Hadoop developer Cask charts its future in open source

Armed with a new name, the Palo Alto-based startup plans to leverage its new open-source persona to expand developer adoption of its core products.

For Hadoop developer Cask, going open source was always part of the plan.

Jonathan Gray via Cask

Formerly known as Continuuity, the three-year-old startup makes an application server for Hadoop. It's the company's core product and it's designed to make it easier for developers to build and manage applications on the complex Hadoop framework.

The company was funded by top investors including Andreessen Horowitz, Battery Ventures, and Ignition Partners, and is led by former Facebook engineer Jonathan Gray.

Following a recent company shakeup, which included a new name, a new operations leader and a commitment to open-sourcing its technology, the Palo Alto-based company has begun to free itself from the confines of startup-hood and plans to leverage its new persona to expand developer adoption of its core products.

"While we began with a proprietary software development and licensing model, we understood from the beginning that reaching developers and organizations of all kinds would require an open source, community-driven model," Gray said.

Cask announced its new name and open-source strategy in late September, as well as the appointment of former Intel executive Boyd Davis as its chief operating officer. Davis most recently managed Intel's Datacenter Software Division, working closely on the deal that led to Intel's $740 million investment in Hadoop distro Cloudera this past March.

As for the name Cask, Gray said it represents the company's ability to distill the complexities of Hadoop in a way that makes the framework more manageable for developers building data apps.

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"We've always been all about developers from the beginning and giving them easy access to really complicated technology," Gray said. "Hadoop is complex and distributed. How do you make it simple? Through abstraction like a Cask."

In many ways, however, the name also serves to remove the ill-serving abstraction caused by the name Continuuity. The company's flagship product was formerly known as the Continuuity Reactor, but now goes by the Cask Data Application Platform (CDAP) moniker, which Gray said more accurately reflects the product and its abilities.

And while the move from a proprietary software development and licensing model to an open-source model is a pretty drastic company reboot, it's one that has proved successful for data firms trying to tap into the enterprise.

Cask was able to mimic the foundation laid out by the likes of Cloudera, which has struck a profitable balance between open-source and subscription licensing that's afforded the company a cushy position in the enterprise ecosystem.

"Today's businesses are building a new house inside their IT infrastructure using Hadoop and a Big Data reference architecture that is based on modern open source rather than traditional proprietary technologies," Gray said.

Looking ahead, Gray said he's set on avoiding any talks of an acquisition, and instead plans to remain focused on growing Cask's network of Hadoop distro partners.

"We are focused on remaining an independent company as we believe the next major wave of innovation will be enabled by applications built by developers," Gray said. "We believe there is a major opportunity for our technology to add tremendous value, complimentary and in partnership with the major Hadoop distributions."