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PlanetScale launches new database-as-a-service platform

The main vendor behind the open source Vitess distributed SQL cloud platform for MySQL is out with a new cloud platform that will integrate well with developer-based workflows.

PlanetScale today launched a new database-as-a-service platform, with capabilities to help application developers scale distributed SQL applications in the cloud.

This isn't the first time PlanetScale has introduced a cloud database service. The vendor, based in San Francisco, released its initial commercial cloud platform in April 2020.

PlanetScale is the lead commercial vendor behind the open source Vitess project, which enables deployment of a distributed MySQL database in the cloud.

The new PlanetScale database as a service (DBaaS) goes beyond the first platform, which was just a hosted instance of Vitess. With the new platform, PlanetScale is now offering a consumption-based model for its cloud database, which includes additional management and developer-focused features such as database branching.

With database branching, developers can work on different database schemas in development, which can then be merged and reconciled in production.

John Santaferraro, research director at Enterprise Management Associates, said he sees the PlanetScale DBaaS as addressing a need for MySQL cloud database deployment scalability that has persisted for more than a decade.

"MySQL is widely used by digital companies and available as a managed service, but scaling introduces excessive complexity and cost," Santaferraro commented.

Santaferraro added that the idea that developers can use PlanetScale with relative ease, and scale to the size of hyperscaler vendors such as YouTube and GitHub, which are also Vitess users, makes it an attractive offer for companies of all sizes, in all industries.

Screenshot of PlanetScale DBaaS
PlanetScale is adding database schema branching capabilities to its new cloud DBaaS offering that enables a developer-focused workflow for application development.

Moving from hosted Vitess to PlanetScale DBaaS

Sam Lambert, chief product officer at PlanetScale, explained that the new DBaaS platform is an entirely new service. The new offering is a fully managed service that provides usage-based pricing that is driven by the resources that the user consumes.

"This product is a database platform that is useful for developers from day one and everything you're seeing is brand-new," Lambert emphasized.

Lambert added that the open source Vitess technology is still at the core, but everything else that is on top of it, including interface, management and scalability options, is a completely new product built over the last six months.

Vitess is a popular open source project that is now part of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation. Vitess was originally created by software engineers working at YouTube, including PlanetScale co-founder and CTO Sugu Sougoumarane.

MySQL is widely used by digital companies and available as a managed service, but scaling introduces excessive complexity and cost.
John SantaferraroResearch director, Enterprise Management Associates

Branching is a key PlanetScale DBaaS feature

Among the new features that the PlanetScale DBaaS introduces is a capability known as branching. Branching is familiar to software developers who use the Git version control system, in which different branches can be worked on by teams and then reconciled for a final release.

Branching should not be confused with snapshotting, an approach that database administrators have long used to capture the state of data at a given point in time. Lambert explained that snapshotting deals with point-in-time static data, while branching is a live environment. Within a branch, a developer can choose to try out different database schemas.

Deepthi Sigireddi, software engineer at PlanetScale, explained that with a snapshot, the focus is on data, while with branching the focus is on metadata. She noted that any snapshot data that is put into a branch is typically just for testing, and the main production branch is the source of truth for the data.

What's next for PlanetScale DBaaS

With the new release, Lambert said that PlanetScale can more easily fit into common developer workflows, such as GitOps. With GitOps, a Git source code repository is used as a source of truth for configurations in applications and operations.

"[PlanetScale DBaaS] is very much built for GitOps," Lambert said. "We give you a branch of your database, just like a Git branch, you can make your changes there, stage them and push them through."

Lambert said future development of the PlanetScale DBaaS will continue to focus on the developer workflow, making the database a more integrated part of developer tooling and operations.

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