DataStax sets out how Apache Cassandra benefits from $106m funding boost

Multi-million investment will go into stepping up DataStax's global presence and on the NoSQL database's developer community.
Written by Toby Wolpe, Contributor

Apache Cassandra database firm DataStax says a $106m injection announced today will help it expand operations overseas and increase investment in the developer community.

The series E funding round, led by Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caulfield & Byers, takes the total raised by DataStax to $190m, and puts its valuation at more than $830m, the company said.

Rapid growth over the past 18 months has been mainly driven by European demand, according to DataStax, which plans to use the new financing to push into Asia and Australia. One of the new investors is Indian firm PremjiInvest.

The DataStax Enterprise platform, used by companies such as eBay and Netflix, consists of analytics, search and management tools and support, on top of a certified version of the Apache Cassandra open-source NoSQL distributed database.

About 18 months ago, DataStax opened a London office as the first step of an expansion of operations in Europe, where it now has about 50 employees, or about 20 percent of its workforce. It has since then added an office in France.

"Customers appreciate having an engineering presence in Europe — and not just a Yankee sales invasion. This does come out of our open-source DNA," DataStax CTO and co-founder Jonathan Ellis said.

As part of his duties at DataStax, Ellis manages the firm's contributions to the Apache Cassandra database and runs a team of 12 engineers who work full time on the project, a majority of whom are European.

"We take the attitude of, 'We're going to hire the best engineers wherever we find them' and we're flexible enough to make that work," Ellis said.

"Internally, that's not just our open-source efforts but on DataStax Enterprise as well. Probably two-thirds of our engineering team are outside our California headquarters. So it's throughout our engineering culture that you're not a second-class citizen if you're not in California."

DataStax said its plans to increase investment in the developer community include people working on the Cassandra project itself as well as those in organisations developing apps that use the database.

"It's going to take the form of hiring full-time engineers, of course. It's also going to take the form of fleshing out our evangelism team," Ellis said.

It will also involve raising the profile of its Startup Program, which has attracted more than 300 firms to DataStax Enterprise at an early stage of their development. About 40 percent of these startups are in Europe.

"I see two different groups of users: the customers who tell us, 'You know, we don't really want to be in the database business. We don't want to be writing that database code ourselves. We want the best possible platform to build on'," he said.

"I'm also happy to work with people who say, 'You know, we have more time than money and we want to participate at the open-source level and we'll never pay DataStax a dime but we'll contribute bug reports, we'll contribute patches, we'll help make Cassandra better for everyone.

"Our sales people would disagree but I'm happy to work with people in either of those two groups really."

Ellis said DataStax is seeing growth in the use of the database predominantly in five main areas: enterprise messaging, fraud detection and risk analysis, product catalogues and playlists, recommendation and personalisation algorithms, and the internet of things.

In June, the company announced the general availability of DataStax Enterprise 4.5, which uses the Apache Spark open-source engine to offer in-memory analytics in addition to existing in-memory transactional processing.

Ellis said Cassandra 2.1 will be released at next week's summit in San Francisco, offering a 50 percent performance increase.

He said the NoSQL market is starting to fragment into two sub-markets, one that appeals more to what he described as the hacker crowd with a small team and a small dataset, and another that appeals more to bigger enterprises with a larger customer base and a larger team of people working on it.

"If your dataset fits on a single machine, it doesn't really matter whether you use MySQL or MongoDB or Berkeley DB or whatever — go crazy. But if you're building something for dozens of machines to hundreds or even thousands, then you really should probably be using Cassandra," he said.

Other venture capital firms in the funding syndicate are ClearBridge Investments, Cross Creek Advisors and Wasatch Funds. As well as PremjiInvest, Comcast Ventures is an additional new investor. All existing investors also participated in the round, facilitated by Goldman Sachs.

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