Here is an interview with Tasso Argyros,the CTO and co-founder of Aster Data Systems (www.asterdata.com ) .Aster Data Systems is one of the first DBMS to tightly integrate SQL with MapReduce.
Ajay- Maths and Science students the world over are facing a major decline. What would you recommend to young students to get careers in science.
[TA] -My father is a professor of Mathematics and I spent a lot of my college time studying advanced math. What I would say to new students is that Math is not a way to get a job, it’s a way to learn how to think. As such, a Math education can lead to success in any discipline that requires intellectual abilities. As long as they take the time to specialize at some point – via postgraduate education or a job where they can learn a new discipline from smart people – they won’t regret the investment.
Ajay- Describe your career in Science particularly your time at Stanford. What made you think of starting up Asterdata. How important is it for a team rather than an individual to begin startups. Could you describe the startup moment when your team came together.
[TA] - While at Stanford I became very familiar with the world of startups through my advisor, David Cheriton (who was an angel investor in VMWare, Google and founder of two successful companies). My research was about processing large amounts of data on large, low-cost computer farms. A year into my research it became obvious that this approach had huge processingpower advantages and it was superior to anything else I could see in the marketplace. I then happened to meet my other two co-founders, Mayank Bawa & George Candea who were looking at a similar technical problem from the database and reliability perspective, respectively.
I distinctly remember George walking into my office one day (I barely knew him back then) and saying “I want talk to you about startups and the future” – the rest has become history.
Ajay- How would you describe your product Aster nCluster Cloud Edition to omebody who does not anything beyond the Traditional Server/ Datawarehouse technologies. Could you rate it against some known vendors and give a price point specific to what level of usage does the Total Cost of Ownership in Asterdata becomes cheaper than a say Oracle or a SAP or a Microsoft Datawarehosuing solution.
[TA]- Aster allows businesses to reduce the data analytics TCO in two interesting ways. First, it has a much lower hardware cost than any traditional DW technology because of its use of commodity servers or cloud infrastructure like Amazon EC2. Secondly, Aster has implemented a lot of innovations that simplify the (previously tedious and expensive) management of the system, which includes scaling the system elastically up/down as needed – so they are not paying for capacity they don’t need at a given point in time.
But cutting costs is one side of the equation; what makes me even more excited is the ability to make a business more profitable, competitive and efficient through analyzing more data at greaterdepth. We have customers that have cut their costs and increased their customers and revenue by using Aster to analyze their valuable (and usually underutilized) data. If you have data – and you think you’re not taking full advantage of it – Aster can help.
Ajay- I have always have this one favourite question.When can I analyze 100 giga bytes of data using just a browser and some statistical software like R or advanced forecasting softwares that are available.Describe some of Asterdata ‘s work in enhancing the analytical capabilities of big data.
Can I run R ( free -open source) on an on demand basis for an Asterdata solution. How much would it cost me to crunch 100 gb of data and make segmentations and models with say 50 hours of processing time per month
[TA]- One of the big innovations that Aster does it to allow analytical applications like R to be embedded in the database via our SQL/MapReduce framework. We actually have customers right now that are using R to do advanced analytics over terabytes of data. 100GB is actually on the lower end of what our software can enable and as such the cost would not be significant.
Ajay- What do people at Asterdata do when not making complex software.
[TA]- A lot of Asterites love to travel around the world – we are, after all, a very diverse company. We also love coffee, Indian food as well as international and US sports like soccer, cricket, cycling,and football!
Ajay- Name some competing products to Asterdata and where Asterdata products are more suitable for a TCO viewpoint. Name specific areas where you would not recommend your own products.
[TA]- We go against products like Orace database, Teradata and IBM DB2. If you need to do analytics over 100s of GBs or terabytes of data, our price/performance ratio would be orders of magnitude better.
Ajay- How do you convince named and experienced VC’s Sequia Capital to invest in a start-up ( eg I could do with some server costs coming financing)
[TA]- You need to convince Sequoia of three things. (a) that the market you’re going after is very large (in the billions of dollars, if you’re successful). (b) that your team is the best set of people that could ever come together to solve the particular problem you’re trying to solve. And (c) that the technology you’ve developed gives you an “unfair advantage” over incumbents or new market entrants. Most importantly, you have to smile a lot! J
Tasso (Tassos) Argyros is the CTO and co-founder of Aster Data Systems, where he is responsible for all product and engineering operations of the company. Tasso was recently recognized as one ofBusinessWeek’s Best Young Tech Entrepreneurs for 2009 and was an SAP fellow at the Stanford Computer Science department. Prior to Aster, Tasso was pursuing a Ph.D. in the Stanford Distributed Systems Group with a focus on designing cluster architectures for fast, parallel data processing using large farms of commodity servers. He holds an MsC in Computer Science from Stanford University and a Diploma in Computer and Electrical Engineering from Technical University of Athens.
Aster Data Systems is a proven leader in high-performance database systems for data warehousing and analytics – the first DBMS to tightly integrate SQL with MapReduce – providing deep insights on data analyzed on clusters of low-cost commodity hardware.
The Aster nCluster database cost-effectively powers frontline analytic applications for companies such as MySpace, aCerno (an Akamai company), and ShareThis. Running on low-cost off-the-shelf hardware, and providing ‘hands-free’ administration, Aster enables enterprises to meet their data warehousing needs within their budget.
Aster is headquartered in San Carlos, California and is backed by Sequoia Capital, JAFCO Ventures, IVP, Cambrian Ventures, and First-Round Capital, as well as industry visionaries including David Cheriton, Rajeev Motwani and Ron Conway.