Jan
27
2021
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Datastax acquires Kesque as it gets into data streaming

Datastax, the company best known for commercializing the open-source Apache Cassandra database, is moving beyond databases. As the company announced today, it has acquired Kesque, a cloud messaging service.

The Kesque team built its service on top of the Apache Pulsar messaging and streaming project. Datastax has now taken that team’s knowledge in this area and, combined with its own expertise, is launching its own Pulsar-based streaming platform by the name of Datastax Luna Streaming, which is now generally available.

This move comes right as Datastax is also now, for the first time, announcing that it is cash-flow positive and profitable, as the company’s chief product officer, Ed Anuff, told me. “We are at over $150 million in [annual recurring revenue]. We are cash-flow positive and we are profitable,” he told me. This marks the first time the company is publically announcing this data. In addition, the company also today revealed that about 20 percent of its annual contract value is now for DataStax Astra, its managed multi-cloud Cassandra service and that the number of self-service Asta subscribers has more than doubled from Q3 to Q4.

The launch of Luna Streaming now gives the 10-year-old company a new area to expand into — and one that has some obvious adjacencies with its existing product portfolio.

“We looked at how a lot of developers are building on top of Cassandra,” Anuff, who joined Datastax after leaving Google Cloud last year, said. “What they’re doing is, they’re addressing what people call ‘data-in-motion’ use cases. They have huge amounts of data that are coming in, huge amounts of data that are going out — and they’re typically looking at doing something with streaming in conjunction with that. As we’ve gone in and asked, “What’s next for Datastax?,’ streaming is going to be a big part of that.”

Given Datastax’s open-source roots, it’s no surprise the team decided to build its service on another open-source project and acquire an open-source company to help it do so. Anuff noted that while there has been a lot of hype around streaming and Apache Kafka, a cloud-native solution like Pulsar seemed like the better solution for the company. Pulsar was originally developed at Yahoo! (which, full disclosure, belongs to the same Verizon Media Group family as TechCrunch) and even before acquiring Kesque, Datastax already used Pulsar to build its Astra platform. Other Pulsar users include Yahoo, Tencent, Nutanix and Splunk.

“What we saw was that when you go and look at doing streaming in a scale-out way, that Kafka isn’t the only approach. We looked at it, and we liked the Pulsar architecture, we like what’s going on, we like the community — and remember, we’re a company that grew up in the Apache open-source community — we said, ‘okay, we think that it’s got all the right underpinnings, let’s go and get involved in that,” Anuff said. And in the process of doing so, the team came across Kesque founder Chris Bartholomew and eventually decided to acquire his company.

The new Luna Streaming offering will be what Datastax calls a “subscription to success with Apache Pulsar.’ It will include a free, production-ready distribution of Pulsar and an optional, SLA-backed subscription tier with enterprise support.

Unsurprisingly, Datastax also plans to remain active in the Pulsar community. The team is already making code contributions, but Anuff also stressed that Datastax is helping out with scalability testing. “This is one of the things that we learned in our participation in the Apache Cassandra project,” Anuff said. “A lot of what these projects need is folks coming in doing testing, helping with deployments, supporting users. Our goal is to be a great participant in the community.”

Oct
01
2020
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Altinity grabs $4M seed to build cloud version of ClickHouse open-source data warehouse

Earlier this month, cloud data warehouse Snowflake turned heads when it debuted on the stock market. Today, Altinity, the commercial company behind the open-source ClickHouse data warehouse, announced a $4 million seed round from Accel along with a new cloud service, Altinity.Cloud.

“Fundamentally, the company started out as an open-source services bureau offering support, training and [custom] engineering features into ClickHouse. And what we’re doing now with this investment from Accel is we’re extending it to offer a cloud platform in addition to the other things that we already have,” CEO Robert Hodges told TechCrunch.

As the company describes it, “Altinity.Cloud offers immediate access to production-ready ClickHouse clusters with expert enterprise support during every aspect of the application life cycle.” It also helps with application design and implementation and production assistance, in essence combining the consulting side of the house with the cloud service.

The company was launched in 2017 by CTO Alexander Zaitsev, who was one of the early adopters of ClickHouse. Up until now the startup has been bootstrapped with revenue from the services business.

Hodges came on board last year after a stint at VMware because he saw a company with tremendous potential, and his background in cloud services made him a good person to lead the company as it built the cloud product and moved into its next phase.

ClickHouse at its core is a relational database that can run in the cloud or on-prem with big improvements in performance, Hodges says. And he says that developers are enamored with it because you can start a project on a laptop and scale it up from there.

“We’re very simple to operate, just a single binary. You can start from a Docker image. You can run it anywhere, literally anywhere that Linux runs, from an Intel Nuc all the way up to clusters with hundreds of nodes,” Hodges explained.

The investment from Accel should help them finish building the cloud product, which has been in private beta since July, while helping them build a sales and marketing operation to help sell it to the target enterprise market. The startup currently has 27 people, with plans to hire 15 more.

Hodges says that he wants to build a diverse and inclusive company, something he says the tech industry in general has failed at achieving. He believes that one of the reasons for that is the requirement of a computer science degree, which he says has created “a gate for women and people of color,” and he thinks by hiring people with more diverse backgrounds, you can build a more diverse company.

“So one of the things that’s high up on my list is to get back to a more equitable and diverse population of people working on this thing,” he said.

Over time, the company sees the cloud business overtaking the consulting arm in terms of revenue, but that aspect of the business will always have a role in the revenue mix because this is complex by its nature, even with a cloud service.

“Customers can’t just do it entirely by having a push-button interface. They will actually need humans that work with them, and help them understand how to frame problems, help them understand how to build applications that take care of that […] And then finally, help them deal with problems that naturally arise when you’re when you’re in production,” he said.

Jul
02
2020
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QuestDB nabs $2.3M seed to build open source time series database

QuestDB, a member of the Y Combinator summer 2020 cohort, is building an open source time series database with speed top of mind. Today the startup announced a $2.3 million seed round.

Episode1 Ventures led the round with assistance from Seedcamp, 7percent Ventures, YCombinator, Kima Ventures and several unnamed angel investors.

The database was originally conceived in 2013 when current CTO Vlad Ilyushchenko was building trading systems for a financial services company and he was frustrated by the performance limitations of the databases available at the time, so he began building a database that could handle large amounts of data and process it extremely fast.

For a number of years, QuestDB was a side project, a labor of love for Ilyushchenko until he met his other co-founders Nicolas Hourcard, who became CEO and Tancrede Collard, who became CPO, and the three decided to build a startup on top of the open source project last year.

“We’re building an open source database for time series data, and time series databases are a multi-billion-dollar market because they’re central for financial services, IoT and other enterprise applications. And we basically make it easy to handle explosive amounts of data, and to reduce infrastructure costs massively,” Hourcard told TechCrunch.

He adds that it’s also about high performance. “We recently released a demo that you can access from our website that enables you to query a super large datasets — 1.6 billion rows with sub-second queries, mostly, and that just illustrates how performant the software is,” he said.

He sees open source as a way to build adoption from the bottom up inside organizations, winning the hearts and minds of developers first, then moving deeper in the company when they eventually build a managed cloud version of the product. For now, being open source also helps them as a small team to have a community of contributors help build the database and add to its feature set.

“We’ve got this open source product that is free to use, and it’s pretty important for us to have such a distribution model because we can basically empower developers to solve their problems, and we can ask for contributions from various communities. […] And this is really a way to spur adoption,” Hourcard said.

He says that working with YC has allowed them to talk to other companies in the ecosystem who have built similar open source-based startups and that’s been helpful, but it has also helped them learn to set and meet goals and have access to some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley, including Marc Andreessen, who delivered a talk to the cohort the same day we spoke.

Today the company has seven employees, including the three founders, spread out across the US, EU and South America. He sees this geographic diversity helping when it comes to building a diverse team in the future. “We definitely want to have more diverse backgrounds to make sure that we keep having a diverse team and we’re very strongly committed to that.”

For the short term, the company wants to continue building its community, working on continuing to improve the open source product, while working on the managed cloud product.

Jun
15
2020
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VESoft raises $8M to meet China’s growing need for graph databases

Sherman Ye founded VESoft in 2018 when he saw a growing demand for graph databases in China. Its predecessors, like Neo4j and TigerGraph, had already been growing aggressively in the West for a few years, while China was just getting to know the technology that leverages graph structures to store data sets and depict their relationships, such as those used for social media analysis, e-commerce recommendations and financial risk management.

VESoft is ready for further growth after closing an $8 million funding round led by Redpoint China Ventures, an investment firm launched by Silicon Valley-based Redpoint Ventures in 2005. Existing investor Matrix Partners China also participated in the Series pre-A round. The new capital will allow the startup to develop products and expand to markets in North America, Europe and other parts of Asia.

The 30-people team is comprised of former employees from Alibaba, Facebook, Huawei and IBM. It’s based in Hangzhou, a scenic city known for its rich history and housing Alibaba and its financial affiliate Ant Financial, where Ye previously worked as a senior engineer after his four-year stint with Facebook in California. From 2017 to 2018, the entrepreneur noticed that Ant Financial’s customers were increasingly interested in adopting graph databases as an alternative to relational databases, a model that had been popular since the 80s and normally organizes data into tables.

“While relational databases are capable of achieving many functions carried out by graph databases… they deteriorate in performance as the quantity of data grows,” Ye told TechCrunch during an interview. “We didn’t use to have so much data.”

Information explosion is one reason why Chinese companies are turning to graph databases, which can handle millions of transactions to discover patterns within scattered data. The technology’s rise is also a response to new forms of online businesses that depend more on relationships.

“Take recommendations for example. The old model recommends content based purely on user profiles, but the problem of relying on personal browsing history is it fails to recommend new things. That was fine for a long time as the Chinese [internet] market was big enough to accommodate many players. But as the industry becomes saturated and crowded… companies need to ponder how to retain existing users, lengthen their time spent, and win users from rivals.”

The key lies in serving people content and products they find appealing. Graph databases come in handy, suggested Ye, when services try to predict users’ interest or behavior as the model uncovers what their friends or people within their social circles like. “That’s a lot more effective than feeding them what’s trending.”

Neo4j compares relational and graph databases (Link)

The company has made its software open source, which the founder believed can help cultivate a community of graph database users and educate the market in China. It will also allow VESoft to reach more engineers in the English-speaking world who are well-acquainted with the open-source culture.

“There is no such thing as being ‘international’ or ‘domestic’ for a technology-driven company. There are no boundaries between countries in the open-source world,” reckoned Ye.

When it comes to generating income, the startup plans to launch a paid version for enterprises, which will come with customized plug-ins and host services.

The Nebula Graph, the brand of VESoft’s database product, is now serving 20 enterprise clients from areas across social media, e-commerce and finance, including big names like food delivery giant Meituan, popular social commerce app Xiaohongshu and e-commerce leader JD.com. A number of overseas companies are also trialing Nebula.

The time is ripe for enterprise-facing startups with a technological moat in China as the market for consumers has been divided by incumbents like Tencent and Alibaba. This makes fundraising relatively easy for VESoft. The founder is confident that Chinese companies are rapidly catching up with their Western counterparts in the space, for the gargantuan amount of data and the myriad of ways data is used in the country “will propel the technology forward.”

Jun
09
2020
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Yugabyte lands $30M Series B as open source database continues to flourish

It’s been a big period of positive change for Yugabyte, makers of the open source, cloud native YugabyteDB database. Just last month they brought on former Pivotal president Bill Cook as CEO, and today the company announced it has closed a $30 million Series B.

8VC and strategic investor WiPro led the round with participation from existing investors Lightspeed Venture Partners and Dell Technologies Capital. Today’s investment brings the total raised to $55 million, according to the company.

The startup also announced that former Pivotal co-founder Scott Yara would be joining the company’s board. Along with Cook, that brings a distinct Pivotal influence to the company.

Kannan Muthukkaruppan, who was CEO, now holds the title of president. He says that the company has built “a fully open source, high performance distributed SQL database meant for transactional workloads in the cloud.”

Today, in addition to the open source product, it offers a private Database as a Service platform to enterprise customers. This can run on a variety of platforms including public, private, or hybrid cloud or Kubernetes infrastructure. The company also offers a fully managed cloud service, which is currently available on AWS and Google Cloud Platform with Azure support coming in the future.

The founders have quite a pedigree. Muthukkaruppan spent 13 years at Oracle helping build Oracle’s relational engine. Then he moved onto Facebook in the early days where he met co-founders Karthik Ranganathan and Mikhail Bautin. The founding team worked on database technology that helped scale Facebook from 40 million users to over a billion.

It was that background that really caught the attention of Cook. “First of all, there’s a huge market opportunity here that we think we fit into, and it is unique in the sense of the pedigree that this team has, and what they built and the expertise they have across that whole spectrum of being able to scale and have [a database that is] performant across [geographic] zones,” he said.

As the company gets this investment, it’s not only a period of change inside the organization, it is against the backdrop of the worldwide pandemic and economic fallout from that event, but Muthukkaruppan sees momentum here in spite of the macro conditions.

“With COVID-19, we actually saw an increased sense of urgency across many enterprises, wanting to move businesses to the cloud and improve their operational and go-to-market efficiency around the product that they were bringing to market,” he said. He believes that the company’s database can be a key part of that.

The company currently has 50 employees, but sees doubling that number in the next 12-18 months as interest in the products continues to grow. Cook says the company has a diverse workforce today, and he will continue to build on that in his hiring practices.

“The more inclusive you can be ties to all our principles and values [as a company] already so we’re not changing how we operate,” he says. He says diversity is not only the right thing to do from a human perspective, it also makes good business sense to have a diverse workforce.

May
21
2020
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Couchbase raises $105M Series G funding round

Couchbase, the Santa Clara-based company behind the eponymous NoSQL cloud database service, today announced that it has raised a $105 million all-equity Series G round “to expand product development and global go-to-market capabilities.”

The oversubscribed round was led by GPI Capital, with participation from existing investors Accel, Sorenson Capital, North Bridge Venture Partners, Glynn Capital, Adams Street Partners and Mayfield. With this, the company has now raised a total of $251 million, according to Crunchbase.

Back in 2016, Couchbase raised a $30 million down round, which at the time was meant to be the company’s last round before an IPO. That IPO hasn’t materialized, but the company continues to grow, with 30% of the Fortune 100 now using its database. Couchbase also today announced that, over the course of the last fiscal year, it saw 70% total contract value growth, more than 50% new business growth and over 35% growth in average subscription deal size. In total, Couchbase said today, it is now seeing almost $100 million in committed annual recurring revenue.

“To be competitive today, enterprises must transform digitally, and use technology to get closer to their customers and improve the productivity of their workforces,” Couchbase President and CEO Matt Cain said in today’s announcement. “To do so, they require a cloud-native database built specifically to support modern web, mobile and IoT applications. Application developers and enterprise architects rely on Couchbase to enable agile application development on a platform that performs at scale, from the public cloud to the edge, and provides operational simplicity and reliability. More and more, the largest companies in the world truly run their businesses on Couchbase, architecting their most business-critical applications on our platform.”

The company is playing in a large but competitive market, with the likes of MongoDB, DataStax and all the major cloud vendors vying for similar customers in the NoSQL space. One feature that has always made Couchbase stand out is Couchbase Mobile, which extends the service to the cloud. Like some of its competitors, the company has also recently placed its bets on the Kubernetes container orchestration tools with, for example the launch of its Autonomous Operator for Kubernetes 2.0. More importantly, though, the company also introduced its fully managed Couchbase Cloud Database-as-a-Service in February, which allows businesses to run the database within their own virtual private cloud on public clouds like AWS and Microsoft Azure.

“We are excited to partner with Couchbase and view Couchbase Server’s highly performant, distributed architecture as purpose-built to support mission-critical use cases at scale,” said Alex Migon, a partner at GPI Capital and a new member of the company’s board of directors. “Couchbase has developed a truly enterprise-grade product, with leading support for cutting-edge application development and deployment needs. We are thrilled to contribute to the next stage of the company’s growth.”

The company tells me that it plans to use the new funding to continue its “accelerated trajectory with investment in each of their three core pillars: sustained differentiation, profitable growth, and world class teams.” Of course, Couchbase will also continue to build new features for its NoSQL server, mobile platform and Couchbase Cloud — in addition, the company will continue to expand geographically to serve its global customer operations.

May
05
2020
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Cockroach Labs scores $86.6M Series D as scalable database resonates

Cockroach Labs, the NYC enterprise database company, announced an $86.6 million Series D funding round today. The company was in no mood to talk valuations, but was happy to have a big chunk of money to help build on its recent success and ride out the current economic malaise.

Altimeter Capital and Bond co-led the round with participation from Benchmark, GV, Index Ventures, Redpoint Ventures, Sequoia Capital, Tiger Capital and FirstMark Capital. Today’s funding comes on top of a $55 million Series C last August, and brings the total raised to $195 million, according to the company.

Cockroach has a tough job. It’s battling both traditional databases like Oracle and modern ones from the likes of Amazon, but investors see a company with a lot of potential market building an open source, on prem and cloud database product. In particular, the open source product provides a way to attract users and turn some percentage of those into potential customers, an approach investors tend to favor.

CEO and co-founder Spenser Kimball says that the company had been growing fast before the pandemic hit. “I think the biggest change between now and last year has just been our go to market which is seeing pretty explosive growth. By number of customers, we’ve grown by almost 300%,” Kimball told TechCrunch.

He says having that three-pronged approach of open source, cloud an on-prem products has really helped fuel that growth. The company launched the cloud service in 2018, and it has helped expand its market. Whereas the on-prem version was mostly aimed at larger customers, the managed service puts Cockroach in reach of individual developers and teams who might not want to deal with all of the overhead of managing a complex database on their own.

Kimball says it’s really too soon to say what impact the pandemic will have on his business. He recognizes that certain verticals like travel, hospitality and some retail business are probably going to suffer, but other businesses that are accelerating in the crisis could make use of a highly scalable database like CockroachDB.

“Obviously it’s a new world right now. I think there are going to be some losers and some winners, but on balance I think [our] momentum will continue to grow for something that really does represent a best in class solution for businesses, whether they are startups or big enterprises, as they’re trying to figure out how to build for a cloud native future,” Kimball said.

The company intends to keep hiring through this, but is being careful and regularly evaluating what its needs are much more carefully than it might have done prior to this crisis with a much more open mind toward remote work.

Kimball certainly recognizes that it’s not an easy time to be raising this kind of cash, and he is grateful to have the confidence of investors to keep growing his company, come what may.

Apr
21
2020
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Confluent lands another big round with $250M Series E on $4.5B valuation

The pandemic may feel all-encompassing at the moment, but Confluent announced a $250 million Series E today, showing that major investment continues in spite of the dire economic situation at the moment. The company is now valued at $4.5 billion.

Today’s round follows last year’s $125 million Series D. At that point the company was valued at a mere $2.5 billion. Investors obviously see a lot of potential here.

Coatue Management led the round, with help from Altimeter Capital and Franklin Templeton. Existing investors Index Ventures and Sequoia Capital also participated. Today’s investment brings the total raised to $456 million.

The company is based on Apache Kafka, the open-source streaming data project that emerged from LinkedIn in 2011. Confluent launched in 2014 and has gained steam, funding and gaudy valuations along the way.

CEO and co-founder Jay Kreps reports that growth continued last year when sales grew 100% over the previous year. A big part of that is the cloud product the company launched in 2017. It added a free tier last September, which feels pretty prescient right about now.

But the company isn’t making money giving stuff away, so much as attracting users, who can become customers at some point as they make their way through the sales funnel. The beauty of the cloud product is that you can buy by the sip.

The company has big plans for the product this year. Although Kreps was loath to go into detail, he says that there will be a series of changes coming up this year that will add significantly to the product’s capabilities.

“As part of this we’re going to have a major new set of capabilities for our cloud service, and for open-source Kafka, and for our product that we’re going to announce every month for the rest of the year,” Kreps told TechCrunch. These will start rolling out the first week in May.

While he wouldn’t get specific, he says that it relates to the changing nature of cloud infrastructure deployment. “This whole infrastructure area is really evolving as it moves to the cloud. And so it has to become much, much more elastic and scalable as it really changes how it works. And we’re going to have announcements around what we think are the core capabilities of event streaming in the cloud,” he said.

While a round this big with a valuation this high and an institutional investor like Franklin Templeton involved typically means an IPO could be the next step, Kreps was not ready to talk about that, except to say the company does plan to begin behaving in the cadence of a public company with a set of quarterly earnings, just not for public consumption yet.

The company was founded in 2014. It has 1,000 employees and has plans to continue to hire and to expand the product. Kreps sees plenty of opportunity here in spite of the current economics.

“I don’t think you want to just turtle up and hang on to your existing customers and not expand if you’re in a market that’s really growing. What really got this round of investors excited is the fact that we’re onto something that has a huge market, and we want to continue to advance, even in these really weird uncertain times,” he said.

Mar
31
2020
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DataStax launches Kubernetes operator for open source Cassandra database

Today, DataStax, the commercial company behind the open source Apache Cassandra project, announced an open source Kubernetes operator developed by the company to run a cloud native version of the database.

When Sam Ramji, chief strategy officer at DataStax, came over from Google last year, the first thing he did was take the pulse of customers, partners and community members around Kubernetes and Cassandra, and they found there was surprisingly limited support.

While some companies had built Kubernetes support themselves, DataStax lacked one to call its own. Given that Kubernetes was born inside Google, and the company has widely embraced the notion of containerization in general, Ramji wanted there to be an operator specifically designed by the company to give customers a general starting point with Kubernetes.

“What’s special about the Kube operator that we’re offering to the community as an option — one of many — is that we have done the work to generalize the operator to Cassandra wherever it might be implemented,” Ramji told TechCrunch.

Ramji says that most companies that have created their own Kubernetes operators tend to specialize for their own particular requirements, which is fine, but as the company built on top of Cassandra, they wanted to come up with a general version that could appeal broader range of use cases.

In Kubernetes, the operator is how the DevOps team packages, manages and deploys an application, giving it the instructions it needs to run correctly. DataStax has created this operator specifically to run Cassandra with a broad set of assumptions.

Cassandra is a powerful database because it stays running when many others fall down. As such it is used by companies as varied as Apple, eBay and Netflix to run their key services. This new Kubernetes implementation will enable anyone who wishes to run Cassandra as a containerized application, helping push it into a modern development realm.

The company also announced a free help service for engineers trying to cope with increased usage on their databases due to COVID-19. They are calling the program, “Keep calm and Cassandra on.” The engineers charged with keeping systems like Cassandra running are called Site Reliability Engineers or SREs.

“The new service is completely free SRE-to-SRE support calls. So our SREs are taking calls from Apache Cassandra users anywhere in the world, no matter what version they’re using if they’re trying to figure out how to keep it up to stand up to the increased demand,” Ramji explained.

DataStax was founded in 2010 and has raised over $190 million, according to PitchBook data.

Oct
15
2019
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Amazon migrates more than 100 consumer services from Oracle to AWS databases

AWS and Oracle love to take shots at each other, but as much as Amazon has knocked Oracle over the years, it was forced to admit that it was in fact a customer. Today in a company blog post, the company announced it was shedding Oracle for AWS databases, and had effectively turned off its final Oracle database.

The move involved 75 petabytes of internal data stored in nearly 7,500 Oracle databases, according to the company. “I am happy to report that this database migration effort is now complete. Amazon’s Consumer business just turned off its final Oracle database (some third-party applications are tightly bound to Oracle and were not migrated),” AWS’s Jeff Barr wrote in the company blog post announcing the migration.

Over the last several years, the company has been working to move off of Oracle databases, but it’s not an easy task to move projects on Amazon scale. Barr wrote there were lots of reasons the company wanted to make the move. “Over the years we realized that we were spending too much time managing and scaling thousands of legacy Oracle databases. Instead of focusing on high-value differentiated work, our database administrators (DBAs) spent a lot of time simply keeping the lights on while transaction rates climbed and the overall amount of stored data mounted,” he wrote.

More than 100 consumer services have been moved to AWS databases, including customer-facing tools like Alexa, Amazon Prime and Twitch, among others. It also moved internal tools like AdTech, its fulfillment system, external payments and ordering. These are not minor matters. They are the heart and soul of Amazon’s operations.

Each team moved the Oracle database to an AWS database service like Amazon DynamoDB, Amazon Aurora, Amazon Relational Database Service (RDS) and Amazon Redshift. Each group was allowed to choose the service they wanted, based on its individual needs and requirements.

Oracle declined to comment on this story.

 

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