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Summary:

Cassandra, the NoSQL software is being blamed for scaling problems being faced by Digg, which led to the yet-unconfirmed departure of Digg VP of Engineering John Quinn, a champion of Cassandra. Still, we hear the social news site isn’t giving up on the software – yet!

diggbroken

Cassandra was a tragic figure in Greek myth. She could hear the future and thus was able to foretell what was coming next (usually death and destruction). It’s no surprise that no one wanted her hanging around. It’s ironic that an open-source NoSQL software of the same name has often found itself amidst controversy. Today, Cassandra was blamed for scaling (and availability) problems at Digg, which led to the unconfirmed departure of Digg VP of Engineering John Quinn, who was a big champion of Cassandra at Digg.

This isn’t the first time Cassandra — which was created inside Facebook and later open-sourced — has taken a beating. Back in July, Twitter reversed its plans to move from MySQL to Cassandra for storing its tweets. Comments from Digg founder Kevin Rose as he tries to explain some problems on Digg’s new site aren’t helping Cassandra either. However, a call to Matt Pfeil, CEO of Riptano — an Austin, Texas-based startup — put thing in perspective. Riptano is building its business providing service and eventually an easy-to-implement version of Cassandra for companies (see my video interview with Pfeil here.) Pfeil said that Riptano is working with Digg and noted that he would be “shocked” if Digg abandoned Cassandra.

When asked if the problems Digg has had with its upgrade stemmed from Cassandra, Pfeil said, “We’ve reached out to Digg to ID what those problems are. I don’t know the full extent of them, and am learning more from them about their situation. We know Cassandra can scale to levels that are equal to or greater than a Digg is putting on it and I have full faith in Cassandra, but there are these little knobs that need to be tuned and you have to know where they are.”

For Pfeil, this could be an opportunity simply because helping find and turn “those little knobs” are what Riptano was formed to do. He said Riptano has been involved with Digg since around April, which was soon after Digg announced its plans to use Cassandra. While Digg may be able to blame Cassandra for some glitches, the database technology still seems to be on the upswing. Today, Quest — an enterprise software-database support company — decided to support Cassandra through a partnership with Riptano, and companies such as Cisco, Ooyala and Rackspace are also using it.

As Pfeil points out, Cassandra is still new, having been open-sourced in 2008. “Cassandra has come a long way, especially in the last year or so … there is a lot to be done before it is close to where it will compare in production environments to something like MySQL, but we’re getting close.” So maybe unlike the Greek prophetess, the database technology will be able to rehabilitate its reputation.

Related GigaOM Pro research (sub req’d): Report: NoSQL Databases – Providing Extreme Scale and Flexibility

  1. Dear Stacey. You’re not doing any favors to those people who think bloggers aren’t journalists. “IT’S” = “IT IS”

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    1. Mike, my editor was in bed when I wrote this, and since my Internet connection died, I didn’t have the change to hop back online to proof it. But as a journalist, I have to let you in on a secret of the profession, sometimes we make grammar mistakes like the rest of the population. However, copy editors never, ever do :)

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    2. @Mike Because nothing adds to the discussion of an esoteric tech topic on a tech blog like a review of 8th grade grammar rules. No one who is not a secondary school English teacher cares.

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  2. If something is ‘yet-unconfirmed’, does that make it confirmed?

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  3. Copy editors make mistakes as well. They’re human just like everyone else. They also wonder what kind of load testing has actually been done on Cassandra. You shouldn’t have to be “turning knobs” once you have your database in production.

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  4. Please do some more research on Cassandra before falsely tainting her story!!!! She was given the gift of prophecy (in other words she could see what was happening, she didn’t make it up), but destined for no one to believe her (kind of like this story). The fact that people didn’t want to see their own destruction that they were creating is why they should have listened to her (they all die, she remained). Someone with a gift of prophecy is definitely someone to keep around.

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  5. Please do some more research on Cassandra before falsely tainting her story!!!! She was given the gift of prophecy (in other words she could see what was happening, she didn’t make it up), but destined for no one to believe her (kind of like this story). The fact that people didn’t want to see their own destruction that they were creating is why they should have listened to her. They all died because they ignored her prophecies. That was the tragedy!!! She remained. Someone with a gift of prophecy is definitely someone to keep around.

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  6. Stacey wrote: She could hear the future and thus was able to foretell what was coming next (usually death and destruction). It’s no surprise that no one wanted her hanging around. It’s ironic that an open-source NoSQL software of the same name has often found itself amidst controversy.

    I don’t think ‘ironic’ is the apt word in this case. Irony implies incongruity. Your example above shows congruence between the two Cassandras. Sorry to be yet another person to pick on you in this post, Stacey.

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    1. No worries. buit I’m not writing posts late at night anymore. I used ironic because I had mentioned originally that Facebook created and open sourced Cassandra, and Facebook is a place for friends who you want at parties. But then I moved that. And yes, it was a stretch.

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  7. If you don’t like the new dig v4 register at http://www.linkcamp.com The old digg is not coming back.

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  8. The way Digg is undergoing controversy, they are losing their loyal subscriber.. Specially movement in their upper management is not a very good sign for Digg. As it is, reddit traffic is growing with a great speed, so I’m kind of doubtful now for Digg future.

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  9. I am having trouble reconciling this:

    He said Riptano has been involved with Digg since around April, which was soon after Digg announced its plans to use Cassandra.

    with this:

    “We know Cassandra can scale to levels that are equal to or greater than a Digg is putting on it and I have full faith in Cassandra, but there are these little knobs that need to be tuned and you have to know where they are.”

    was Riptano helping Digg or not? Why weren’t the “knobs tuned” properly, given the implication that Riptano knows how to tune them?

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  10. This is NOT about technology PEOPLE, this is about business model. DIGG is slowly dying. This is a smokescreen.

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