the freedom to install on-premise or on other cloud platforms. And of course, the distinction between ScyllaDB and DataStax is learning DataStax is moving towards services under new management, ScyllaDB doubles the technology. “
Laor referred to a ScyllaDB client that started as a DynamoDB user, but their requirements dictated that certain workloads should be on-site. Although they were not previously a ScyllaDB client, the ability to do this made Alternator go, and today they use both DynamoDB on AWS cloud and ScyllaDB on site seamlessly, Laor said.
AWS is also known for targeting local installations AWS Outposts, so we wondered if this could be an opportunity for customers who want to run DynamoDB on site. Laor could only offer a well-trained guess on this, mentioning that it’s probably not as simple as installing DynamoDB on AWS Outposts, as DynamoDB relies on AWS cloud infrastructure to work.
What Laor did realize, however, was that this is an onboarding strategy for ScyllaDB. He believes that ScyllaDB’s superior performance and lower total cost of ownership will eventually bring more users to ScyllaDB:
“Developers are no longer locked onto a platform and have new open source capabilities available to them. They can run locally, on their preferred cloud platforms or in Scilla’s fully managed database as a service, Scylla Cloud. They have free access to their data as they please, free of charge. Operation and multiple deployment options, including open source Docker and Kubernetes. “
World database dominance
ScyllaDB also brings some remarkable features from a DevOps perspective. Change Data Capture (CDC) allows users to track changes in their data by recording both the original data values and the new values for the records. Changes are streamed to a standard CQL table that can be indexed or filtered to find critical data changes.
Scylla Operator is a Kubernetes extension for Scylla cluster management. It currently supports implementation of multi-zone clusters, scaling or adding new racks, scaling down and monitoring Scylla clusters with Prometheus and Grafana. Both CDC and Scylla Operator are currently in Beta, which is expected to be fully implemented soon according to ScyllaDB’s development model.
When we have seen ScyllaDB grow from relatively early in its life cycle, we will have to find that it catches up and adds new features at a fairly fast pace. Laor mentioned that they have a number of additional features in the works.
When we discussed what it is that allows ScyllaDB to make such rapid progress, Laor said the company now employs about 100 people and business has also grown well. It counts like Comcast, Starbucks, Samsung and IBM as clients, and has grown its clientele rapidly and steadily over the last few years, Laor said.
Our conversation with Laor took place that day CockroachDB announced its funding round, and CEO Spencer Kimball made it clear they have big plans to displace the incumbents. ScyllaDB and Laor also lack ambitions, so we asked Laor about his acquisition of the database market at this time.
CockroachDB and ScyllaDB have a few things in common: they are both open source, multi cloud and hybrid cloud ready globally distributed databases. We see them as representing an increasing class of products aimed at offering an alternative to both older proprietary databases and cloud providers.
However, they also have differences and Laor was quick to point them out. Funding strategy is one as ScyllaDB is more modest in this regard. Laor said they prefer not to travel too much and focus on execution. ScyllaDB’s last round of funding was a Series C in 2019, after amassing a total of $ 60M over 5 rounds.
Perhaps more to the point, however, CockroachDB is a SQL database, while ScyllaDB is built on Apache Cassandra’s protocol and query language. Laor said they encourage people to use SQL products if their data needs are modest, but real-time use of big data is another ballgame.
Perhaps ScyllaDB’s next benchmark will also include some comparison to the class of products as tough as it may be. Until then, the comparison is potential users. Either way, ScyllaDB is an interesting opportunity that just got even more interesting.