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Last week, from September 10th to the 12th, San Francisco was home to Cassandra Summit 2014, the world’s largest gathering of Cassandra Developers. On the agenda were lots of training exercises, exploring data modeling, performance tuning, architecture review and more. It gave the Cassandra community from all over the world a chance to meet and discuss all things data.

We interviewed our very own Head of Engineering & Measurement, Victor Anjos, who was won Cassandra’s MVP award this year! We couldn’t be prouder, so we sat down to get his take on the Summit, his award status and Cassandra itself.

What was your favourite part of the Cassandra Summit?

Victor: The learning aspects at the Summit were great. I find that getting more people involved and learning this technology can only benefit the ecosystem that is being built around Cassandra and lead to engineers being more prepared for the data issues of tomorrow.

How does it feel being Canada’s only Cassandra MVP?

Victor: It’s a great honour to just be nominated and absolutely incredible to have received the award. It just goes to show how forward thinking we are as an organization here at Viafoura that we are well ahead of the curve with our technology use. Not only do we use Cassandra, but we live, breathe and bleed NoSQL here. Denormalization is the norm and we aim to be as Agile as possible with our product decisions based on the awesome time-series capabilities that Cassandra affords us.

How did you become involved with Cassandra?

Victor: It all started out as a pet project, where I was hacking against Cassandra in different databases in proof of concepts to see which would lend itself well to absolute scalability. Coming from a relational world where MySQL, Oracle and DB2 were my go-to tools, I could see the writing on the wall, with the push to Big Data and the infamous “Internet of Things”, that the days were (and are) numbered for a strictly RDBMS world. After trying other datastores such as Couchbase, HP Vertica, Redis, Riak, MongoDB and HBase (just to name a few), I finally got serious with it and went to Cassandra. I had read all the Big Table and Dynamo papers that were released in the mid 2000s and knew that this would be the winner from the moment I started using it.

The point at which everything really materialized for me was when I took over Engineering at Viafoura. At this point, I could now have a more biased agenda because I was ultimately the one in charge and all technological decisions passed through me. This was right around the time when Cassandra 1.2 came out – which made the learning curve much better for the rest of our Engineers.

It was around this time that I saw a call-out to Toronto Engineers to lead and promote the datastore through a meetup group – which I jumped at. I have merely been doing my best to get more people working with and adopting Cassandra in Toronto ever since. I see the landscape starting to change, but Toronto (and Canada as a whole) is generally behind San Francisco (and most of the United States) by a few years. It seems that most companies here like to “play it safe” and adhere to the motto of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. At Viafoura, we prefer to do things in a much more forward-thinking manner – we like to innovate and be ready to grow. This way, we’ll reap the benefits as we scale immensely without much worry (and with ZERO downtime).

Why are you so committed to promoting Cassandra?

Much like how Cassandra is based around community (that is, everything is a cluster where no node is more important than the other), we want to ensure that Canada gains traction in using Cassandra and that it helps build a cluster-like community here. I currently speak and exchange ideas with all the other Cassandra MVPs, but I am very lonely up here in Canada.

It’s extremely nice to think in terms of being the only, but I would much rather have several MVPs up here. I really want to challenge Toronto and the entire country actually, to get on with it. As the Raptors famously put it; “We The North” — REPRESENT!

Do you see Cassandra as a game-changer, or something that can put many technology companies today at a competitive advantage?

For my competitors – not at all! I think they should remain with their current technologies and not bother changing. They’re fine the way they are and should keep doing what they’re doing.

For all others (and competitors – please stop reading here) – I absolutely think that in the world today, with data no longer being simply important to house, but also to keep historical events as they occur, a database that is built in a manner to allow you to constantly write to it, in ways that are modeled to reflect the real world and not an abstract view of it, is a must. The “Internet of Things” has brought on a day where companies who are early adopters of this technology will get such a huge leap forward that competition may not have a chance to catch up.

I truly believe that this is yet another paradigm shift (forward) in storing data. I have worked in insurance, telecommunications, hardware design and digital and built wonderful data-warehousing technologies for them that cost several millions of dollars to accomplish what I could on Cassandra for orders of magnitude less. Imagine a telecommunications company dealing with all its billing, its offers and its customer base on commodity hardware rather than full-rack $10,000,000 servers with a SAN connected to them! With Cassandra and SSDs – it’s a reality.

You run the Toronto Cassandra Users Meetup Group. What are these meetups about and how do the attendees benefit?

Victor: Our meetups range in topics from a 101-level meetup (held every so often) to a deep dive into Cassandra internals such as what Gossip is all about, where do memtables get written to, what are bloom filters, etc.

As mentioned earlier, the Toronto ecosystem is growing, so we are seeing more and more people coming out to these. I am doing my best to spread the word and we have a great partnership with DataStax in hosting these events. I often times get most of my material from real-world experience, but once in a while will see what the other Cassandra MVPs have been talking about and relay some of their knowledge.

It’s always a great pleasure to be a part of a community, and Victor’s always keeping us up to date on the most relevant, effective and efficient technologies that only serve to benefit us and the community at large. We can’t stress enough how proud we are of him, and kudos! Viahighfive!


Interviewed as Canada’s Only Cassandra MVP

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