Some of my most chilling memories as a child stem from the 1977 cult classic Damnation Alley. The scene is a post apocalyptic earth ravaged by the events of World War 3. I’ll never forget those creepy cockroaches that not only survived a nuclear blast, but mutated into flesh-eating critters. Cockroaches are no doubt hard to kill, and their resiliency is the inspiration behind a new open source project developed with cloud staying power in mind.
CockroachDB is the ongoing creation of a few ex Google employees and other developers from the open source community. The software is based on the very same Spanner platform Google uses to drive its robust network of web properties. Spanner shuffles the search giant’s data across countless servers for continuous availability. CockroachDB strives to accomplish the same by enabling enterprises to spread their web presence across multiple data centers and enjoy absolute resilliance against interruptions. From a reliability standpoint, it is everything a company could want in the cloud.
NewSQL Part Deux
NoSQL is widely viewed as an unofficial standard for databases in the big data era. This one goes beyond relational database systems by allowing companies to store more data across more physical servers at faster speeds. Though highly efficient, NoSQL suffers from a lack of consistency in the sense that changes made in one database aren’t necessarily in sync with others in the chain. That consistency is even tougher to achieve when you’re working with multiple databases over multiple machines, the premises on which cloud computing is based.
CockroachDB aims to eliminate consistency issues in the cloud by training those connected databases to think and function as one. The team has made it so thousands of databases act as a single database that seamlessly distributes the load across the system. But since there are numerous databases in the chain, organizations enjoy continuous availability in the event that a server or even an entire data center is knocked offline. The creators of CockroachDB claim that their software preserves this consistency all while maintaining (most of) the performance mission-critical applications demand.
The Need For a Bigger, Better Cloud
Security is widely viewed as the biggest barrier to cloud adoption. However, availability may be on equal footing as far as concern goes. Downtime has the potential to be a business killer, threatening to hinder the customer experience, the company reputation, and your bottom line. Whereas availability issues are likely to go unnoticed by someone using the cloud for personal storage, they are detrimental to an organization that needs it to support big data, high traffic volumes, and financial transactions.
CockroachDB has the potential to solve the consistency, stability, and availability of the cloud, minus the complexity associated with Google Spannner. Spanner is reliant on several applications in the Google ecosystem, including Colossus, the Google File System (GFS) on which it runs atop. CockroachDB is being designed as standalone platform that isn’t tied to any one file system or set of administrative tools. Interestingly, it also includes a feature called F1, Google’s MySQL alternative that supports database querying for fast and efficient data retrieval.
How Far Can It Go?
Although it takes a more singular approach, CockroachDB reminds me a lot of Netflix’s Simian Army we recently talked about. Both are open source projects that strive to improve the resilliancy of the cloud in the most cost effective fashoin. In the case of CockroachDB, the platform’s ability to tap into maintstream relevance will depend on support from high profile commerical vendors, according to former Google engineer Spencer Kimball. If this diehard database can make noise on the level of Hadoop and other successful open source projects, the cloud sector could be in line for a huge boost.
Some might say that a perfectly stable application doesn’t exist. There are just bound to be some hiccups when complex interactions are taking place across numerous application componets by the thousands per second. If that elusive stability truly is an illusion, the success of technologies such as CockroachDB may be more important to the future of the cloud than we realize.
Photo Credit: sweet_redbird via Flickr