Ex-Twitter Architect Goes From Fail Whale To Launching Database That Supports Omnichannel Experience

By Jordan French Jordan French has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
Published on October 18, 2018

Twitter is a go-to destination for sharing humorous memes.

But in 2008, thanks to rampant technical issues on the site, Twitter became a meme of its own.

That was the year Twitter gained recognition for what has become known as the “fail whale,” an image of a whale being lifted up by birds that was meant to communicate that the site was undergoing maintenance. But the recognition Twitter received for this error message obviously wasn’t positive. The image signified, and drew more attention to, the technical difficulties the site was experiencing and the displeasure of users on the site.

While the meme lives on, “fail whale” is a thing of the past thanks in part to the efforts of Twitter engineer Evan Weaver, who was credited with fixing the social media site’s performance issues after just a few months with the company.

After Twitter, Weaver launched Fauna, an innovative database platform designed to meet the toughest enterprise requirements. Built for the modern, multi-cloud world, the database lets digital businesses meet the requirements of modern cloud applications.

The point-of-sale has moved to the cloud and to keep up with customer demand, e-commerce applications need to be robust enough to support a variety of interactions across multiple channels. Customers browse, comparison shop, buy, and review online, making the need for accuracy, security and speed of utmost importance.

Fauna’s computing resources can be scaled up and down easily to support spikes in sales, such as during the holidays, back-to-school or simply during a weekend sales rush.

The transactional and globally distributed database represents a fundamental shift in the common approach to databases that is long overdue. Last year, Fauna raised $25 million in funding to grow the operation, an achievement that demonstrates the real world uses for this technology and benefits for businesses.

SQL vs NoSQL

Just as the “fail whale” was a common joke among Twitter users, the tech community has a sense of humor when it comes to database development, especially when it comes to which kind of database is the best. In September, tech company MongoDB posted a photo of their billboard which has been generating some controversy on Twitter. “Friends don’t let real friends use relational databases,” the billboard reads.

The database world is split into relational and non-relational or SQL or NoSQL, and there’s disagreement about which is the better way to go. NoSQL databases boast a level of scale and flexibility not commonly found in SQL databases. Conversely, SQL databases are well known for strong consistency, security and reliability.

Relational databases have traditionally been a good fit for conventional data analysis such as reporting and classical statistical analysis, while non-relational databases are better suited to unconventional analysis, an area of analysis increasingly necessary as both the importance of data and focus on “big data” increases around the world.

Non-relational databases are a newer concept and as a result many companies, trying to stay up with the latest technology, quickly adopted this innovation. But now experts in the field say users want more from database platforms. Engineers say database technology has failed to keep up with the needs of modern applications. Now more than ever, enterprises want a database that supports modern, scalable, real-time applications.

Best of Both Worlds

Meeting these requirements by combining the best of both relational and NoSQL systems into one platform is crucial. Fauna is designed to meet the demands associated with growth at the kind of scale many enterprises experience today.

“We’ve combined the safety and stability of the relational database with the developer productivity and scalability of NoSQL,” says Weaver. “FaunaDB is built from the ground up to deliver transactional correctness, high performance, global scale, and operational resiliency without compromises.”

Today’s enterprises are interested in moving their products off of the mainframe, away from legacy rdbms and into the modern era. They want to build applications in the cloud on container systems that work seamlessly with other innovative frameworks. But overall, enterprises want freedom from having to build their products or deploy their infrastructure in a specifically defined way.

At the same time as all of the above requirements, these enterprises also want global scale, strong consistency and ACID transactions. These operations require flexible data modeling and they want to be able to work in modern languages, modern application development paradigms and modern systems, all the while knowing that their data is safe.

In order to be at the forefront in today’s climate, data platforms have to cover a range of capabilities including supporting distributed storage and data virtualization. A database that combines the strengths of both SQL and NoSQL can accomplish all of these goals.

Twitter’s early struggles have served as a learned opportunity for developers. The company’s infancy was a test case in how to scale and build a data infrastructure from the ground up. Today’s developers have taken that knowledge and used it to build a new kind of operational database. Now with this new hybrid data platform, that concept is going global.

By Jordan French Jordan French has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team

Journalist verified by Muck Rack verified

Jordan French is the Founder and Executive Editor of Grit Daily Group, encompassing Financial Tech Times, Smartech Daily, Transit Tomorrow, BlockTelegraph, Meditech Today, High Net Worth magazine, Luxury Miami magazine, CEO Official magazine, Luxury LA magazine, and flagship outlet, Grit Daily. The champion of live journalism, Grit Daily's team hails from ABC, CBS, CNN, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, Forbes, Fox, PopSugar, SF Chronicle, VentureBeat, Verge, Vice, and Vox. An award-winning journalist, he was on the editorial staff at TheStreet.com and a Fast 50 and Inc. 500-ranked entrepreneur with one sale. Formerly an engineer and intellectual-property attorney, his third company, BeeHex, rose to fame for its "3D printed pizza for astronauts" and is now a military contractor. A prolific investor, he's invested in 50+ early stage startups with 10+ exits through 2023.

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