DataStax announces $106m VC funding for NoSQL database Cassandra

By John Leonard
04 Sep 2014 View Comments
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DataStax, the commercial distributor of the Apache Cassandra NoSQL database, announced a $106m (£64m) funding round today, led by US venture capitalist firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers (KPCB) including monies from Indian Wipro-backed Premji Invest as well as from one of DataStax's original funding partners, Lightspeed. A new investor is Comcast, the US telecoms, internet and media company, which is also a major customer. The Series E funding round brings total investment in DataStax to $190m (£115m) and takes the market valuation of the firm to $830m (£504m), twice last year's figure. 

Apache Cassandra was one of the earlier NoSQL databases to be made generally available. It was originally developed by Facebook, being released as an open source project in 2008. DataStax was co-founded in 2010 by Jonathan Ellis (now CTO) and Matt Pfeil (chief commercial officer - CCO), both veterans of Rackspace, to exploit Cassandra's commercial potential in the enterprise. The firm currently employs 350 employees, with that number projected to rise to 450 by the end of the year as it increases its global reach.

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"We expanded into London just over a year ago and since then we've added offices in France and Germany. Part of what we're looking to do with this next round of funding is to extend into Asia," Pfeil told Computing.

Many of the new jobs are being created in Europe, according to Ellis.

"In Europe we have an engineering team, not just a salesforce. It's not a Yankee invasion. We're focused on hiring the best engineers no matter where they are."

The recent focus on Europe has been popular with customers on this continent, Ellis said. One UK customer, i2O Water, said that community support has already improved.

"The community used to be a little quiet but now it's pretty active. DataStax opened an office in London and since then there's been more activity", software director Mike Williams told Computing, proving that despite the global reach of the internet, local representation is still important.

The latest investment puts DataStax firmly back into the top flight of privately funded NoSQL firms in terms of financing. By comparison, MongoDB has raised a total of $231m in seven funding rounds; Couchbase has accrued $116m in six rounds; and MarkLogic $73.6m, also in six rounds.

Asked whether this major tranche of fundraising might be a precursor to an IPO, Pfeil declined to comment.

"Right now we're doing what's best for our customers and our company", he said, going on to state that Cassandra is used by a quarter of Fortune 500 firms, with an additional 400 paying customers, and 300 start-ups that use the commercial distribution, DataStax Enterprise, for free.

Ellis said that one of the key differentiators between Cassandra and its rivals in the increasingly crowded NoSQL marketplace is the combination of availability and performance borne out of its fully distributed masterless architecture, which allows multiple live data centres to be running at one time.

"One of the things that Cassandra is uniquely good at is being able to deploy across multiple data centres. It's not disaster recovery, it's disaster avoidance. As soon as a data centre goes down you can re-route to another one in real time," he said, claiming that the master-slave architecture of other distributed databases such as MongoDB, Couchbase and HBase necessarily introduces performance overheads.

"If your master goes down and you elect a new master there will be downtime associated with that, but that master is a bottleneck for your requests even if it's not down. Cassandra can distribute the requests across all the replicas and send them to the ones that are performing best, which lets us deliver more consistently good performance," Ellis said.

In a statement, lead funding partner KPCB said: "DataStax is the leader in a massive shift that is under way from relational databases to more agile NoSQL data stores for new workloads."

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