Varun and I spoke about why IT leaders need to ensure that their databases are performing optimally. On top of that Singh has had a colorful career in India as a pioneer in the Internet. You can listen to our conversation and follow along with the transcript. Enjoy!
Alan Shimel: Hi everyone, this is Alan Shimel, editor in chief of Devops.com. Very happy to be joined today by our guest, Mr. Varun Singh, founder and CTO of ScaleArc. Varun, welcome to our webcast.
Varun Singh: Thank you, Alan. Thank you for having me today, it’s going to be fun.
Alan Shimel: I think so. So Varun, we were talking a little bit before we went live, or recorded, as the case may be, and you were giving me a little bit of your background. You’ve had quite an interesting career working on OS/2 Warp and BBS’s in India, running the first BBS based on Linux in India and hosting a TV show there as well.
Varun Singh: Yep, yep. I’ve really sort of aimed for diversity, if you want to put it that way, in my career. I’ve tried anything and everything. Been a writer. Been a journalist, sort of reviews and everything else. Started a website called TechTree.com, which is now like the number one tech website in India at this point in time, and a whole bunch of other stuff. Joined CNBC sort of at the peak of their build up and joined them primarily as a tech editor, but they wanted me to be the CTO, so I did that sometime. Built a whole lot of websites with them, and when we did that, essentially learned the value of how to scale databases. And from there came the idea of ScaleArc.
Alan Shimel: Excellent. So Varun, excellent lead in for our audience who may not be familiar with ScaleArc, can you give us a quick background?
Varun Singh: Sure. ScaleArc is database load balancing software. We essentially ship you a virtual machine, and that virtual machine includes the database load balancing software that let you scale, provide a zero downtime environment, and essentially make your transactional apps completely zero downtime. This is the kind of tech that pretty much Google, Facebook, everybody else have had within their networks, because they’ve built it for themselves. What we’re doing is building it for the rest of the world.
Alan Shimel: So as some others have been wont to say, the CoreOS people, you’re bringing sort of Google-like experience to the masses.
Varun Singh: Yes, at the database layer, yes. So CoreOS is doing it essentially, the OS layer, and there’s a whole lot of stuff that’s going on in the container world, which is all very, very exciting and we’re participating in that in someway as well. But essentially what we do is we sit at the transaction box. So applications and websites, they connect to us with an abstraction layer, and once they connect to us, we then go ahead and establish connections to multiple database servers in the background and make sure that no matter what happens, that application gets its transactions through.
Alan Shimel: Excellent. And Varun, ScaleArc is sort of a six-year overnight sensation, right? You guys have been around for some time since 2009?
Varun Singh: Yep, it took us about 2.5 to 3 years to sort of build the tech itself, because it’s pretty complicated to build what we’ve built, because we’ve built essentially the world’s first transparent database engine. If you look at the four patents that we filed in 2010, they’re all about transparency and how we’ve basically made this possible for any and every app. So all an app has to do is just transfer its connection over to us and immediately they get access to an entire cluster, they get access to zero downtime, they get access to deep SQL analytics, and all of that is available to them as part of that one single package that we provide.
Alan Shimel: Excellent. So Varun, our talk today is really aimed at C-level, VP manager level people. Why should – without getting too far into the weeds on the technology or feature set, why should executives care about what ScaleArc is doing and what problem are you solving that executives care about?
Varun Singh: Sure. So at this point in time I’m sure a lot of executives are looking at how to migrate to the cloud. The moment you go to the cloud you’re essentially running into smaller machines, you’re running into unpredictable arrangements windows, and you also have to worry about how to aggregate capacity across multiple machines to be able to make your performance numbers.
A lot of applications that are running on very large servers on prem don’t have a way, don’t have a path into the cloud right now. So ScaleArc is basically the thing left that’s the last step in being able to migrate to the cloud as far as large mission critical database intensive apps go. So that’s the first thing that we do.
We’re making it a lot easier for your application developers to develop these apps and not have to worry about the HA piece, not have to worry about the failover piece and all those things. And that makes your developer’s life so much easier. We provide you a lot of APIs and all those APIs let you automate pretty much all of these functions. You could go ahead and do a rolling upgrade. You could do a rolling patch. All of that can be automated, and you can do all of that using our S API’s that are provided by us.
Alan Shimel: Excellent. So Varun, when you guys typically – well first of all, is it mostly larger enterprises that are looking for this kind of thing or is it across the board?
Varun Singh: It is across the board, but we’re specifically at this point in time targeting larger enterprises. So some of our largest customers are like Dell.com. So every single transaction on Dell.com works with us and we’ve been with them through the last two Black Fridays and just preparing now for a third Black Friday with them. We work with NASDAQ, so NASDAQ pretty much all price feeds at this point in time come through our system. We work with Answers at Microsoft.com, so all user queries that are going through Answers to Microsoft.com come through us. And that’s one of our large deployments that is across the board, four regions, multiple datacenters, active active. So pretty complex applications and pretty complex deployments.
Alan Shimel: Excellent. And Varun, when you engage customers of this size, where is the engagement coming from? Is it executive led or are there sort of technical champions that are bringing ScaleArc technology to the exec team?
Varun Singh: Sometimes it is executive led, sometimes it’s architecture led. Sometimes it’s even DBA or application developer led. It’s across the board. We’ve seen all kinds, but the most consistent one we’ve seen is the architecture, and that’s a pretty good fit I think with your show as well.
Alan Shimel: Yeah, yeah, I believe so. So Varun, as I think we were speaking earlier, we live in interesting times. It’s sort of a boundary layer as we move into a world dominated by movements like DevOps and automation and continuous delivery integration, continuous integration, continuous everything. How has that played into your life and ScaleArc?
Varun Singh: It’s helping us massively. That’s pretty much exactly what people want. They want that application infrastructure to be continuously available. So from that perspective, the fact that databases are the last thing remaining in that stack which are hard to manage, we’re sort of flying at this point in time.
Alan Shimel: Exactly. So the database is one of the last pieces of the stack to kind of get the message about doing more faster and getting sort of a DevOps approach to things, or agile.
Varun Singh: Yep, and essentially what customers are right now aiming at is to be able to get to a point where they really understand their database stack and have full control over their database stack. And we’re kind of becoming that one control panel that they look at every day and essentially find out exactly what’s happening, whether it’s new users that are logging in to their database stack or new queries that are being executed that have never been executed before. And what we’re providing them is that entire stack as well as the ability to do zero downtime maintenance, being able to mark a server offline in the middle of the day, put a patch on it, upgrade it, and bring it back online. And you have never been able to do it in the past because you would have always had a ton of application errors, and what we’re doing essentially is eliminating all of those application errors and providing a transactional engine that works with pretty much any application engine and allows that application engine to become a zero downtime app.
Alan Shimel: Excellent. Varun, for executives listening in on here, what do you see as the next frontier or the next thing that CTOs, CIOs, VP, managers should be looking for in terms of database management, database performance, database load and so forth?
Varun Singh: I think at this point in time, they have to look at figuring out a way to expand out, scale out and get to what we call shared nothing. Shared nothing is essentially a way to store database information on servers in a way that you don’t have to worry about interdependency issues. So each server is its own individual isolated zone and even if you have five servers, you can have four of them go down and the fifth one will still be alive. So that’s the architecture that I think everybody is headed to right now. That’s the architecture that MySQL sort of made famous, and now at this point of time pretty much all databases are headed to that architecture. And databases are getting more and more sophisticated. But apps really haven’t been able to use that because the issue right now is that quite a lot of these apps are written to older versions of SQL databases. So what we do is provide all the new features that are coming in from the new databases to the apps without a single change on the app.
Alan Shimel: Excellent. Varun, we’re almost out of time here, believe it or not. We try to keep these chats relatively short. But a question I always ask people ending up is, for people listening in, whether they be managers, C-levels or people who want to be managers or C-levels. If you had to pick one book to read that would help them further their career and understand what’s happening and where they need to be, what would that book be?
Varun Singh: I could give you two or three right now, but if you really want one as far as an entrepreneur is concerned, I think The Hard Thing About Hard Things is really still the flavor of the month. It’s going pretty well still, I’ve sort of re-read it twice and it gives new meaning sometimes if you re-read it because you’re sort of analyzing a situation from a completely different perspective, and it’s a pretty interesting book to read.
Alan Shimel: So The Hard Thing About Hard Things.
Varun Singh: Yes, that’s by one of the partners from Jason Horowitz – Ben Horowitz.
Alan Shimel: Ben Horowitz, sure, I know the book well. Varun, and of course if people want to find out more about ScaleArc, is it ScaleArc.com?
Varun Singh: ScaleArc.com, and we’ve got a whole bunch of videos, we’ve got some webinars, we’ve got a lot of other stuff available as well as customer case studies as well.
Alan Shimel: Excellent. Varun Singh – founder/CTO of ScaleArc – thank you very much for appearing today on DEVOPS Chats and continued success with ScaleArc.
Varun Singh: Thank you. Thanks for having me.