The Silicon Review
We believe in open source and are committed to participating in and contributing to the open source community in meaningful ways: Evan Kaplan, CEO InfluxData, Inc.
Every day large volumes of data are collected in the form of time series. Time series are collections of events or observations, predominantly numeric in nature, sequentially recorded on a regular or irregular time basis. Time series is becoming increasingly important in nearly every organization and industry, including banking, finance, telecommunication, and transportation. Banking institutions, for instance, rely on the analysis of time series for forecasting economic indices, elaborating financial market models, and registering international trade operations. More and more organizations are having to derive meaningful insights from time series data that is being driven by the instrumentation of the physical world (sensors and IoT) and the virtual world (business data, server metrics and containers)
In light of the above mentioned, we are thrilled to present, San Francisco-based, InfluxData, Inc. The firm delivers a modern Open Source Platform built from the ground up for analyzing metrics and events (time series data) that is being used extensively in building new DevOps and IoT applications. Whether the data comes from humans, sensors, or machines, InfluxData empowers developers to build next-generation monitoring, analytics, and IoT applications faster, easier, and to scale – delivering real business value quickly.
Interview Excerpt: Evan Kaplan, CEO
InfluxData was started by Paul Dix in late 2013 to provide a SaaS offering for DevOps Monitoring. Paul and the team realized as they started to build the solution that there was a fundamental problem with the architecture around any data store they tried to use. MySQL, Cassandra, and MongoDB all were designed to solve some very different problems. There was no modern architecture that could handle the volume of metrics and events they wanted to store. The industry needed something new to address the massive monitoring requirements that Paul and his team could foresee on the horizon. Armed with this knowledge, the company pivoted from a SaaS offering and created a time series platform entirely. This modern platform is designed to handle metrics (such as server stats) and events (such as pageviews, exceptions, sensor readings), address millions of writes per second, be very easy to use, and be optimized for time series data and time series functions.
From a developer perspective, Paul started with one key requirement, it needed to make developers happy – easy to get, easy to use, and easy to scale. From these humble beginnings and philosophy, InfluxData was born in the open source arena and is now deployed on more than 115,000 servers and has up to 400 paying customers.
First Launch – Getting the Ball Rolling
We launched our first open source project InfluxDB (a time series database) in late 2013. InfluxDB is used as a data store for any use case involving large amounts of timestamped data, including DevOps monitoring, application metrics, IoT sensor data, and real-time analytics. It allows organizations to conserve space on their machines by configuring InfluxDB to keep data for a defined length of time, automatically expiring and deleting any unwanted data from the system. InfluxDB also offers a SQL-like query language for interacting with data. This is still the core of the InfluxData platform today.
InfluxDB has exceeded all our expectations. It is the fastest growing open source database as measured by the time it has taken to getting 10,000 github stars, and is the leading time series database.
Taking the Bull by the Horns
Our initial challenge was around the product we were building as we had to pivot from SaaS to a platform play. This took management courage and determination. Founder and CTO Paul Dix spear-headed this move and it was his passion and enthusiasm that created the “north-star” – build something that developers will love.
Then naturally the challenge was building something that could show enough traction to ensure funding. Funding never is as easy as it looks, but what sold the initial investors in InfluxData was community traction. Real developers with real usage. You can’t buy that, you earn that. Then came the next round of financing, which initially was to expand the product from data to a platform and then one where “you can make money”.
Throughout our challenges there are three things that have made us successful to date:
Clear “North-Star” – Reduce the Time to Awesome by building a product that developers love. This allows us to make business decisions with this at the forefront of our thinking. Everything we do, from sales and marketing, product development and recruiting, starts with us asking “how will this reduce the Time to Awesome.”
Community Matters: We build our products on an open source core. This is critical. If the open source community of developers did not like or use our products we would never have achieved the results we have. We nurture and listen to this community because they are key to our success.
Business Model: We are focused on building ROI for our shareholders (employees, investors, and customers). We are not greedy but we are not confused that we need to grow revenue in order to succeed.
Corning the Market
Focusing on the developer community and building in open source gives us immediate feedback from the community. Developers find our product and use it before we even know about them. This grass roots effort is critical to our success. We are singularly focused on reducing the Time to Awesome, we truly care about helping developers and businesses get to results faster with less complexity and less code. Without developers adopting our products we would never be where we are today.
We set clear goals and understand that keeping the developer community happy is the key to our long-term success. We then set financial goals and sales goals from this viewpoint. We want to increase ROI for all our shareholders.
In Full Swing
Time Series Databases (TSDB) address two key areas in our world today – IoT, and Application and Infrastructure systems. Both areas are best understood in the context of monitoring and control, and the need to provide business insight into these systems. IoT can be thought of as using sensors to monitor and control systems in the “physical world”. This can be monitoring anything from machines to buildings, devices, people – even electrons. Anything that a physical sensor can be applied to can best be stored and managed in a TSDB. As the IoT market takes off, TSDBs are poised to grow in lockstep.
The second key area is Application and Infrastructure systems. This can best be thought of as monitoring and controlling the “virtual” or software-driven world. IT systems are instrumented to generating events and metrics that indicate their state on a constant basis. The entire software and hardware ecosystem – from applications to hardware, VMs, containers, microservices, and networks – is monitored as a function of the change in state over time. As “software eats the world,” the monitoring and control load is growing exponentially. In sync with this, we are seeing more and more enterprises, SaaS, cloud service, and network providers turn away from generalized NoSQL or relational databases and turning to purpose-built TSDBs such as InfluxDB.
Sky’s the Limit
At InfluxData, we continue to innovate around our core tenants. Our goal is to enable developers to focus on the business applications that they are building rather than the infrastructure required to build the solution. To this end we will continue to innovate in the open source arena, welcoming comments and contributions from the community and letting the product evolve with the community in mind. The industry conditions and users alike show us that the time series problem requires a different approach. We will continue to enhance the platform to be able to support billions of events and metrics, provide true linear cloud scalability, and expanded time-based functions and features, all with the quality and reliability that are required in mission-critical applications.
The Man Behind the Picture
Evan Kaplan, CEO: Evan Kaplan is a passionate entrepreneur and technology leader with nearly 20years of experience in CEO roles. Evan’s career spans from creating start-ups in his own garage to leading NASDAQ-listed companies generating nearly $200m in annual revenue. Prior to InfluxData, Evan served as Executive in Residence at Trinity Ventures;President and CEO at iPass Corporation (the leader in Global Wi-Fi connectivity); and Founder, Chairman, and CEO at Aventail Corporation (the pioneer of SSL VPN’s, now part of the Dell Corporation).