DataStax focuses in on ease of use for developers with launch of Stargate API stack

Derek du Preez Profile picture for user ddpreez December 9, 2020
Usability for a diverse set of use cases is the name of the game for DataStax in 2020. Stargate aims to bring Cassandra to the masses.

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DataStax has today announced its new API stack, Stargate, which is now generally available on the company’s Astra cloud database and for free download on GitHub. Stargate is an interesting move for DataStax, as it acknowledges the need for the company to make the Cassandra database more accessible and easy to use, whilst also broadening the use cases it can be applied to. 


Essentially, Stargate is a data gateway that allows developers to use any data store for apps, by adding support for new APIs, data types and access methods. The idea is to remove the need for developers to work with different databases and different APIs to power their apps.

Cassandra, the NoSQL distributed database upon which DataStax has built its business, has a solid reputation for fuelling complex, large applications at scale. However, compared to the likes of MongoDB, which uses a JSON document model, DataStax hasn’t quite managed to build up the same reputation for ease of use and flexibility. Stargate goes some way to solving that - along with the announcement of the DataStax Astra cloud earlier this year. 

Simply put, Stargate is an open source API framework that enables developers to use their choice of schemaless JSON, GraphQL and REST APIs. DataStax said that developers will benefit from: 

  • Choice of APIs — Developers can use their choice of the REST API, GraphQL API or schemaless Document API to access data. 
  • No modeling — By using the Document API, developers can store JSON objects in Astra, without doing up front modeling. Developers can prototype without having to pre-define schema and queries.
  • Pay-as-you-use - The new serverless data storage capabilities in Astra enables a fully elastic pay-as-you-use model for usage above the free tier limits.
  • Multi-cloud — Developers have the freedom of choice to run on any cloud. They can start storing data immediately on the cloud of their choice and scale apps across AWS, GCP, and Azure. 


The full DataStax debrief 

We got the chance to speak with Ed Anuff, Chief Product Officer at DataStax, about the general availability release of Stargate this week. Anuff was frank in his assessment of why DataStax is pursuing this path for Cassandra, with ease of use for developers front and centre. He said: 

When we talked to developers and said, ‘Why aren't more developers using Cassandra?’, we found that it was still pretty hard to run. It’s a complicated piece of software. And when you talk to the developers and ask them what they're really looking for, it hadn't really kept pace with what people were doing, particularly Java stack developers, full stack developers. 

And so, this year we've really tried to solve those things. Cassandra is a distributed database, but now it's pretty trivial to set up, and we put it in the cloud, we created Astra. 


The idea [behind Stargate] was to go and say, how do we build APIs that developers want and need on top of Cassandra so that it’s just as simple to use as any other choice out there? Stargate is basically a data gateway that directly embeds into Cassandra. You start up Cassandra, you don’t have to do any configuration, it scales up automatically and handles all the REST APIs, all the GraphQL data, any JSON data - it does all of the translations right there in it.

The announcement today came with a whole host of customers that have had early access and are offering their voice of support to Stargate. Some of these include Burberry, Netflix, Standard Chartered and USAA. 


One other user is Yelp, a digital business that aims to connect people with local businesses. Anuff explained that the introduction of Stargate has allowed Yelp to stop writing their own middleware to connect Cassandra to front-end developers that are focused on GraphQL. He said: 

Yelp does location based services and they're just using open source Apache Cassandra. They’ve got their back-end systems that have been reading and writing for Cassandra, but they've also got their front end teams that have been shifting to GraphQL. 


What they were engaged in doing was basically writing a whole bunch of their own code, their own middleware, that would talk to Cassandra and turn it into GraphQL. It was something that they had to invest in and build out. And so when they saw that we were doing this, they just very quickly shifted over to it and said ‘this is great, we no longer have to go and build our own translation layers, we can now just have all of our dev teams just use Cassandra directly’.

And ultimately this is DataStax’s aim. It knows that for it to gain popularity at scale, it needs to make Cassandra easy to use for both the backend and front-end development teams. It hopes that Stargate can go some way to bridging that gap. Anuff added: 

We're seeing that every team, every company, whether large or small, that when using Cassandra they've got a data team. But all that data gets put to work in applications. And so, our goal right now is to bridge the data team and the application teams.


Let's get application teams not to view Cassandra as something that's ‘Hey, we didn't pick that, somebody else did’, but to get the app teams to say ‘Hey, this is pretty cool, I get it’.

My take


It has always been the case that DataStax - and therefore Cassandra - has a solid reputation for underpinning applications that scale for the internet age. The distributed nature of Cassandra is very suited to exactly that. However, it’s also true that DataStax was slow to make Cassandra easily accessible in the cloud and easy to use for developers across a wide variety of use cases. The announcements around Astra and Stargate this year shift the needle significantly in the right direction for DataStax. We look forward to seeing what else DataStax has in the pipeline and speaking to customers that are taking advantage of these new capabilities. 

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