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PlanetScale brings new insights to its database as a service

The vendor expanded its cloud database service with new capabilities for integrated data observability with insights, as well as the ability to scale read-only replicas.

PlanetScale released a series of updates for its namesake database-as-a-service platform, with new capabilities for developers.

The open source DBaaS vendor introduced the new features over the course of last week.

On May 24, PlanetScale launched Portals, which gives organizations read-only regions for databases. On May 25, the vendor made PlanetScale Connect generally available, with a new workflow engine to load and connect data from different sources. Rounding out the vendor's week of updates was the release on May 26 of PlanetScale Insights, which brings data observability capabilities to the database as a service.

For PlanetScale, a key focus in improving data operations is enabling developers more easily build data-driven applications.

At the foundation of its database-as-a-service platform is the open source Vitess project that provides technology to run the MySQL database in cloud environments.

PlanetScale faces plenty of competition in the DBaaS market, including Oracle with its MySQL HeatWave cloud service, Amazon RDS for MySQL and PingCap's open source TiDB distributed database. A challenge for many DBaaS providers, including PlanetScale, is automating more actions to improve performance based on database visibility.

PlanetScale differentiates itself with a number of capabilities, including the previously released Rewind function for schema changes and now the new PlanetScale Connect workflow engine, said Paul Nashawaty, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group. The PlanetScale database is developer-friendly, with a code-driven approach, he said.

PlanetScale's database approach is intended to work the way that developers work to build applications, with a programmatic model that relies on code to make changes. It's an approach that makes PlanetScale feel more like a developer tool than a traditional database.

"PlanetScale is a really interesting tech for database deployments," Paul Nashawaty said. "The changes act and feel like code changes for database."

PlanetScale is a really interesting tech for database deployments. The changes act and feel like code changes for database.
Paul NashawatyAnalyst, Enterprise Strategy Group

Content delivery network capability for developer database

One of the new features the database-as-a-service vendor launched last week, the PlanetScale Portals service, gives developers a read-only replica of a database that can be deployed to a specific geographic location.

Database administrators have long used different techniques to enable faster access to read-only data, including caching technology like Redis.

With Portals, PlanetScale's goal is to provide an easier approach for users to enable read-only replicas than requiring them to manually setup caches, said Nick Van Wiggeren, vice president of engineering at PlanetScale. Users can set up the feature with a few clicks, and the service doesn't require any application changes.

The benefit for application developers is a source of data that can be closer to where end users are located that will provide lower latency and better response time.

"Users can just query an up-to-date replica that's milliseconds away from the application, and that load then doesn't go back to the main database," Van Wiggeren said. "It's much simpler with the click of a few buttons, instead of having to figure out how to manually add caching to an application."

Application performance management

Vendors cater to organizations' application performance management needs with multiple tools and services. Datadog and New Relic, for example, are among the vendors with such technology systems.

With PlanetScale Insights, the database-as-a-service vendor provides what Van Wiggeren referred to as a purpose-built observability tool for its database. With the Insights capability, rather than users needing to install a third-party agent to gain visibility, PlanetScale provides an integrated tool that gives full visibility into all database operations and queries.

Because it is an integrated feature, Van Wiggeren said it's possible to identify potential misconfigurations or performance issues quickly.

What Insights doesn't currently provide, however, is an automated remediation capability for problems that the observability tool helps to identify. The PlanetScale engineering team views the tool as a way to give developers the information they need in an understandable format, so they can address problems when they arise.

The vendor's goal for future PlanetScale updates will be to add more automation to the database wherever possible.

But more automation isn't the only target for future database updates, said Sam Lambert, CEO and president of PlanetScale.

The vendor is also working on compliance initiatives, including one to conform with the HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) healthcare privacy law.

"It's not fundamental to the database," Lambert said of the compliance efforts. "It's just table stakes for unlocking bigger and bigger accounts."

Editor's note: Enterprise Strategy Group is a division of TechTarget.

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