Cassandra NoSQL Database Gets Commercial Support

The Apache Cassandra open source NoSQL database has been embraced by big Web 2.0 properties like Facebook, Digg and Twitter, but what about regular enterprises? That’s where new startup Riptano is hoping to fill the gap, proving support for Cassandra and, in time, commercial management and tooling on top of the open core.

While Riptano is new, the company has a direct relationship to the core Apache Cassandra open source project, having been co-founded by the project’s chair, Jonathan Ellis. Startup funding for Riptano is being provided by Rackspace, which has also been actively involved in Apache Cassandra development. Both Ellis and co-founder Matt Pfeil are ex-Rackspace employees.

“With Cassandra being an open source project, people need help sometimes,” Pfeil told “Riptano wants to be that leading support and professional services organization for the Apache Cassandra project.”

Riptano’s founders see an opportunity in growing Cassandra usage in the enterprise as an efficient way to help meet database scalability needs.

“Besides the big Web 2.0 guys that were the first to run into database scaling problems, we think that as enterprises become aware of Cassandra and the benefits it provides, we think there will be more interest as well,” Ellis told

Rackspace is also seeing interest in enterprise usage of Cassandra and that’s why they’re backing the startup. Jim Curry, vice president of corporate development at Rackspace Hosting, told that his company is very interested in looking at Cassandra as something it can provide to hosting customers. He added that Rackspace has been getting some inquiries from customers about Cassandra and what it can do.

“It’s still an early market and part of the reason why we’re excited about Riptano is we want to see more interest in driving Cassandra,” Curry said.

As to why Rackspace is helping to fund Riptano, as opposed to just providing its own direct Cassandra commercial support, it’s a matter of corporate focus. Rackspace is no stranger to open source database participation and recently hired many of the key developers behind the Drizzle MySQL database spinoff.

“As a hosting company, we’re very interested in what Cassandra can do for us in our hosting offerings,” Curry said. “I think there are a lot of things that Riptano will address that are specific to enterprise deployments and other areas that we won’t address. Rackspace today is not a company that provides support outside of our walls.”

Open core for a commercial Cassandra approach

For Riptano, the plan is ultimately for a commercial offering based on the project, using use the open source Cassandra database as the core and layer in additional proprietary bits on top. One of those future offerings could be a migration service that will help users of other databases migrate their data easily to Cassandra.

“Right now, people moving to Cassandra are either doing a greenfield project, where they know that by using Cassandra from the start they’ll solve their scalability problems,” Ellis said. “Then there are companies like Twitter who are feeling so much pain from their current architecture that it’s worth doing the port to Cassandra, even though the migration path is roll-your-own.”

Beyond migration technology, Riptano will be building proprietary management software for Cassandra. Even though Riptano will be working on proprietary code, the company will remain focused on contributing to the core open source Cassandra project, it said.

“We have no plans to create a proprietary fork of the database itself, but we do want to build management tools on top that will provide value to IT organizations,” Ellis said.

Cassandra 0.7

The Cassandra 0.6 release came out earlier this month and work is now progressing on the 0.7 release. Currently, the Apache Cassandra project issues new releases every three to four months.

Among the key features set to be included in Cassandra 0.7 is secondary index support.

“Right now, you can lookup database rows by a row key that you know, but you can’t, say, give me all the users who were born in a given year without manually managing an application-level index for that information,” Ellis explained. “So by building that secondary index support into Cassandra, it will make life easier for a lot of users.”

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals.

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