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Cockroach adds geospatial data to cloud-native database

Cockroach Labs is updating its namesake database platform with new features that improve security and performance, as well as getting an open source Pebble storage engine.

Cloud-native distributed SQL database vendor Cockroach Labs added new data storage, geospatial and SQL capabilities to its database platform.

The CockroachDB 20.2 update became generally available on Nov.10 and is the second major update for the New York City-based vendor in 2020, following the release of CockroachDB 20.1 in May.

Among the new features is an open source storage engine created by Cockroach Labs developers, known as Pebble. Security also gets a boost with improved role-based access control (RBAC). With the new release Cockroach is now also adding support for geospatial data, which enables the database to support location data.

The most interesting update in Cockroach 20.2 is the new functionality for managing Cockroach clusters and management options for developers, said Donald Feinberg, vice president and analyst at Gartner.

"Management of any DBMS with multiple nodes, geo-distributed or not, is always complex, especially as the number of instances and/or nodes grow," Feinberg said. [Version] 20.2 makes this much easier and less complex."

Why geospatial data matters in CockroachDB 20.2

Feinberg also noted that geospatial data is becoming increasing important and is a good addition in Cockroach 20.2

"More and more, we see applications in many verticals that require the use of geospatial data," Feinberg commented. "Government, retail and communication organizations require this type of data management."

Spencer Kimball, co-founder and CEO of Cockroach Labs, said supporting geospatial data had been a top request from the company's users.

"In 2020, there's not that many use cases that don't eventually require some geospatial data, both in terms of how you represent data in the database, and also how you query it," Kimball said.

Screenshot of CockroachDB active session overview
CockroachDB 20.2 includes an active session overview that allows users to identify all the sessions against the database.

How geospatial data support works in CockroachDB 20.2

Geospatial data support provides a foundation for building location-based queries. Kimball explained that within a database table, each column can be designated for a specific data type, such as a username or information about a business.

"Now you actually have an opportunity with this geospatial capability of storing an additional data type, which is effectively latitude and longitude," Kimball explained.

As such, users can query the database for location-based information. For example, a user can query the database to find all of the rows or entries in that table, where the location is within the radius of the search latitude.

Bringing the Pebble storage engine into Cockroach

The Cockroach update also introduces the open source Pebble storage engine as the new default. Previously, Cockroach was using the open source RocksDB engine, but has found in recent years that it wanted to have a more optimized engine, so the vendor built its own with Pebble.

More and more, we see applications in many verticals that require the use of geospatial data.
Donald FeinbergVice president and analyst, Gartner

The RocksDB codebase is quite large and complex. In contrast, Kimball noted that Pebble is 10 times smaller at only 35,000 lines of code. Pebble also has been written in the open source Go programming language, the same language that CockroachDB uses.

RockDB is written in the C++ language and was more challenging for Cockroach developers to work with than using Go, Kimball said.

Meanwhile, the next major update of CockroachDB is the 21.1 version scheduled for early 2021.

"For 21.1 there's a lot that we've been putting together in order to just increase stability across the board," Kimball said.

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