Since the time Amazon announced its Database-as-a-Service, most IT vendors, big and small, have either spun off services utilizing Amazon or built services that are complementary to Amazon. And many others have rolled out competing products. Each of them is targeting SMBs with the promise of agility, reliability, scalability and integration capability. The market has become crowded with options that are very difficult to sift through for SMBs. Nevertheless, the interest in database-as-a-service has never been higher. As per Techaisle’s 2013 SMB Cloud Computing study, between 6% and 64% (varies by employee sizes) of SMBs are either using or planning to use database-as-a service. However with  an average number of formal IT staff at 4.2 and percentage of SMBs having formal IT staff varying from a low of 3% (for 1-4 employee size) to high of 97% (for 500-999 employee size) businesses the adoption is sporadic and hindered because of inherent possibility of “lights-out” situation due to outages, network latency and connectivity issues.

GenieDB, a company founded in 2011, has brought into the market a MySQL-database-as-a-service that that removes outages from the equation. Phyken Media, a video game studio for mobile platforms, developer of “Wizard Ops Tactics” is GenieDB’s marquee customer. Kunal Patel, President of Phyken Media, was faced with two huge challenges;

1/ during development of the game he had to have access to robust technology that could scale to production rapidly,

2/ be able to deploy into multiple geo locations for multiple-cross-region-player challenges without having to install and manage multiple servers.

In such a rapid-fire environment, where all the data is “hot”, Kunal and his team of developer-artists turned to GenieDB to utilize its MySQL database-as-a-service offering which he said is hugely disruptive enabling globally distributed databases where all nodes remain synchronized.

To get to know more about GenieDB we had a very detailed Q&A with Sumeet Sheokand, CTO, GenieDB. Given below is an excerpt from the interview.

Techaisle: What is the motivation behind GenieDB and in particular MySQL-as-a-Service?

Sumeet Sheokand, CTO: GenieDB is built with the aim of dramatically simplifying database management in the cloud for business critical applications. Dealing with cloud outages, network latency, redundancy, replication, tuning, etc. can be very painful and time consuming, distracting precious IT resources away from other core business areas.  We want to evolve this vision to the point where you no longer need a team of DBAs to manage complex, distributed database platforms. We will either automate processes or provide a very simple interface to manage hundreds of highly available, low latency MySQL databases ready for any cloud infrastructure, anywhere in the world. It is well known that the only way of overcoming the challenges of cloud outages and network latency is to distribute copies of the database across wide geographical areas, a historically difficult problem for relational database architectures. GenieDB makes this critical functionality available to all businesses and all budget sizes, in a very easy-to-use package. In keeping with the theme of making it easy, we offer our core technology as a Database as a Service (DBaaS). This allows us to offer our users a point and click ability to deploy geographically distributed database servers with automated management and monitoring already in place.

Techaisle: What problem are you trying to solve? Especially, how can small and mid-market businesses benefit from GenieDB?

Sumeet Sheokand, CTO: We have created a geographically distributed database fabric that removes the database as a single point of failure and makes cloud-enabled MySQL database provisioning, management and monitoring an exceedingly simple affair.  With our service, the small and mid-market businesses can focus on running their businesses or building their applications rather than worrying about architecting complex distribution, replication and failover systems, not to mention installing, patching and maintaining backups. All the rote tasks of using databases will be taken care of by our service.

Techaisle: Is the service a better mousetrap than others that are available in the market?

Sumeet Sheokand, CTO: The comparison between what is available in the marketplace today and GenieDB can best be described as the difference between a database-in-the-cloud vs. a Cloud Database.  The existing DBaaS solutions are simply databases which have been put into the cloud utilizing a variety of scripts (i.e. "A Few Scripts-as-a-Service").  These offerings are partial solutions as they do not remove the complexity of building distributed systems in the cloud.  Some only offer single locations; some only offer it in certain locations, while others don’t offer an easy path to grow the database with business traffic. Through our proprietary storage engine, GenieDB has fundamentally transformed the way a relational database functions in the cloud, removing all of these common pain points within the database layer. Businesses can choose their cloud providers, their locations and size, and know that their database will be available, responsive and grow as their business grows, with minimal effort.

Techaisle: How do you think it is different from Translattice, NuoDB, Galera?

Sumeet Sheokand, CTO:  GenieDB stays true to MySQL, the most commonly used database in the world, as compared to Translattice (Postgres) or NuoDB (Not MySQL, custom). GenieDB also offers an ‘Eventually Consistent’ model that allows us to place the nodes as far apart around the world as the business needs and deliver local database performance, instead of being limited by network distance (Galera).

Techaisle: Is GenieDB’s approach similar to Google’s Spanner?

Sumeet Sheokand, CTO: GenieDB has some conceptual similarities to Google Spanner, such as a consistent Clock around the cluster. GenieDB uses software Lamport Timestamp based clock compared to Google’s hardware based clock. Even though there are similarities, GenieDB was developed independent of the Spanner effort. It was nonetheless a great validation of our vision and approach. Google Spanner is also not available as a product for businesses at large to use in their own applications. GenieDB is available today to reap the same benefits.

Techaisle: Can it be deployed only across Amazon or other cloud providers as well? Do end-users have a choice of cloud provider they feel comfortable with?

Sumeet Sheokand, CTO: GenieDB is currently available across Amazon, Rackspace and Google’s cloud services. We are actively working on integrating a handful of other popular providers, including HP, into the service. We will be happy to work with our customers to accelerate their cloud of choice for integration.

Techaisle: The future is Hybrid as we all know it, so how does it work if in a customer’s environment there are both on-premise and cloud based MySQL databases?

Sumeet Sheokand, CTO:  GenieDB core software is agnostic to machine location. It just needs a Linux machine with network access. It is because of this capability, that we can build a database cluster across multiple cloud providers. Hence, we can support any Hybrid configuration, if we have access to the machines. There are business and security concerns on providing full access that would need to be figured out.

Techaisle: Why did you choose MySQL for database-as-a-service?

Sumeet Sheokand, CTO: MySQL is the ubiquitous database for modern applications. It is by far the most widely installed and used database in the cloud today and hence is the basis of our service.

Techaisle: Most of the SMBs do not have IT staff let alone database administrators. Can it still be deployed with limited technology knowledge?

Sumeet Sheokand, CTO:  Deploying GenieDB does not need any technical knowledge, staff or application changes besides pointing the application to the GenieDB provided database location.  It is this [SMB] specific target audience for which we designed GenieDB.

Techaisle: How do you help SMBs in understanding the technology and how the service solves their business pain points?

Sumeet Sheokand, CTO: GenieDB has extensive amount of information available at its site including FAQs, White Papers and Demonstrations. We also offer a one week, free trial of the service and support so that potential customers can experience the service before buying.  We are of course happy to spend as much time as necessary to get any new client comfortable with our service.

Techaisle: For type of SMB customer is this solution most suitable?

Sumeet Sheokand, CTO: GenieDB is a Storage Engine for MySQL and as such is a general solution. Hence, GenieDB works with any application that works with MySQL today. From a business perspective, any business that is running a critical application on a single database could benefit from GenieDB, so that if one database server goes down, others are still available and the application will continue to work without any downtime.  Typically we see customers that are starting a new project or that have an existing project that is anticipating growing traffic or is becoming more business critical.

Techaisle: What is a typical deployment timeframe?

Sumeet Sheokand, CTO: Nodes are spun up and the cluster made available within minutes. Most applications can be up and running against GenieDB under an hour, including data transfer. The actual duration does depend on the amount of data to transfer and the upload capacity available from the customer site.

Techaisle Take

At last count, MySQL is still the most widely used database for cloud deployments and is easily the one that SMBs use extensively. However, MySQL’s continued dominance is being questioned since it was ingested by Oracle through its Sun acquisition. Although Postgres is usually considered to be more powerful and meant for big data sets, there is yet no visible mass migration from MySQL to Postgres. The success of GenieDB and the decision to use its DBaaS is not dependent upon the debate of MySQL vs. Postgres but GenieDB’s relevance for the most-used open source database. GenieDB has created a very useful solution for SMBs but will be challenged to capture mind-share of IT consultants, service providers and the developers who are advisors to SMBs for development of applications based on multi-nodal, geographically dispersed, tightly synchronized MySQL databases. Apart from focusing on growing its customer base GenieDB will have to continue to add feature sets, capabilities and integrate with different regional cloud providers. For now, GenieDB’s MySQL-as-a-Service receives check marks for its simplified usage, ability to integrate with all MySQL applications, rapid deployment, cloud portability (not being locked-in with a single provider) and above all making the database immune to outages.