Datical has been a leader in DevOps for databases since even before the term was used. What many may not realize was that the open source Liquibase project was a major contributor to Datical’s success. So it should be no surprise that in filling the open president’s seat, they would tap an open source veteran.
Dion Cornett, has open source credibility from his time at Red Hat and MariaDB. In his new role, he is responsible for marketing, sales and product. He is determined to see the same kind of success with open source business models he has been part of before, succeed at Datical.
In this discussion we hear from Dion on his plans and views.
As usual, the streaming audio is immediately below, followed by the transcript of our conversation.
Alan Shimel: Hey, everyone, this is Alan Shimel for DevOps.com. You’re listening to another DevOps Chat. We’ve got a nice DevOps Chat for you today, happy to introduce you to the newly minted president at Datical, Dion Cornett. Dion, I didn’t mess that up, did I?
Dion Cornett: You didn’t, and thank you very much for the introduction, and I’m very happy to be on your podcast today.
Shimel: Thank you, Dion. So, listeners of our podcast are no strangers to Datical. You know CTO Rob Reeves is a frequent guest here, and you know, we make fun of him and his Big Lebowski sweaters, but it’s always refreshing to hear Robert’s take on DevOps and databases, the DevOps market in general, and pontificating on anything Robert likes to pontificate about.
But it’s also nice to have a fresh face from Datical. So, first of all, welcome aboard.
Cornett: Thank you.
Shimel: And I always like to give my audience a flavor for who’s talking. Dion, would you mind—I’m not asking you to read your bio, but would you share a little bit of your background for the audience?
Cornett: Yeah, you know, I think what is more pertinent to Datical, I’d say if I had to characterize myself as that, I’m an open source guy. I bleed open source, I believe it’s a better production model for software, you know, this combination of a meritocracy of ideas and transparency leads to more elegant code.
And so, you know, my background has been one of sort of having a career that aligns with this philosophy. So, I spent nine years at Red Hat in a couple different executive roles, run North American non-named account sales, and then ran global strategic alliances. I moved from there to take over sales at MariaDB, an open source database company that was—
Shimel: Sure, [Cross talk] well.
Cornett: Yeah. [Laughter] It wasn’t quite so popular in 2013, but we literally grew that business sevenfold in three years. That set me up for a CEO job. I did do something outside open source, but it was sort of a big data challenge, a company called ReachForce, that we successfully sold to another company in this space called Leadspace.
And then, I was actually taking some time off, and introduction through a board member, spent some time with Datical, and just sort of fell in love with the concept. So, you know, my work at Red Hat, which obviously covers the very foundations of sort of IT into all the challenges as it relates to data at MariaDB and really sort of seeing the struggles that go on in building and maintaining a big, powerful database and how central that is to virtually any application. And you look at some of the top banking or telecom type customers we have, you know, data is the core of some of the value that many of these companies create.
And then, even at ReachForce, right, big data company in the martech space, data is just paramount. It’s all maintained in databases and trying to update, upgrade, you know, maintain those databases in the context of fast changing application requirements is a non-trivial exercise.
And so, when a company came along that had this combination of the open source that’s sort of in my DNA, and then solving this challenge around database change management, it just seemed like a great fit.
Shimel: Absolutely. So, you know, another thing let us get out of the way early on, Dion, is—in today’s world, when we appoint a president, you know, there was a time, as we were talking, CEO and president were one person. And then, from a governance point of view, that’s a bad model. We have, for the most part, split off CEO from president. And presidents have various responsibilities. Some are more of a COO, some are more of a CRO, you know, meaning responsible for all revenue kind of activities.
Just, what—where is your, you know, what are you responsible for at Datical?
Cornett: Yeah, so, formally, my responsibilities are sales, marketing and product. And sort of the genesis here, and I have a great relationship with Derek, the CEO of the company. We’ve been on the job for a month now and I think we’ve teamed well, even through my recruitment process and through that.
But Derek has built an amazing culture here. And this is one of the things you never know when you start a new job is just sorta, you know, what is the synergies between the team, and Derek’s a very effective leader, he’s built a great culture. In terms of the depth and the value of the solution that Datical has, it’s sort of undisputed, right? We’ve got multiple high six figure customers and even a seven figure customer. I mean, these are solving demanding problems in big enterprises, and the company’s been very good at that.
I was brought on for a very specific charter, right? How do we better engage and collaborate with our community to push innovation out to the market faster? And as your listeners may know, Alan, the real foundation for Datical is an open source project called Liquibase. Liquibase is—and one of the things I also did at Red Hat was, I ran the venture portfolio there. I’ve looked at literally hundreds of open source business plans, made a dozen plus investments and sat on a few boards of companies that Red Hat invested in. And Datical was sort of a top 10—or Liquibase was sort of a top 10 project as you look at the thousands and thousands of open source projects.
And so, how do we work with that community, again, in a collaborative fashion that we’re really pulling innovation, pushing it back, and driving as much value into this challenging database problem as we can?
Shimel: Absolutely. So, you said a lot, there. Let’s pick ‘em off one by one.
So, first of all Liquibase. It’s something we’ve mentioned in past podcasts and in past content type webinars and stuff that we’ve done with Datical. But—and maybe you’re gonna change this, and I hope you will, Dion. I know in my mind, when I think of Datical, I don’t think Liquibase. And though Liquibase has a tremendous following, I just don’t—it seems like, and I’m not blaming anyone or anything like that, but I just, I don’t connect the two. And maybe that’s part of what your mission needs to be.
Cornett: Absolutely. We want this connection to not only exist, but be robust. Again, we’ve got a great team here, great culture, great people. We wanna use that to be excellent stewards of the community.
You know, part of what motivates people here is, this is a big challenge to solve. You sort of commented earlier about sort of the maverick kinda style that Robert has, and I think it’s properly so, right? We’re breaking some glass. We’re trying to create a new mold, a new direction for how and a very important development of how IT operates.
And so, that’s Liquibase. And, you know, Datical is a set of capabilities built on top of that. We need to make it clear, though, that that core is our foundation, and that, you know, we wanna be, again, as good of stewards as we can of that Liquibase community, 15 million plus users, and you will see this become much more of our identity, in everything we do, how we act, behave, where we invest and what we do to try to push value forward into our customers.
Shimel: Excellent. So, Dion, let me throw another thing along the open source stuff out at you. You know, as I spoke to you earlier, I have my own views of where the market is, you know, builders, the democratization of IT, as I call it.
I also have a view of where the open source movement, you know, the whole open source community is. And that is, you know, we’ve moved from the cathedral and the bazaar to what I call the big brother stage of open source where, seemingly, every open source project was kinda sponsored or in fact owned by a single vendor. And that kind of inhibits collaboration on an industry basis, right? It’s like, Oracle wasn’t gonna contribute to MS SQL. I mean, MS SQL was far from open. [Laughter]
But let’s say, once Oracle bought—
Shimel: MySQL. Look, that was the reason Maria and a host of others popped up, right? Because people weren’t sure that Oracle was gonna play nice, frankly.
But that’s old. The model is what I call the foundational era of open source, where we have, like, the Linux Foundation or the Eclipse Foundation or the Cloud Foundry Foundation. You know, they’re these not-for-profits that are, they quote-unquote own the open source project to the community’s benefit.
I’m not aware of a foundation in, like, the Liquibase kind of playing field. Are you, or is that—
Cornett: No, you know, and I’m very familiar with the foundation model. Yeah, obviously, Red Hat was sort of a pioneer in this with Fedora.
Shimel: Sure, yeah.
Cornett: And we actually implemented a foundation model at MariaDB as well. And so, even if you look today, MariaDB.org is a separate legal entity—
Cornett: Separate president and set of engineers. And the real purpose there is to provide confidence to the users that, regardless of vendor acquisitions as you discussed, that the capabilities of that project will go forward.
And we don’t—again, I’m a month on the job here—we don’t have a foundation today with Liquibase.
Shimel: Right, I’m not asking you to—don’t say anything you can’t [Cross talk]. [Laughter]
Cornett: Yeah. [Laughter] It’s certainly a consideration. [Cross talk] But it’s, you know, it’s a measured one, right? So, what are the trade-offs, what are the value? And as you talked about the different phases of open source, I think it’s—it’s unfortunate that there was a point where open source was sort of a, you used the phrase democratization of technology; that was a phrase also used by Matthew Szulik, the former CEO of Red Hat.
Shimel: Uh huh.
Cornett: And he also talked about this fashion statement thing where people, open source is a success. I mean, everything you use on the Internet, IT today is open source for the most part. So, it’s clearly won, right? That battle’s sort of over, and people said, “Hey, I wanna glom onto this.”
And so, there was sort of a group of companies that attempted to co-opt the branding around open source without really understanding the nuance of what it meant to be a steward of the community and collaborate well. And in some ways, I think that sort of provided a skewed vision. And we’ll avoid that at Datical. You know, again, we’re gonna be good stewards of the community. We recognize that it’s gotta be participatory. Most of the community members are people that have jobs at companies you would recognize in IBM or SAP or other places like that. And they’re taking time to be part of this community, because it provides some value to what they’re doing and their professional life.
And so, we’ve gotta recognize that we have to contribute to that value, attempt to sort of usurp what they’ve done, and go off and monetize it without the, never work, because if it really is important functionality, someone will just do a fork and monetize that around.
It’s really about providing these synergies—and I used this phrase earlier where you have a meritocracy of ideas and that sorta lifts everyone up, right? So, we can provide higher value to customers that need the specifics of an enterprise offering or as we have brands, as you say, Liquibase Pro. And then the people that are, they’re part of the community for their specific needs that they’re getting multiples of return also on that investment for the problems they’re trying to solve.
And it really is sort of this, community is the perfect word for it, because it really is this joint effort to make everyone better off.
Shimel: Great. Dion, we’re running out of time. I wanted to give you one more thing to chew on. I want you, in your mind, to fast forward six months, 12 months, take your pick—what effect have you had on Datical?
Cornett: You know, I think that we have to look at—so, part of what we’re doing is, we’re taking a blank sheet and we’re saying, hey, if we were gonna start today and look at the trends in the market, cloud, microservices, NoSQL, NewSQL, you know, these are all things that weren’t necessarily the case when Liquibase was originally founded by Nathan 10 years ago, what would it look like today versus where we are? And where are the gaps between the perfect DevOps solution for database and what we have in the community today, and sort of how do we help guide and steward that into a place that really solves the problem that we’re facing and we’re going to face as the IT infrastructure continues to evolve?
And so, I think, if we can look back in a couple years and say, “Look, this has been the evolution of the product, and it’s much easier to use, it’s much easier to implement, the time to value is relatively quick,” and it’s really allowing, at the end of the day here, we’re trying to let database keep up with all of the DevOps advances that have been made around the application. If we see the database not being the drag on application, timeliness, speed, effectiveness that it can be today, then I know we’ve been successful in sort of this re-instillment, re-engagement in the community, and pushing that innovation into the product.
Shimel: Yep. I agree with you. Dion, I promised I’d get you out of here in 15 minutes. I know you have another appointment. But I want to invite you back. Maybe we’ll do a video next time and we can dig in a little deeper. And, you know, I love talking about open source, as do you, it appears, and our audience does, too.
Shimel: So, I think it’s a great topic for us to continue. I wanted to wish you all the success in the world, though, with Datical. It’s a great bunch of folks over there, and you’re a great addition to the team.
Cornett: Oh, thank you very much. I appreciate the kind words, Alan. And yeah, I look forward to future conversations. It’d be great.
Shimel: It certainly well. Alright, Dion Cornett, new president at Datical, joining us here on DevOps Chat. This is Alan Shimel, and you’ve just listened to another DevOps Chat. Have a good day, everyone.