​Basho's Riak 2.1 database zooms in on better write speeds

The work that Riak company Basho has put into the NoSQL database's write speeds appears to have paid off with its 2.1 iteration.
Written by Toby Wolpe, Contributor

Database firm Basho says the new Riak 2.1 release bears the first fruits of its drive to improve the write performance of the distributed NoSQL key-value data store.

The company, which created the database and continues to develop it as an open-source project, is estimating improvements in write times of between 50 and 200 percent.

EMEA managing director Manu Marchal said Basho's focus on delivering better write speed largely derives from the work it has been undertaking on very large time-series internet-of-things use cases.

"We've effectively improved the write performance by more than 50 percent in 2.1. That's not work that will stop at 2.1. We're continuing to spend a lot of effort there. Of course, that's combined with reducing latency as well," he said.

"The two things come together: the ability to ingest data much faster but also delivering on what Riak is known for, which is extremely predictable performance."

In January, the company secured a $25m funding injection and described enterprise adoption of Riak as having increased significantly in 2014, with deployments at more than 30 percent of the Fortune 50.

Marchal said people choose Riak for its reliability and are often willing to trade speed for the qualities of high availability and fault tolerance.

"Sometimes they think that its performance is not necessarily the fastest. But having predictable performance - being able to deliver on performance SLAs with reliability - is much more important for mission-critical use cases than being the fastest," he said.

"What matters is if your system experiences a fault or failure, can you sustain your performance in that scenario? That's what Riak is good for - under all scenarios being capable of keeping that performance."

However, Basho is aware that some people may be deterred from choosing the database because of write speed issues - hence the current drive to increase write performance.

Marchal said, for example, online gambling portal and Riak user bet365 has underlined that it values speed under specific SLAs ahead of raw speed.

"We're spending more time on improving performance to make sure people are not being put off by the headline of 'Riak is not the fastest'. People who have mission-critical use cases understand the need for not simply being the fastest but being the fastest over a long period of time under failure scenarios - that's what matters," he said.

Riak 2.1 also offers new or updated Riak clients. As well as adding Node.js at the end of April, it also offers .NET as a Basho-supported library to make it easier to work with Windows applications. There is also better support for PHP, which is designed to enable developers to store and retrieve objects with Riak more easily as they build real-time web apps.

".NET is obviously needed to enhance support for Windows-based applications. That's expanding the number of people who can use Riak in their specific environments. It's important to us that we have fully-supported, rock-solid clients that people can rely on," Marchal said.

"We're aiming to make Riak capable of supporting as many applications and environments as we can, and making it easier for developers to use Riak."

That developer theme is carried through with the appearance of a faster Apple OS X installer, which is aimed at speeding up the installation of Riak clusters on developers' own nodes with just a few mouse clicks or lines of script.

"When people use Riak, they realise that operational simplicity is paramount, especially when they come from traditional databases and they realise that operating or running a database doesn't come trivially," he said.

"With Riak you have several examples of people running 100-node clusters where you get an ops guy managing the entire cluster. With the OS X installer, the aim here is to make it easier for developers to adopt Riak. They can very quickly deploy locally a development platform on their laptop and start coding and enjoying the benefit of Riak."

Riak 2.1 also features updated Chef and Puppet deployment-automation scripts, together with better monitoring through standard tools Nagios, New Relic and Zabbix, as well as more than 200 application monitoring statistics.

"People who use Riak are always using it for mission-critical systems. Therefore these systems are being monitored by enterprise-monitoring tools rather than built-in tools. That's why we've put a lot of effort in making sure that Riak exposes the data they need to integrate with the enterprise monitoring tools," Marchal said.

Along with the Riak 2.1 release, Basho also announced a number of improvements to its Riak CS large object cloud store, which is compatible with the Amazon S3 API.

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