December 28, 2011

Distilling a year’s worth of work, innovation, and growth into one blog post is a fool’s errand. But we wanted to give it a shot regardless. This post is long, but it’s well worth the read. Make it to the end and you’ll see why. If you get there and regret it, let me know. I’ll send you some stickers.

2011 – A Look Back

2011 started off big for Basho and Riak. The fruits of our engineering labor were revealed in the Riak 0.14 Release that was made official on January 5th. This was a momentous event for us, and in the release were various feature additions and enhancements, along with copious bug fixes and usability improvements.

Next, in February, came a $7.5 Million Round of funding from some new and existing investors; they believed (and still believe) in our vision and product, and this money was put to good use building out the Basho team and pushing Riak farther.

With fresh funding in our coffers, we kept our heads down and continued to hack and hustle through February and March, picking up production users and closing new deals. April brought new interest in Riak Core, the framework that forms the backbone of Riak’s distributed capabilities. Companies like Yahoo! and AOL began to build applications on it for various use cases, and we did our best to make the project more usable outside of Riak. (There is still much to do to make Core truly accessible to developers, and, time permitting, we hope to address this in 2012.)

May arrived and we ruffled a few feathers with a blog post about what we thought was a theme that needed addressing in the NoSQL space. Also in May, Basho Board Member Eric Brewer was recruited to help Google plan and execute their cloud vision, one of the many accomplishments various members of the Basho Team would notch this year.

Corporate developments took center stage in June. We opened a new office in San Francisco, a move precipitated by massive user and customer growth on the West Coast. BashoWest, as we call it, has since become a co-working space of sorts in addition to our West Coast HQ, and we’re continuing to expand our efforts to spread knowledge about distributed systems and sound computing practices to developers. Later on that month we announced additional funding and the addition of Don Rippert as Basho CEO.

To start off July, we made it known that support for Google’s LevelDB would be part of the next release, a move that would let users take better advantage of Riak’s pluggable storage capabilities. Lager, a new logging framework for Erlang/OTP was also released and announced by Andrew Thompson. Writing and open-sourcing Lager was one of many steps we took in 2011 to address Riak’s (and Erlang’s) developer-friendliness. Client libraries were also on display in July. The Riak Java Client was given a makeover in response to user and customer demand, and Russell Brown and various community members continue to enhance the code. Ripple, Riak’s Ruby client, shared the spotlight. Sean Cribbs and his team of committers took over BashoWest for a week to hold the Ripple Hackathon, an event that contributed to what was a monumental year for Riak’s adoption in the Ruby Community.

We had our heads down in August, steadily grinding, only to re-emerge in September with a string of announcements about the code and features we were polishing off for the upcoming 1.0 release. The long awaited Secondary Indexing component of Riak was announced and chronicled by Rusty Klophaus; the work Bryan Fink was doing on Riak Pipe, our new MapReduce framework, was revealed in detail; Joseph Blomstedt, who we luckily snatched up after he released riak_zab, demonstrated the extensive work that he and the team had been doing to refine Riak’s Clustering Capabilities.

Then, to end the month, mere hours before September concluded, we released Riak 1.0. The culmination of years of hard work and innovation from Basho and our community, this release was the biggest in the history of Riak and it’ll be some time before any of us forget this day. Glance at the release notes to grasp the scope of this release if you’re not already running the code.

Onto October and November. The 111 Minna Gallery in downtown San Francisco played host to the Riak 1.0 Release party, an event attended by the entire Basho team along with almost 200 users, customers, and Basho supporters. Several weeks later we publicized the work we had been doing on the Riak-Hadoop Connector. In November it was also revealed that Basho’s Director of Engineering Dave “Dizzy” Smith had been named Erlang User of the Year for his work on Rebar. Also noteworthy from November: Scott Lystig Fritchie, another member of the Basho Engineering Team, shared some details on the work he and others were doing (and continue to do) to get DTrace added to Erlang.

Which brings us to December. Two big things happened this month, both on the 15th. First the Basho Developer Advocate Team released Riaknostic, a chunk of code, complete with beautiful documentation, intended to help eliminate operational issues before your Riak cluster goes live. Also on the 15th, Community Member Mathias Meyer released the Riak Handbook, a short yet near-comprehensive guide to using Riak, and the first extensive publication dedicated solely to Riak. (I’m told sales are booming.)

Community, Contributions, and Production Deployments

And even with all this, we are nothing without our community of users, customers, and contributors. As our COO Tony Falco has been known to say, we have a “community that sustains us with hard work and positivity.” Going into 2012, this could not be any less true.

The number of contributors to the projects that compose and are connected to Riak grew in a massive way, and the THANKS file now contains 170 names, up from about 40 at the beginning of the year. To date, hundreds of organizations and companies have contributed to the codebase, including Comcast, Yammer, GitHub, Trifork, Rails Machine, DISQUS, Formspring, Simple, Clipboard, Boundary, The Fedora Project, SEOmoz, SpawnGrid, Spreedly, ShowYou, Apollo Group… The list goes on. On the individual level, a special thanks is also owed to Tuncer Ayaz, for his dedication to Riak and Rebar.

Client library work that helped drive grass-roots adoption was done by people like Francisco Treacy (riak-js), Greg Stein, Soren Hansen, and Gilles Devaux, and Brett Hoerner (Riak’s Python Client), and Jeremiah Peschka and OJ Reeves, who took it upon themselves bring Riak to the .NET world. The Riak PHP Client was and continues to be refined by developers like KevBurnsJr, Jonathan Langevin, Mark Steele, and Eric Stevens.

We are immensely lucky, thankful, and grateful for these and future contributions, and we consider it a privilege to have you spend time working on and with Riak. Thank You!

Production deployment numbers also exploded, to the point where we are now comfortable saying there are more than 1000 Riak clusters either in production or that will be there very soon. Some of the noteworthy use cases:

  • Voxer relied on Riak when they needed to scale their backend to handle billions of daily requests on their way to becoming the number one Social Networking application on the iOS.
  • The Danish Government turned to Riak when they needed a datastore that could be trusted with the prescription records of their entire citizenry.
  • Bump, the #7 free iPhone Application of all time, switched to Riak when they realized their existing infrastructure wasn’t sustainable.
  • Yammer, which counts 80% of the Fortune 100 as customers, selected Riak to provide notifications to its millions of users
  • DotCloud chose Riak to scale critical components of their internal infrastructure.
  • ShowYou built out two Riak clusters to power their social video application and have developed a custom storage backend with integrated search and analytic capabilities.

These represent just a small portion of the hallmark deployments. We would need many more blog posts to provide details on all of them. Please add your use case details to the comments if you’re feeling compelled.

We also saw the appearance of a healthy dialog (the “good” and the “bad”) around what it takes to run Riak in production, driven by companies like Inaka Networks, The NetCircle, Production Scale/Solution Set, and Linklfluence sharing their stories. Riak isn’t perfect yet, and you’re driving us to make it better.

Another stat worth sharing: at least nine of the FORTUNE 100 have either deployed Riak or are committed to deploying it for services that generate revenue.

Onto 2012

And so, with this, we close out a momentous 2011 knowing full well that what we have planned for 2012 will make the accomplishments and growth we saw over the past 12 months pale in comparison. Are we “market leaders”? Hard to say. This is not a title we can bestow upon ourselves. But this past year’s successes, coupled with the code, partnerships, new hires, products, customer announcements, and initiatives we have in the pipeline for 2012 have us feeling very good about the coming year.

Thanks for being a part of Riak. Happy Holidays.

On behalf of the entire Basho Team and our Community,


Community Manager