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Yugabyte boosts distributed SQL database with new funding

The new CEO of Yugabyte, Bill Cook, explains why his distributed SQL database firm is growing as it raises its Series B round of funding with open source at the foundation.

Among the emerging types of databases enterprises need in the cloud era are distributed SQL databases that enable multiple disparate nodes to act as a single logical database.

With a distributed SQL database, users can enable more scalable database deployments than with a traditional SQL database that typically was designed in the era when on-premises databases were the norm.

One distributed SQL database startup, Yugabyte, has taken an open source approach to building out its platform as a way to grow its technology. On May 19, the company hired a new CEO, former Pivotal Software and Greenplum Software President Bill Cook, to take over from co-founder Kannan Muthukkaruppan, who is now president.

Cook was the CEO of Greenplum from 2006 to 2010, when the company was acquired by EMC. The Greenplum division was spun out as part of Pivotal Inc. in 2013 and Pivotal was subsequently acquired by VMware in 2019.

Yugabyte, founded in 2016 and based in Sunnyvale, Calif., said Tuesday that it raised $30 million in a Series B round of funding led by 8VC Lightspeed Venture Partners, bringing total funding to date to $55 million. The new investment will help the vendor expand its go-to-market efforts including a cloud database as a service (DBaaS), according to Yugabyte.

In this Q&A, Cook talks about the growing distributed SQL database market.

Why did Yugabyte raise a funding round in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Bill CookBill Cook

Bill Cook: We were doing this fund raising in parallel with the company recruiting me to join. But, you know, the impetus is obviously that there is a big market opportunity in front of us.

As to why $30 million, it was really around what was going to be required to continue the investment on the engineering product side to grow the organization aggressively. And we're also ramping on the enterprise go-to-market side.

If you think about things like the pandemic and the changes that are going on more globally, it really just starts to accelerate how people think about technology. When you're an open source database company like we are, with the services that we deliver, I think it is an accelerant.

If you think about things like the pandemic and the changes that are going on more globally, it really just starts to accelerate how people think about technology.
Bill CookCEO, Yugabyte

How does your past experience in the compare with the new challenge of leading Yugabyte?

Cook: At Greenplum, we were taking on a new market category as a pre-Hadoop, big data type vendor. Like Yugabyte now, PostgreSQL compatibility and the alignment with the open source PostgreSQL community was important to us then as well. At Pivotal, we were helping organizations with the modernization of application portfolios and moving to a new platform like Cloud Foundry [an open source, multi-cloud application platform as a service] helped to show the way.

When I got to know Yugabyte's co-founders, Kannan Muthukkaruppan and Karthik Ranganathan, I felt it was a similar story to Greenplum, in the sense that it's an emerging company in a big space.

The most important question I had and that they had for me was really around cultural fit and what are we really trying to do here. We want to build a very special company, where we attract the best and brightest and we're going after a very big market and doing it in an open source way that can appeal to the largest enterprises around the globe.

Where do you see Yugabyte distributed SQL fitting into the database landscape?

Cook: At the back end of this technology it's about being distributed. Databases should be able to run across time zones or regions or geographies and do it in a scalable, performant way. Resiliency is obviously the core tenet that you're looking for in a database.

The decision to be aligned with the PostgreSQL community on the front end of the technology helps to serve the SQL market and leverage that community. I think the combination of open source PostgreSQL compatibility with the technology and the expertise that Yugabyte has is what differentiates us.

When we talk to enterprises, you know, they're looking to simplify their lives. They want to have an end-to-end story that gives them that capability to move off of a traditional database infrastructure and do it with a with a trusted partner.

What do you see as the opportunity for DBaaS with distributed SQL?

Cook: Organizations are thinking about how to be able to leverage cloud infrastructure. You know it's a similar to the experience we had at Pivotal with Cloud Foundry. Users wanted to make sure they could run workloads in Cloud Foundry across private infrastructure or in their public cloud instances.

I think customers will increasingly view cloud services from an infrastructure perspective, as a way to drive cost down, while having application and database capabilities. It's that simple.

Organizations want a range of offerings, to be able to deploy how they want to deploy.

What's your view on open source as a model for developing and building a database company?

Cook: I view open source as a requirement today.

From our perspective, the business model of having open source core to everything we do, and then monetizing it as a platform, just gives the community and large enterprises comfort.

In an internal call we had this week, Kannan Muthukkaruppan was talking about all the contributions we're seeing from the community that help to make the product better. So, I think it's a win-win-win if you if you do it right.

Editor's note: This interview has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

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