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Starburst raises $100M as PrestoSQL rebrands as Trino

Starburst is advancing its enterprise data platform with new funding that will help advance its cloud efforts around the open source Trino query engine formerly known as PrestoSQL.

The enterprise Presto community is starting 2021 with a few big changes, as PrestoSQL has been rebranded and Starburst, one of its largest backers, announced a new $100 million round of funding.

Starburst, based in Boston, announced the new round of funding Wednesday, bringing total funding to date up to $164 million. The new Series C round was led by Andreessen Horowitz with participation from Salesforce Ventures, as well as existing investors Coatue and Index Ventures. Starburst is led by the founders of the open source Presto project, which got its start at Facebook. Presto provides a SQL query layer for data that is useful in data lake deployments.

Presto, PrestoSQL, PrestoDB and Trino

The Presto landscape has been fractured, with a pair of rival efforts using the name for their own open source project and implementations.

Starburst helped form the Presto Software Foundation in 2019 with other vendors to advance PrestoSQL. A rival effort, the Presto Foundation, was formed the same year by Facebook, Uber, Twitter and Alibaba, and run at the Linux Foundation. The Presto Foundation backs another version of Presto, PrestoDB.

After efforts to bring the two groups together didn't come to fruition at the end of 2020, the Presto Software Foundation renamed PrestoSQL as Trino on Dec. 27.

"The fact that there were two competing projects both commonly referred to as Presto was potentially confusing, and although the Trino project now needs to start afresh in terms of name recognition, the project is now in a better position to forge its own identity and highlight differentiation compared to PrestoDB," said Matt Aslett, research director at S&P Global Market Intelligence.

[Trino] is now in a better position to forge its own identity and highlight differentiation compared to PrestoDB.
Matt AslettResearch director, S&P Global Market Intelligence

Starburst set to advance PrestoSQL as Trino

Naming conventions around Presto aside, Starburst is moving forward with its goal of advancing the use of Trino.

"Starburst's latest funding round and valuation highlights the level of momentum and investor confidence in the use of interactive query engines to analyze data in cloud storage services -- what we have referred to as an abstracted data architecture," Aslett said.

Starburst co-founder and CEO Justin Borgman explained that inbound interest in the company from the venture capitalists led to the new funding round. He said Andreessen Horowitz, the lead investor group in the round, has also backed other data vendors including Databricks, one of the main contributors to the open source Spark data query engine.

"We think Databricks is a great role model for us," Borgman said. "What they've done for Spark is what we aim to do for Presto."

Spark vs. Presto/Trino

Databricks has helped to advance the open source Spark project that powers its enterprise data lakehouse platform. While Spark and Presto are often seen as rivals in the market, Borgman said he sees the two technologies as catering to different use cases.

"I think Spark is the ideal solution for training machine learning models," Borgman said. "In contrast, Presto is much more suited toward traditional data warehousing and business intelligence applications that are SQL-based."

He added that in his view, there are different enterprise consumers for Presto and SQL. Users attracted to Presto already know how to write SQL queries or are already using a tool that speaks SQL on the back end, such as Tableau or Looker.

Starburst bringing Trino to the Cloud

The Starburst Enterprise platform had multiple updates in 2020, including one in July that added enhanced supported for legacy Hadoop workloads.

Starburst is already available in an on-premises version and a self-managed cloud model. The plan for 2021 is to roll out a new managed SaaS cloud version.

"The existing platform is self-managed, meaning you can deploy it anywhere you want," Borgman said. "What we'll be introducing is a SaaS version, that's in private beta today, and as we continue to refine that product, we will be releasing that before the end of this quarter."

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