#RedisConf 2018 — Adoption, Caution, and Path Forward

Credit: https://redislabs.com/redis-enterprise/technology/

Redis/ Redis Labs

Redis is a popular open source, in-memory datastore, primarily used as cache, but also as a database and message queue. Redis Labs, the home of Redis, is a major contributor to the open source project and host RedisConf each year. They also recently launched Redis University to offer online tutorials. Redis Labs offers an enterprise version of Redis called Redis Enterprise, which is available as Redis Cloud on multiple clouds, and Redis Enterprise Software which supports additional features such as Active-Active, High Availability, support for SSDs, modules, etc

Adoption

As an in-memory database, Redis is well suited for use cases that require high speed/ near real time response — such as caching, text search, real-time analytics, operational transactions, etc. Redis is the most widely used NoSQL database on AWS according to a recent Sumo Logic report. It is also the most popular database downloaded from Docker Hub. Redis Enterprise also found adoption among thousands of enterprise customers such as Whitepages, Microsoft, Twitch, etc.

We had an opportunity to chat with Whitepages to learn more about their use case. They use Redis Enterprise to support their Identity Graph , a graph-structured database that stores billions of person-identity record. Before their Redis Enterprise based implementation, Whitepages stored all person-identity records in a key-value store on Amazon ElastiCache. However, this solution became difficult to manage as Whitepages grow its customer base across many countries and subsequently as the database grew in size. Whitepages also evaluated other NoSQL options such as MongoDB, Apache Cassandra, and Couchbase, but found them not able to meet their latency requirements.

Moving to Redis Enterprise enabled Whitepages to meet their sub-hundred millisecond customer SLAs. Employing Redis on Flash also enabled Whitepages to save on infrastructure costs.

Caution

On one hand, Redis Labs boasts most number of Docker Hub downloads (10M+) of any database. On the other hand, with only 8000 enterprise customers, conversion rates from open source Redis to Redis Enterprise don’t appear to be very high. Why so?

This is not unique to Redis Enterprise — almost all value-added software distributions on top of popular open source projects face this challenge. It highlights an interesting point about customer maturity. When a customer downloads and actively uses an open source project, it shows a certain level of technical maturity and willingness to take risk. When customers need guidance, hand-holding, stability, and support, they tend to seek vendor support or subscription based offerings. In the spectrum of customer maturity, these two types of customers are far apart. Many enterprise customers tend to be closer towards the latter and the number of downloads of an open source software does not necessarily reflect their usage patterns.

What this means is that conversion rate from open source to a paid version may not be the appropriate metric that indicates the success of Redis Enterprise. Instead, measuring the level of support for enterprise-level features (automation, high availability, supported integrations, and partnerships with cloud service providers) provided by Redis Enterprise and the number of users leveraging that might provide the best indicator of its success. While we don’t have access to numbers of users supported by Redis Labs in these ways, we do know that Redis Labs has established partnerships with cloud services providers and platform vendors towards this end.

Path Forward

Applications based on event-based communications, (aka Microservices based or Serverless based applications) are expected to find larger adoption across a variety of verticals/ use cases — particularly with IIoT/ Edge devices. Various surveys show that enterprises are also adopting Serverless/ Microservice applications sooner. A faster, more responsive database with Cloud Native integrations is key to enable such cases. Through its management features, integrations with Cloud Foundry and Kubernetes and partnerships with Pivotal and Red Hat, we expect Redis Enterprise to find wider adoption among such cases.

Disclaimer: Redis Labs paid for my travel to attend RedisConf 2018