UPDATED 12:30 EDT / MAY 29 2020

peter-guagenti INFRA

COVID-19 is teaching firms overdue lessons on scalable database infrastructure

Anyone doubting the necessity of elastic, scalable infrastructure received a wakeup call in recent months.

The internet is being stretched to its limits and certain sectors have been caught off guard by skyrocketing demand. As they struggle to adapt, it’s becoming clear that too many companies rely on outdated technology unfit for the COVID-19 era and beyond.

“I think we were already at a point where [machine learning] and AI and data-intensive decision-making was going to make us rewrite every application we had, and that needed new infrastructure,” said Peter Guagenti (pictured), chief marketing officer at Cockroach Labs Inc. “But I think this is going to really force the issue.”

Guagenti spoke with John Furrierhost of theCUBE, SiliconANGLE Media’s livestreaming studio, during DockerCon Live. They discussed how distributed databases and other technologies can help companies modernize their IT for data-driven scalability. (* Disclosure below.)

Data layer dominates digital business

Changing business approaches according to data often requires rapid scaling up or down, adjusting strategies in different markets and the like. Try doing that with old-school infrastructure.

I remember having customers that had 64 times the amount of traffic on Cyber Monday that they had on the average day — in the old data center world, that’s what you bought for,” Guagenti said. Even in the public cloud, companies may need to change applications before ramping up, he added.

The data layer is becoming the most important layer of the stack as companies modernize, Guagenti pointed out. “As a developer, you have to start thinking as much like a data scientist and a data engineer as simply somebody writing front end code,” he stated.

For companies looking to do novel, profitable things with data and to respond to new data insights rapidly, the tools they use matter. Spending a lot of time trying to figure out how to shard a database or make it scale is a waste of time.

We’re still using 20- to 25-year-old open-source databases for many of these applications when they gave up their value probably 10 years ago,” Guagenti said. 

Founded by ex-Googlers, Cockroach Labs offers a distributed SQL database a lot like Google Spanner. An important difference is that it can be used anywhere, even in companies’ on-premises data centers. It can bridge across all environments and is able to scale up and down elastically. 

“We spread out the data across the nodes automatically,” Guagenti explained. “You need more support for the application; you literally just add more nodes, and we absorb it.”

Online delivery services like Uber Eats and Instacart are companies for whom scalability is proving priceless during the pandemic. Such services were already expected to grow quite a bit — over the next five or 10 years. For one of these companies — a Cockroach customer — “that five, 10 years happened overnight,” he said. “Overnight, they saw a jump to what was their peak day at any point in time now happening every single day. And they were prepared for that because they already made these architectural decisions.” 

Cockroach Labs has been selling for two years and is growing 300% year over year, according to Guagenti. “We’re on what we believe is probably a 10- to 15-year product journey to really go and replace things like Oracle,” he said.

Here’s the complete video interview, part of SiliconANGLE’s and theCUBE’s coverage of DockerCon Live. (* Disclosure: TheCUBE is a paid media partner for DockerCon Live. Neither Docker, the sponsor for theCUBE’s event coverage, nor other sponsors have editorial control over content on theCUBE or SiliconANGLE.)

Photo: The Linux Foundation

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