Over a decade ago, I coined the term NewSQL to describe the new breed of horizontally scalable, relational database products. The term was adopted by a variety of vendors that sought to combine the transactional consistency of the relational database model with elastic, cloud-native scalability. Many of the early NewSQL vendors struggled to gain traction, however, and were either acquired or ceased operations before they could make an impact in the crowded operational data platforms market. Nonetheless, the potential benefits of data platforms that span both on-premises and cloud resources remain. As I recently noted, many of the new operational database vendors have now adopted the term “distributed SQL” to describe their offerings. In addition to new terminology, a key trend that separates distributed SQL vendors from the NewSQL providers that preceded them is a greater focus on developers, laying the foundation for the next generation of applications that will depend on horizontally scalable, relational-database functionality. Yugabyte is a case in point.
Yugabyte was founded in 2016 by former Facebook software engineers to create a database for the rest of the world that would deliver the scalability, reliability, and developer-friendliness that had been required to support the social media giant. Today, the company can claim the likes of Wells Fargo, Kroger, Hudson River Trading, and Narvar as customers, as well as valuation at more than $1.3 billion, based on its recent $188 million Series C funding round. YugabyteDB is the company’s cloud-native, open-source, distributed SQL database. Yugabyte has also made the technology available as YugabyteDB Anywhere, a self-managed cloud database service, and YugabyteDB Managed, a fully-managed cloud database service. Core functionality available in all three offerings includes compatibility with the PostgreSQL open-source database, horizontal scalability, resiliency, geo-distributed data replication, and availability across multiple clouds as well as on-premises data centers. Delivering global scalability and resiliency was a key design concept for YugabyteDB. As data is increasingly stored and processed across a distributed architecture, organizations are looking for vendors that can provide a single, logical, global database that spans multiple compute locations. Almost one-half (49%) of participants in Ventana Research’s Analytics and Data Benchmark Research are using cloud computing for analytics and data, of which 42% are currently using more than one cloud provider. I assert that by 2025, more than three-quarters of enterprises will have data spread across multiple cloud providers and on-premises data centers, requiring investment in data-management products that span multiple locations.
Another key design concept for YugabyteDB was facilitating adoption by developers. Ensuring adoption of new data platform products requires not only core database functionality but also engagement with developers to create the next generation of applications. As the NoSQL vendors found to their benefit, and many of the NewSQL database vendors found to their cost, developers are increasingly important in the database selection process. Developer engagement can make the difference between an organization’s tactical adoption of a new database for a specific use case and long-term strategic adoption for multiple initiatives. Now is the time to be winning over the hearts and minds of developers who are thinking about their next-generation enterprise application requirements. I assert that through 2024, six in 10 organizations will re-examine their current operational database suppliers with a view of supporting more agile and intelligent operational applications and improving fault tolerance. Key to Yugabyte’s developer engagement — in addition to the software being freely available as open source — is its compatibility with PostgreSQL. Specifically, the company used the PostgreSQL query layer as the starting point for developing its Yugabyte SQL (YSQL) API. Building on PostgreSQL provides support for core relational-database features, including ACID transactions, as well as functions, stored procedures and triggers, and ensures that the ecosystem of PostgreSQL-compatible applications, frameworks, drivers and tools can be used with YugabyteDB. The company asserts that this ecosystem enables organizations to accelerate time to market for the development of new applications.
Availability as a managed service is also a potential accelerator. Cloud-managed services reduce the time needed to commission, configure and deploy data infrastructure and software, facilitating experimentation and innovation. Cloud-managed services also offer the potential to lower the cost (per GB) of storing and processing large volumes of data. In addition to YSQL, the YugabyteDB Query Layer also offers the Yugabyte Cloud Query Language (YCQL) API which is based on the Cassandra Query Language, as used by the Apache Cassandra NoSQL database. This provides a choice of query approaches. The YugabyteDB Query Layer is part of YugabyteDB’s two-layer architecture. It is complemented by DocDB, YugabyteDB’s distributed document store, which is responsible for transactions, sharding, replication and persistence. A key component of DocDB is the Raft consensus-based replication protocol which provides the functionality to support geo-distributed scalability with synchronous and asynchronous data replication and geo-partitioning. It is this functionality that provides YugabyteDB’s elastic scalability, resiliency and global replication.
Adoption of distributed SQL databases is still in its early stages, and the failure of many of the NewSQL providers to make an impact on the market is a cautionary tale for the companies in this sector. However, distributed-database functionality has matured since the early days of NewSQL, as have the supporting cloud services and the strategies of vendors to engage with developers to cultivate interest and facilitate adoption. I recommend that any organization exploring the use cases for hybrid and multi-cloud data platforms should evaluate Yugabyte when considering their options.