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DataStax today announced it has launched a serverless instance of its Astra database-as-a-service (DBaaS) offering in general availability. The service is based on the open source Apache Cassandra database that has been reimplemented as a set of microservices.

The Astra service is based on a version of Cassandra that is deployed on top of Kubernetes clusters accessing an object-based storage system, DataStax chief product officer Ed Anuff said.

The Cassandra database has been reconstructed into a series of microservices. These enable a transaction processing database that’s based on a wide-columnar database that dynamically scales out as required. It functions similarly to the DBaaS platform created by Snowflake, Anuff said. “It’s a scale-out database,” he added.

But rather than focusing on analytics applications, the Astra DBaaS dynamically scales out transaction processing requests across nodes — using the orchestration capabilities enabled by Kubernetes, Anuff explained.


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Rather than having to commit to a platform capable of processing transactions at a peak workload, the Astra service makes it possible to scale IT infrastructure resources up and down as required. That capability results in a serverless computing architecture that reduces the total cost of processing transactions by a factor of three to five, compared to legacy database platforms, Anuff said.

Serverless computing architectures are not a new idea. Cloud service providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) have been making compute resources available via serverless computing frameworks such as Lambda for years. DataStax is now applying serverless computing to databases in a way that allows compute and storage nodes to scale up and down independently, Anuff said. IT organizations will now only need to pay for resources that are actually consumed, he added.

Just as importantly, Anuff said developers will be able to build and deploy applications in a way that incrementally scales as usage increases. Developers today are required to implement Cassandra on the assumption that applications will achieve a level of transaction processing that warrants deploying a Cassandra database. Unsure of the level of transaction processing required, many developers opt for less robust databases.

However, refactoring those applications to run on Cassandra later increases overall costs. The Astra service reduces the cost of experimentation using the Cassandra database, Anuff said.

Of course, there is no such thing as a serverless computing platform. Rather, serverless computing frameworks are based on event-driven computing frameworks that automatically provision additional compute and storage resources as applications scale. That capability eliminates the need to manually provision additional IT infrastructure resources whenever an application exceeds the compute and storage resources that have been provisioned.

IT monitoring provider CloudHealth by VMware last month published a report based on 500 organizations’ consumption of IT resources. The survey finds usage of serverless computing frameworks increased 13.5% from January 2020 through September 2020. IT organizations would be making more use of serverless computing frameworks, except for the fact that they only enable them to invoke compute resources using programming tools known as functions. Astra extends serverless computing into the realm of storage systems that databases access, Anuff said.

It’s not clear to what degree IT organizations will abandon legacy database platforms based on relational databases to process transactions based on a wide columnar database. But the easier it becomes to invoke a DBaaS, the more developers are likely to experiment. It’s only a matter of time before all that experimentation results in a lot more applications being deployed on Cassandra databases in a production environment.

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