Digg Not Likely to Give Up on Cassandra

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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

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