How Fauna is trying to push serverless database technology

Since 2015, Fauna has been expanding its serverless database technology as a developer-centric platform to help businesses build a range of data-driven applications, including e-commerce, web development, and gaming.

fauna is a NoSQL database platformand it has developed its own Fauna query language (FQL) for data queries. On November 17, the vendor made publicly available an intelligent routing capability that enables organizations to better manage and access fauna database deployments around the world. The new feature builds on other upgrades the provider released in 2022, including the debut of Real Time Streaming support in March.

Fauna competes with several developer-oriented databases, including Planetscale and CockroachDB, both of which offer serverless platforms.

Fauna has been led by CEO Eric Berg since 2000, who positioned the vendor’s technology with a database-as-API approach. In this Q&A, Berg outlines the direction the serverless database platform is moving as it brings relational capabilities to its NoSQL platform.

What is the Document Relational model at the heart of the serverless Fauna database?

Fauna CEO Eric BergEric Berg

Eric Berg: Fauna is a different kind of database architecture; we call it document-relational. It’s basically a document-based NoSQL store. But we bring in the power of relationships and foreign keys to create relationships between these documents. We also have a query language that is much more like what you can do in a traditional relational database.

Fauna is also distributed by default. We use a Calvin-based read-ahead protocol to be able to distribute and replicate data that provides responsiveness and brings data closer to your users. It gives you reliability as you span across regions.

What does the term mean Serverless database actually mean, and how is it different with fauna?

Mountains: People will call all sorts of things serverless. For some, it’s just a pricing model where users can consume things as needed and pay as needed. However, everything behind the scenes is still physical as vendors build clusters of Kubernetes containers and virtual machines.

People will call all sorts of things serverless.

Eric BergCEO, Fauna

When we think of serverless, we think more of API service platforms like Stripe or Twilio, but of an operational database. There is no need to choose a machine or memory and be aware of the physical nature of the hardware. You sign up, choose a region group, create a database, and then just get started. It’s an API delivery model.

Databases have migrated from on-premises deployments to the cloud. And what we do is a database as an API. So it’s a next level of abstraction.

Why not provide a SQL based approach to fauna?

Mountains: Our query language is not SQL. We effectively have a structural programming language using FQL, a query language that you use to represent business logic with custom functions that run in context of data in Fauna.

We come with a developer-friendly approach with a modern language that we think works well for semi-structured, interactive applications. Our bet is you can do better than SQL when it comes to developers using semi-structured data for interactive web applications today.

How do you solve SQL compatibility challenges?

Mountains: There are several ways to deal with the SQL compatibility challenge. There are use cases where companies need to pull data from fauna to work on it from an analytical perspective.

We recently previewed an Airbyte connector that helps. Airbyte is a popular open source ETL [extract, transform, load] Tool. So that’s a possibility if you want to transfer data from Fauna to a data warehouse like Amazon Redshift or Snowflake to work with SQL and data analytics use cases.

Over time we will also have this capability natively in Fauna when you need to be able to perform some basic management tasks using business intelligence and SQL tools directly on the data. That’s something we don’t offer today. But I see that in the fullness of time.

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for clarity and conciseness

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