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CockroachDB managed database service rises into the cloud

The Managed CockroachDB distributed database cloud service targets megascale workloads but faces stiff competition from public cloud players Microsoft, AWS and Google.

A managed database service for Cockroach Labs' CockroachDB gives enterprises another option for distributed databases in the cloud, but they'll have to weigh lock-in concerns against the risks of choosing an underdog.

CockroachDB is a SQL database with a distributed architecture that addresses issues such as data sovereignty rules, as well as performance and reliability. The moniker may sound unseemly, but it's meant to underscore the database's main goal of maximum resilience, given cockroaches' reputation to stay alive through the most dire conditions.

Managed CockroachDB, a managed database service released this week, brings CockroachDB initially to Google Cloud Platform and Amazon Web Services.

The database's design is inspired by a 2012 Google whitepaper on Google's Spanner, the company's internal distributed database system, which it released as a commercial offering last year through Google Cloud Platform. Cockroach Labs was founded in 2015 by former Google employees who worked on products such as Google File System.

Microsoft's entry in the managed database service market is Cosmos DB, which also arrived last year on Azure. Amazon Web Services was an early mover with DynamoDB, released in 2012, and also launched the Aurora managed database in 2015.

All these managed database services should appeal to global companies that want massive scalability and high availability across geographically distributed deployments, said Doug Henschen, VP and principal analyst at Constellation Research, an analyst firm in Cupertino, Calif. Major uses for these databases include financial trading systems, manufacturing, supply chain management and logistics, telco operations and e-commerce.

"DynamoDB and Cosmos DB are more in the NoSQL vein, whereas Cloud Spanner and CockroachDB natively support SQL, which appeals to a broader base of developers," Henschen said.

Companies can build this capability and run it in their own data centers or on their choice of clouds, avoiding lock-in with one vendor.
Doug HenschenVP and principal analyst, Constellation Research

One question for prospective CockroachDB customers is whether to place a bet on a startup's take on a distributed database, as opposed to large vendors, such as Microsoft or Google, with engineering resources that dwarf anything Cockroach Labs can muster at this stage.

The difference with Cockroach Labs, however, is that its commercially supported distributed database is independent of any particular cloud. "Companies can build this capability and run it in their own data centers or on their choice of clouds, avoiding lock-in with one vendor," Henschen said.

Still, it remains early days for all of these databases, with the exception of DynamoDB, and customers should keep that in mind.

CockroachDB is now in version 2.1. The named customer list on Cockroach Labs' website isn't particularly long; the two most prominent ones listed are Baidu and Bose. Customer lists for Cloud Spanner and Cosmos DB aren't especially deep at this point either, but their adoption is growing quickly, Henschen said.

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