Finally, a database worth loving

We are thrilled to finally announce our partnership with PlanetScale, and our lead investment in their $50m Series C. PlanetScale is a cloud relational database platform built upon Vitess, the technology that scaled tech giants like Youtube, GitHub, Slack, and Airbnb. Relational databases underpin the vast majority of software and websites we interact with on a daily basis, storing critical information like inventory levels, health records, and bank transactions.

However, the technology behind the most widely used relational databases has gone largely unchanged for almost 30 years. Over this same period, the size and geographic distribution of our connected population has increased dramatically. This has introduced an entirely new set of scalability and reliability requirements that widely used databases like MySQL and Postgres were not conceived to meet. As a result, the challenge of scaling relational databases has been rearing its ugly head for a growing number of companies, not limited to the tech giants.

At the core of this challenge is how the database handles data volumes that extend far beyond the capacity of a single server, while ensuring access to this data is reliable and consistent from anywhere in the world. This brings us to what is widely considered to be the “holy grail” of database performance in the cloud era - horizontal scalability without compromise on consistency or reliability.

More recently, a new paradigm has entered the mainstream that comes with equally profound implications for databases - serverless computing. Serverless refers to the notion of abstracting away the infrastructure a developer’s code runs on, freeing them to focus entirely on building their application. While an appealing concept, its embrace has surfaced another limitation in current relational databases rooted in the different way serverless apps connect to them. This leaves a large and important population of developers - those building stateful applications - on the outside looking in. Serverless has also ushered in a new cohort of rapidly-growing infrastructure platforms like Netlify and Vercel that use this higher level of abstraction to provide a more opinionated and design-forward user experience. This highlights the unfortunate tradeoff developers are faced with today of having to choose between going serverless, and building more complex applications.

This is where PlanetScale comes in. PlanetScale is unique amongst the current cohort of database players, in that it is advancing the state of the art on two fronts simultaneously - scalability and user experience. Its founders Jiten Vaidya and Sugu Sougoumarane built Vitess while at Youtube, the open-source technology that powers PlanetScale. Vitess’s superpower lies in its ability to scale MySQL horizontally to tens of thousands of machines. With PlanetScale, this means a developer can factor in this level of scale on day one without any additional work or complexity.

However, Jiten and Sugu came to the realization that it would be difficult to bring PlanetScale to the masses without an incredible story around ease of use. This motivated them to hire Sam Lambert, and eventually promote him to CEO of the company. Sam led GitHub’s infrastructure team, and brought with him a talented group of peers who were behind some of its most seminal products. This unique combination of talent has yielded a product that is as beautiful as it is powerful. Innovative features like online schema migrations, branching, and connection pooling have made PlanetScale the database of choice for serverless. This is evidenced by their popularity within the growing community of developers building with frameworks like NextJS. This team also has impeccable design taste, which shows in the quality of the product they have delivered on in impressively short order.

This brings us to PlanetScale’s long-term opportunity, and why we are excited to partner with them. The combination of horizontal scalability, support for serverless, and a consumer-grade user experience brings PlanetScale as close to the “holy grail” of database platforms as we have seen. Sam once told me that “no developer really loves their database.” He may have been right, but we see this changing quickly thanks to PlanetScale. We are excited to partner with this talented team, and look forward to supporting them on their mission to raise the bar for what developers should expect from their database. If you are interested in learning more about PlanetScale, get a live database running in 12 seconds here. They are also hiring!

ー Bucky