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Techaisle Blog

Insightful research, flexible data, and deep analysis by a global SMB IT Market Research and Industry Analyst organization dedicated to tracking the Future of SMBs and Channels.

Outage Immune, Distributed, Scalable Database-as-a-Service for SMBs from GenieDB

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.

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Next big thing for SMBs: Need for Enterprise Performance Management

CRM has become a core application for businesses and we have already seen that Sales Force Automation and Marketing Automation functions have been quickly incorporated along with Business Intelligence.  All of these can use the same or linked tables to provide a 360 degree view of the sales and marketing process. However, today, we have finally come to a place where it should be easy enough for SMBs to plan and execute business strategy using a structured performance management system, like the Balanced Scorecard. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) should be a standard part of the application architecture as should a meta-directory of KPIs that all applications can access.  To measure the effectiveness of Sales, Marketing, Operations, and industry-specific activities, each area should have standard metrics and access to benchmark data that lets the SMB know how they are doing compared to peers, but rather than only using historical data it should be based on forward-looking objectives (leading indicators) that are tied directly or indirectly to activities designed to ultimately improve financial results. SMBs are seriously interested in measuring elusive objectives like Return on Marketing Investment, Optimal Pricing, Cost of Acquisition, Lifetime Customer Value. They want integrated applications that can not only measure these objectives but also be able to optimize effectively.  This is what we call the Enterprise Performance Management (EPM).

For EPM applications to be really effective, they should be able to collect data from all applications and break into several areas; for people, productivity should be monitored through activity and results (as it already is in the new generation of SaaS applications), and effectiveness of software and equipment should be measured through algorithms that follow click paths, analyze application usage, optimize the process flow and usability of the systems. In some cases, like network optimization, filtering potential employees and ecommerce, systems should optimize themselves and human intervention should only be required when something is way outside the parameters defined by the administrator – who may increasingly be the LOB management.

With the EPM (Enterprise Performance Management) system SMBs will have a new attitude and culture that values and uses data visualization as the quickest way to gauge overall performance and specific areas of interest at a glance.

Most SMBs that have used CRM and ERP systems within the past few years are familiar with the dashboards that are available with many of these applications, either embedded or purchased separately. We believe that Dashboards will continue to evolve and be dynamic in several ways; the way they use data from subsystems like ecommerce and other real time feed sources, the way users can personalize the layout of their dashboards. Similarly, within the EPM, the actual KPIs should be dynamic and have the ability to build KPIs “on-the-fly” by calculating variables on the screen and saving the result in a meta-repository for all to use. It will have to become the norm.

While several SaaS vendors allow this kind of metric building and start the user at a dashboard, we have yet to see anything targeted to the mid-market or SMBs that connects the performance across front office, production, fulfillment and customer service. NetSuite does it to some extent almost out of the box. The market has to catch up. While this level of functionality is an excellent target, small businesses can probably get by with a good understanding of leads, opportunities, customers, invoicing, billing and customer service (or the appropriate subset) by integrating together several applications from different IT vendors. But the need for EPM is genuine and the industry has to quickly design solutions to empower SMBs with enterprise-level EPM technology at an affordable price.

 

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Path to Big Data Adoption Success: Mid-market and SMBs

Techaisle's Big Data study of 3,360 businesses shows that mid-market businesses typically started their big data journey in one of four ways. However, the highest success rate (determined by reaching a successful implementation of a big data project within six months of initiation) was achieved when an external consultant or organization was brought in to develop proof of concept, advice on database architecture and ultimately develop the big data analytics solution.

techaisle-smb-big-data-adoption-path


Once a decision was made to embark on a big data deployment project, the mid-market organization tended to quickly align behind the initiative. They did realize that big data was not a typical cloud application deployment where independent department purchases could be made, nor was it infrastructure deployment where only IT could be involved. Big data required a new type of alignment between business heads, namely, Marketing, Finance, IT and a completely new set of players known as data scientists or data analysts.

Study shows that businesses are moving from “whack-a-mole” analytics to “business perspectives” to get newer insights into their operations and better knowledge about their customers as they rethink their marketing strategies because mobility, social media, and other transactional services have increased the number avenues for connections with their customers. There are many different tactical objectives for deploying big data projects but the top among them are sentiment monitoring, generating new revenue streams & improving predictive analytics. And businesses are expecting some clear cut benefits from big data analytics such as increased sales, more efficient operations, improved Customer service.

 
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[&] study by Techaisle of 3,360 businesses shows that ‘the highest success rate (determined by reaching a successful [&]
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Blessed are the Mid-Markets, for they shall Scale Big Data

In a parody of Start Trek, Silicon Valley technology companies describe their business goal as “Scale, the final frontier…”.  Mid-market companies, defined as those having 100-2500 employees, may indeed provide an opportunity to emerging technology vendors to scale their business. According to Techaisle, a market research firm, these 800,000 global companies spend $300B on IT and are sought after by technology vendors big and small. In the last decade, technologies such as Cloud, SAAS and Virtualization have reached scale with a large number of mid-market companies as early adopters. Intuit, Salesforce.com, NetSuite and Amazon are just a few examples of companies who have relied upon mid-market companies as a key building block for their business.

What does this mean for Big Data? To find out, Carpe Datum Rx spoke to “SMB Guru”, Anurag Agrawal, CEO of Techaisle and the former Head of Worldwide Research Operations at the Gartner Group. Techaisle recently talked to 3,300 global businesses about their Big Data adoption plans. Here is an excerpt from our discussion.

The SMB Market is considered the Holy Grail for technology vendors because it is hard to penetrate. Does your research show that mid-market companies will adopt Big Data before large enterprises do? Are they the early adopters of this technology?


Yes, you are right the SMB Market is the Holy Grail as it is hard to penetrate but with the highest potential. To elaborate, there are slightly over 70 million small businesses and 800,000 mid-market businesses worldwide. They constitute over 97 percent of the business segment. And their collective IT spend is projected to grow by 6.5% between 2013 and 2016 which is quite a lot faster than the Enterprise segment. To really identify the SMB segments and their type of technology spend is a mind-numbing exercise due to the sheer volume of data points. This is compared to the enterprise segment where there are fewer companies and larger dollar amounts being spent.

To answer your second question about whether mid-market businesses will adopt big data before large enterprises, let us look at some facts. Cloud computing started as an enterprise play, however, it was quickly discovered that SMBs would be the more relevant target segment with a faster path to adoption. Similarly, as enterprises adopted Virtualization, vendors shifted their focus to the SMBs with some very creative solutions. Mid-market companies, defined as those with 100 to 2500 employees could certainly be the early adopters of Big Data. We recently did a study where we surveyed 3,360 mid-market businesses worldwide covering all regions – North America, Europe, Asia/Pacific and Latin America. What we found is that the promise of superior data-driven decision making is motivating 43 percent of global mid-market businesses to at least look at Big Data technology. And above all, 18 percent of mid-market businesses are now investing in big data related projects.

In the mid-market segment, there is also a competitive imperative to understand customers, create innovate products and improve operational efficiencies. They are not burdened with too many silos and large legacy systems deployments. The absence of large legacy systems is an important point to consider because it makes mid-market businesses more agile to implement new types of solutions that solve their business problems. It is expected that in year 2016, global SMBs would spend US$3.6 Billion on big data solutions exhibiting a growth rate that is faster than what was exhibited by cloud computing solutions.

We understand that you cast a very wide net to get your 43% number. Is there a consistency in the sentiment on big data across different parts of the world? 


Yes, we had to cast a wide net to really understand the adoption and trends within mid-market businesses. And yes, there is a difference across geographies and employee sizes. North America has both the largest market and the highest level of adoption in Big Data overall. In terms of actual deployment activity, the market grows in relation to the size of the companies. Additionally, mid-market business attitude towards Big Data transitions from “Over-Hype” to must-have technology with the increase in employee size. Let me give you some examples. A small-to-mid-sized bank is developing a Proof of Concept for fraud analytics. Another example is of a small advertising agency that is trying to deploy digital advertising analytics. So big data is not only within the radar of enterprises, the same problems exist across all sizes of business, only the volume of data, available budget and the required simplicity varies. The problem is that we all get caught up in technology which instills a sense of fear. We have to shift the conversation from technology to solving business problems.

Big Data adoption is often stalled by a lack of knowledge or understanding of the technology and its capabilities. Do mid-market companies have a better understanding of this technology than large enterprises? Do they have an advantage over large enterprises in implementing effective solutions?


You are right. Three things – Technology, Resources and Data are the biggest roadblocks for big data project implementations within mid-market businesses. In recent years technology and technology options have evolved extremely rapidly for an average business to understand, evaluate, purchase and implement. Big data is no different. Mid-market businesses consider big data as very complex resulting in very steep learning curves. The complexity gets further exacerbated with lack of experience, lack of skilled manpower and innate difficulty in identifying external consultants who would be the right fit for their big data business objectives and budget availability. In spite of challenges, the study shows that there have been some successes when business units, IT & data analysts exhibit extraordinary alignment.

Our study shows that mid-market businesses typically start their big data journey in one of four ways and the highest success rates have been achieved when IT and data analysts work with external consultants from project inception. It is still very early days for these businesses to fully embrace big data but the seeds are being planted. And we believe that these businesses may very well race ahead of enterprises with their deployments as technology becomes simpler and consultants become experienced. As we like to say it, SMBs could be the path to big data simplicity.

You talk about the linking of structured and unstructured data. Why is this problem so important compared to all the others? 


The issue of analyzing data from diverse sources leads a mid-market business to naturally consider linking structured and unstructured data. If we look back, CRM solutions had first established the need for analyzing customer data. However, the data was mostly two-way transactional structured data. This changed when customers began visiting business websites to explore, browse and perhaps make purchases thus leaving behind a trail of information. And everything changed with the onset of social media, blogs, forums, wikis and opinion platforms where the identification of false positives and negatives became difficult and knowledge about the customer and resulting segmentation became an inaccurate undertaking. Big data analytics presents the possibilities of connecting together a variety of data sets from disconnected sources to produce business insights for generating sales, improving products or detecting fraud. Thus the importance of linking structured and unstructured data to analyze social media data, web data, customer and sales data along with click-stream machine generated data and even communications data in the form of emails, chat, and voice mails. But extremely limited expertise creates a major challenge. If they can figure it out, one-fourth of mid-market businesses say that they will use big data as an integral part of their overall analytics efforts. The possibility of analyzing a variety of data producing action-driven business insights is too big to ignore for mid-market businesses.

How are big data projects getting started globally? Are they championed by LOB managers? Are they getting adequate support from executive management? Are customers demanding it?


The study reveals that the initiators are marketing, finance or operations and the ultimate user of the analytics is the business user. Big data requires a new type of alignment between business heads, namely, marketing and finance (main drivers of big data projects), IT and a completely new set of players known as data scientists or data analysts. As I mentioned before, once the decision is made mid-market businesses show an extraordinary alignment across departments. Our study shows that mid-market businesses typically started their big data journey in one of four ways. However, the highest success rate was achieved when an external consultant or organization was brought in to develop proof of concept, advise on database architecture and ultimately develop the big data analytics solution right from the moment of project inception.

What is one piece of advice or Carpe Datum prescription can you share for our members?


You have adopted cloud, you have adopted mobility, you have adopted social media so do not be afraid to develop Big Data analytics proof of concepts. Do not ignore big data just because of perceived complexity and big data solution providers’ inability to create bite-sized messaging that directly address pain-points. Do not forget that business intelligence has now become one of the fastest solutions to be adopted by SMBs and mid-market businesses. If done right, big data will address three key pain points: Increased sales, More Efficient operations, Improved Customer service.

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