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June 16, 2022

Ahana Launches ‘Forever Free’ Presto Service, Series A Top-Off


Ahana today announced a free version of its hosted Presto service that can run on a six-node EC2 cluster indefinitely. It also added another $7.2 million to its previously announced Series A round, giving the startup more than $32 million in total funding.

Presto is an open-source SQL query service that was developed at Facebook as the follow-on to Apache Hive, which it also created. The distributed software was developed in a “headless” manner, which allows it to work with an array of underlying storage repositories, including databases like PostgreSQL, object stores like S3, and file systems like HDFS.

While this flexibility makes Presto highly adaptable in modern data clouds, it also adds certain degree of technological complexity. There are over 200 knobs in Presto that customers can tweak to dial in the environment for concurrency and latency requirements, according to Ahana CEO and co-founder Stephen Mih, which leads to weeks of work to get Presto up and running from open source.

Ahana sees Presto as a key component of the open data lakehouse (Image courtesy Ahana)

In addition to configuring Presto itself, there are other components that need to be integrated, including a metadata catalog, such as the one that comes with Apache Hive, he says. “All of this takes learnings,” Mih says. “People out there are still learning about Presto and other components like this, that it is very complicated and time-consuming.”

It also provides a business opportunity for provides such as Ahana, which addressed this complexity with a pre-configured version of Presto that allowed users to get up and running quickly. But that hosted Presto enviornment was not free.

That is changing with today’s launch of Ahana Cloud for Presto Community Edition, which lets customers get a free and fully configured Presto environment up and running in their AWS VPC in a very small amount of time.

“In 30 minutes, you can have Presto up and running,” Mih tells Datanami. “We’re making this free forever, so it lets you get started with the SQL lakehouse much faster.”

The free Community Edition offers a pre-configured Hive metastore as well as a version of Apache Superset, an open source data exploration and visualization tool. That doesn’t preclude users from plugging other components into their free Presto environment, including AWS Glue or Apache Iceberg for the all-important metastore.

“Instead of installing open source software on each machine, configuring it yourself, connecting it all altogether– that’s all automated for you with this managed service,” Mih says. “You get the benefit of the SaaS-like operations. So setup, installation, configurations–all done. And then you also get the operation side, which is upgrades, scale up, scale down. That’s all” handled by Ahana.

There is no limit to the amount of data that that customers can analyze with their Community Edition, since storage is separate from Presto. Customers are free to run SQL queries on as much data as they can within the limit of a five-node AWS cluster (plus one coordinator node). Customers pay for their own EC2 compute, of course.

Mih says Ahana would normally be charging thousands of dollars per month for a Presto cluster the size of the Community Edition. The startup is betting that enough customers like the free service so much that they want to run their data on bigger Presto environments, which lets more users crunch more data in less time.

That, of course, would require them to upgrade to a paid version, Ahana Cloud for Presto, which the company will happily do. In addition to an unlimited number of worker nodes and support for AWS Graviton instances, the enterprise version also brings features like more powerful authorization and fine-grained access control, as well as enterprise support (support for the free version is handled via the open source community).

Eliminating complexity and streamlining deployment of open analytical engines like Presto will be necessary for the modern open lakehouse architecture to succeed against proprietary data warehouses, such as Snowflake, according to Mih.

“That was a complex problem where people throw up their arms and said ‘I’ll just go lock it into a data warehouse somewhere,’” he says. “It’s my belief that the open data lakehouse will become simpler and simpler with things like this.”

The open lakehouse was a key aspect in Ahana bringing another investor into the fold. Liberty Global Ventures is the investment arm of Liberty Global, a British-Dutch-American multinational telecommunications company with operations in six countries. The VC arm invested $7.2 million into the San Mateo, California company. “They’re very excited about this open data lakehouse market,” Mih sas.

The round was technically a “strategic Series A top off,” and will be added to the previously announced Series A round, which netted Ahana $20 million last August. Total investment, including the seed round by Google’s venture arm, exceeds $32 million, Mih says.

Liberty Global Ventures likes what Ahana is doing with the open data lakehouse, according to Ankur Prakash, a partner with the firm.

“Today we’re seeing more companies embrace cloud-based technologies to deliver superior customer experiences,” Prakash stated in a press release. “An underlying architectural pattern is the leveraging of an Open Data Lakehouse, a more flexible stack that solves for the high costs, lock-in, and limitations of the traditional data warehouse. Ahana has innovated to address these challenges with its industry-leading approach to bring the most high-performing, cost-effective SQL query engine to data platforms teams.”

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