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DataStax takes aim at open source Cassandra challenges

DataStax has acquired open source Cassandra services firm The Last Pickle, adding in key tools that could help overcome enterprise database adoption challenges.

DataStax is looking to boost its participation and capabilities in the open source Apache Cassandra database space with the acquisition of privately held firm The Last Pickle announced earlier this week. Financial terms of the deal were not publicly disclosed.

Though it has a somewhat quirky name, The Last Pickle is a serious business led by core committers and participants in the open source Cassandra project. The company provides consulting services to help organizations overcome challenges with Cassandra adoption and also has led the development of multiple critical tools used to manage the database, including Cassandra Reaper and Cassandra Medusa.

The market for the Apache Cassandra database has become increasingly competitive in recent months, with Amazon Web Services (AWS) officially entering the market in December. Multiple other vendors, including ScyllaDB and Instaclustr, are all competing for market share, placing increasing pressure on DataStax to do things that will help differentiate it against others.

"Adding expertise and consulting capabilities for the largest customers and most complex deployments is a way to differentiate and increase profitability," said Doug Henschen, a vice president at Constellation Research. "Bringing The Last Pickle team aboard accentuates the services aspect of DataStax business and makes it more of a trusted partner, as well as a software provider."

Philip Howard, research director at Bloor Research, said the acquisition is a way for DataStax to better position itself within the open source community.

"In a general sense, I don't think DataStax is perceived to own the Cassandra space in the same way that Confluent, say, or Cloudera could claim to own the Kafka and Hadoop spaces," Howard said. "A move to embrace more open source in and around Cassandra could help to remedy this."

How The Last Pickle contributes to open source Cassandra

Aaron Morton, CEO of The Last Pickle, said his firm has been "all in" on the open source Cassandra project. He added that he has been a code committer to the project and has also served on the Project Management Committee that provides oversight and governance.

Morton said that from a commercial perspective, his firm has worked with large telecommunications vendors, banks and cloud services over the past six years. He emphasized that a lot of the work was done in the open source community to help advance the state of Apache Cassandra for everyone.

"We've been very fortunate to get to work with Spotify on some of those projects that are out there, including the Cassandra Reaper project, which is a repair automation tool," Morton said. "We've also worked on the Medusa backup tool and you know, these are great things that the community needed."

The name The Last Pickle has nothing to do with Cassandra; rather, it's a somewhat whimsical domain name that Morton acquired in 2007.

"I was living in London, went out for some beers, came home, made a sandwich and there was one pickle left in the jar, " Morton recalled. "I kind of drunkenly decided it was a good name and registered this domain and then when I got involved in the open source Cassandra project I began using that as my email address."

Helping to overcome Apache Cassandra adoption challenges

One of the key things that Morton and his firm have been doing in recent years is helping organizations adopt and deploy Cassandra at scale.

"It's a technology adoption problem, which is a human problem," Morton said.

As a project, I think we've got to keep the high ground of high availability and performance, which is where Cassandra has made its name.
Aaron MortonCEO, The Last Pickle

Making it easier to handle operations and backups is important, as is education and documentation, which Morton said DataStax has also done well. He added that in the future, it's important to continue to consider how to make it easier for people to adopt open source Cassandra. Part of that effort could also involve enabling Cassandra for both small and large workloads.

"As a project, I think we've got to keep the high ground of high availability and performance, which is where Cassandra has made its name," Morton said. "We also need to embrace smaller workloads that will come from teams with few resources, and we have to do things to make those users more productive."

In the broader open source Apache Cassandra community, the big push now is for the 4.0 milestone, which could appear later this year.

"In 2020 we have seen a lot of pent-up demand for Apache Cassandra 4.0," said Sam Ramji, chief strategy officer at DataStax. "There's a bunch of stuff ahead, and working with Aaron [Morton] and his team gets us moving in the right direction faster."

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