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October 16, 2013

Datastax Gives Startups Free Production Cassandra DB

Alex Woodie

Datastax today announced a new initiative to give new companies free licenses to its enterprise version of Cassandra. Not every startup will qualify for the free production NoSQL database, but for those that do, it could give them a head-start to serving analytic applications in the big data age.

The idea behind the free NoSQL database program is to give tomorrow’s successful companies a head start on the technology front, explains Datastax co-founder Matt Pfeil.

“I remember the days of what it was like to be a small startup, when time and money were not necessarily things you had a lot of,” Pfieil tells Datanami. “We’re helping the companies of tomorrow get started with the right tools so they can spend more time growing their business rather than worrying about technology challenges.”

To qualify, startups must have raised less than $20 million in capital, and have a certain amount of revenue (which was not immediately disclosed by Datastax). Interested parties can receive the full qualifications from the Datastax website.

The program is undoubtedly good marketing for the San Mateo, California company, which is one of the leading drivers of the Cassandra NoSQL database. Free gets people’s attention. But it also has the potential to generate long-term technology partnerships that are profitable to both Datastax and its customers.

While Cassandra is free, open source technology, Datastax adds its own stuff to the stack, including features in the area of search, security, and availability. It also provides technical support for its NoSQL database. The free Datastax Enterprise licenses that the company is giving away to startups does not include premium support; customers must get their support from online forums.

Four startups have already taken Datastax up on its offer for free production-grade NoSQL technology. These include MarkedUp, a company founded last year by ex-Microsoft employees to help application developers understand how customers are using their products; SimpleReach, a social media analytics platform; Zimp, a real-estate search engine in Brazil; and, a social media aggregator. A total of 15 startups are participating in the DataStax Startup Program, the company says.

Datastax also announced a new query tool based on the Cassandra Query Language (CQL) called DevCenter. The new software features a graphical interface, and is designed to give Datastax customers a SQL-like language in which to run queries against Apache Cassandra and DataStax Enterprise.

DevCenter will benefit customers who are moving to Cassandra and Datastax Enterprise from relational databases, and want to continue writing queries using the familiar SQL context. “We see the vast majority of users coming from the relational world,” Pfeil says. “We’re seeing more and more customers trying to do things where their relational system just isn’t keeping up, or they need to do things that are extremely complex and that would lead to a lack of availability in the system.” 

Since Pfeil and his fellow Rackspace co-worker Jonathan Ellis founded Datastax in 2010, they have ridden the big data wave to success. The company has more than 300 paying customers, 140 employees, and just closed a $45-million round of funding, to bring total funding for the company to $85 million. 

In other words, Datastax has grown too big to qualify for its own free software program for startups. That doesn’t bother Pfeil, who sees a lot of interest in Cassandra and a potential to upset the balance of power in the big database. “It’s us and the big guys, like Oracle,” Pfeil says. “It’s us against Larry.”

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