Apache Cassandra – the Highly Scalable NoSQL Database

The NoSQL database movement happened because traditional relational databases simply don’t work as well in the highly distributed environments typical of today’s Web infrastructure. We recently covered the NoSQL graph database, Neo4j, here at the blog. It serves the needs of those looking to find relationships between records within huge Big Data stores.

This time out, we train our eye towards Apache Cassandra. Leveraging a key-value storage model, Cassandra offers high scalability and latency across widely distributed data centers. Read further to see if this NoSQL database makes sense for your organization’s data management needs.

The Genesis of Cassandra

Cassandra began as an internal project at Facebook. It actually powered the auto-complete functionality in the social network’s search box. Facebook released the project into the open source community in 2008. It became an Apache Software Foundation top level project in 2010 after two years in the incubator.

The latest release of Cassandra – 3.10 – became available in February of this year. As a fully open source database, it is downloadable for free. A free application with cross-platform support for most popular operating systems makes it worth checking out on a pilot project at your organization. Driver support exists for many current programming languages, like Java (using JDBC), Python, Node.js, Go, and C++.

Enterprises looking for a commercial NoSQL solution built upon Cassandra need to check out DataStax’s offerings. That company is known as the leading commercial provider of support for the database.

Cassandra’s Features and Functionality

Highly scalable distributed performance is Cassandra’s major calling card. DataStax provides a white paper comparing third-party benchmarks of a few of the most popular NoSQL databases (MongoDB, Couchbase, Hive), which revealed Cassandra as the top performer by a wide margin. Fault tolerance and replication are also seamlessly handled across a multitude of data centers – an important feature considering the modern global business landscape.

Impressive scalability also distinguishes Cassandra from similar NoSQL database products. Many enterprise users of the database boast massive production deployments, highlighted by Apple’s 10 petabytes of data spread over 75,000 nodes. Netflix also stores 420 terabytes of data across 2,500 nodes. Needless to say, Cassandra has rapidly become the database of choice for these enormous chunks of Big Data.

The database’s architecture provides no single points of failure; ensuring access to the data isn’t hampered by large amounts of network traffic. Since every node is identical, an entire data center can go offline without any loss of data. This kind of durability makes Cassandra very attractive to businesses with mission-critical applications – built-in support for multiple data centers is another plus.

Adding new servers to a deployment is also a breeze, according to DataStax’s lead Cassandra evangelist, Patrick McFadin. “You simply boot up a new machine and tell Cassandra where the other nodes are and it takes care of the rest,” said McFadin.

Superior horizontal scalability combined with ease of administration make Cassandra a worthy option for businesses looking to embrace NoSQL for their modern database needs. Its driver support for most popular languages lets developers come up to speed quickly. This is one open source database worth checking out.

Stay tuned to the Betica Blog for additional dispatches from the wide world of software development. As always – thanks for reading!

Improving the QA Process at an Agile Office

Companies of all sizes continue to embrace the Agile methodology with the hopes of making their software development process more efficient and subsequently more productive. Agile emphasizes collaboration and communication and it is able to react to changes better than older methodologies, like the Waterfall. It is a perfect match for today’s fast-paced, competitive business world.

A faster software engineering process, however, doesn’t mean companies should forego testing and quality assurance. Unfortunately, it seems businesses are struggling with software QA within an Agile framework, according to a recent survey of development shops. Let’s take a closer look at the study’s findings with the hopes of improving the QA role at Agile shops.

Testing Tool Provider, Zephyr, looks at QA in the Business World

Zephyr, a company making applications to support software testing, annually releases a study focused the QA role within the business community. Called “How the World Tests,” it is available as a free download from their website. Managers in the software development and QA role need to check out the full study with its findings and predictions for the coming year.

Hamesh Chawla, vice president of engineering at Zephyr, commented on the purpose of their study. “‘How the World Tests’ allows the entire testing community to examine our progress over the last year. IT teams want to speed up deployment of new software to meet demand. Companies should increase employee education investments in order to fine-tune the most efficient automated tests that work for any software they develop,” said Chawla.

Quality assurance remains a vital part of the SDLC no matter the choice of methodology. Even so, we are going to focus on one area within the survey — the difficulties Agile shops are experiencing with QA on software projects. SD Times also covered this topic in a recent article.

The Major Problems of Software Testing and Agile

The Zephyr study noted three major problems development teams were experiencing when it comes to testing with Agile. They are the lack of automation tools, constantly changing requirements, and not enough time for thorough testing. Companies understand automation is important in helping QA keep up with the rapid pace of an Agile project, but only 45 percent of the survey respondents felt their organization had the competency to employ automated testing.

Chawla feels companies need to invest in automation tools and the training to leverage them properly within the Agile process. Of course, he works at a testing tool company, but that fact doesn’t lessen the impact of his statement. Software development teams also use other recent innovations, like containers and virtualization, to make the overall process faster.

Businesses also need to invest more dollars in employee development to ensure a better understanding of Agile and everyone’s role within the framework. Involving QA personnel at every step of the SDLC is also important – a traditional complaint of software testers for decades. The reengineering of testing processes to better fit within the Agile structure is another key point of improvement from the survey.

Ultimately, organizations need to understand that Agile doesn’t just mean “faster.” A well-considered process that properly includes the QA role is a requirement to ensure successful product delivery.

When you need additional insights on the world of software development, you know where to turn: The Betica Blog. As always, thanks for reading!

Is FaaS – Features-as-a-Service – the Next Big Thing in Software Development?

The growing popularity of the Cloud-based service model has led to a plethora of acronyms ending in “aaS.” Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), and Database-as-a-Service (DBaaS) remain three of the most common examples of these service offerings in the tech industry. Businesses of all sizes enjoy cost savings by leveraging the Cloud in this manner.

Now software developers, trying to keep up in an increasingly rapid business world, have their own Cloud-based service acronym. Enter Features-as-a-Service (FaaS). Does FaaS give application engineers the chance to build more functional software faster and at a lower cost? Let’s take a look.

Code Reuse in a Cloud-based Wrapper

Code reuse is a traditional way for programmers to accomplish more by doing less. It’s one of the reasons libraries and APIs are so popular throughout the industry. We’ve covered this technology and API Testing extensively in the past on this very blog.

FaaS essentially just makes this process more componentized; delivering a library of functionality in a convenient Cloud-based wrapper for software engineers to use in their own applications. Instead of spending time reinventing the wheel, developers are able to focus on the unique functionality that makes their app special. Technology VP, JT Ripton commented on the FaaS trend

“Whereas on the backend developers already are using pay-as-you-go infrastructure such as Amazon Web Services for cloud computing and services such as Stripe for payment processing, FaaS takes the same approach but applies it to the front end,” said Ripton. He also notes developers struggling with implementing a public API need to consider FaaS as an option when speed is of the essence.

Scenarios where Usage of a FaaS is Smart

A variety of FaaS providers are currently supporting common functional areas within applications, potentially saving development teams both time and money. Mapbox is one such provider worthy of consideration when compared to Google’s Map API and its arcane documentation. A plug-and-play model simply works more efficiently in today’s era of Agile and DevOps.

Social interactivity is another good example. There is no need to build social functionality from scratch, when a provider like Tapglue offers their own FaaS. Their service includes functionality supporting user profiles and news feeds, as well as interactive features like sharing, commenting, and more.

Agora.io offers a FaaS that adds real time communication – voice and video – to an application. This would be a boon for a game developer working on a MMORPG or any other type of multiplayer title. Concentrate on your game’s functionality; not on getting codecs to work properly on a variety of devices.

Ripton stresses the essential difference between FaaS and other types of code reuse like an API is the front-end component. This is especially useful for teams without their own UI design talent. He feels this is a natural progression on how software gets written.

“FaaS is just the next evolution of the mashup and code reuse trend that’s been picking up steam over the past several decades. It isn’t a “revolutionary” idea, or even truly innovative. But it is perfectly in line with the way we code today — it is a new application of something we’ve seen before,” said Ripton.

Stay tuned to the Betica Blog for additional insights from an ever-changing software development world. Thanks for reading!