How to Accelerate Analytics for SaaS Developers


Domenic Ravita

VP, Product Marketing & Developer Relations

How to Accelerate Analytics for SaaS Developers

Everyone remembers their first experience in a Tesla. Mine was in Las Vegas with a good friend and CIO. I was in town for a tech conference and that provided a good opportunity to reconnect and discuss a new project. He offered to pick me up at my hotel. That was the moment I was first introduced to Tesla’s unique Ludicrous mode. It was exhilarating. The Strip became one long, breathless blur. If you haven’t experienced zero to 60 mph in 2.2 seconds, take a look at the “Tesla reactions” genre of videos online.

breakthroughs-in-scaling-data-analyticsBreakthroughs in Scaling Data Analytics

Wouldn’t it be great to get that kind of reaction to your product experience? Whether your customers are launching queries for generating fastboards, leaderboards for gaming analytics, filtering audience views, or generating BI reports, a constant challenge is scaling your data infrastructure without slowing your services or showing your users the dreaded spinning wait animation. It may be time to hit the accelerator on the analytics in your SaaS product to give your users the thrill of your version of Ludicrous mode. SingleStore is the data engine that powers Ludicrous mode for real-time, interactive data analytics in your SaaS applications.

As an application developer, you generally choose the database that you’re familiar with, is general purpose, and has broad support. If you’re building in a cloud environment, this often leads you to a hosted relational database, like Azure SQL, AWS RDS for MySQL or Google Cloud SQL. These work fine early on, but start to show cracks as your SaaS product gains rapid adoption. This is the moment you start to encounter data bottlenecks which show up in your customer experience. Solving the data bottlenecks is the essential thing to get right and is the frequent obstacle. How can you ensure backend scalability while simultaneously focusing on delivering a simple, easy-to-use service?

When application developer Gerry Morgan started encountering data bottlenecks in DailyVest’s portfolio analytics API for their 401(k) customers, he and fellow engineer Kevin Lindroos identified the culprit as their AzureSQL database. While it had served them well initially, as data grew their costs grew but performance was never more than simply adequate. As they extrapolated their customer growth plans, they determined that they needed a better way to control costs as they grew their customers. So, they began the search for a new database platform that could support their growth and the ad hoc analytical queries over large data volumes their portfolio analytics product required. This led them to consider columnstore databases.

For application developers unfamiliar with columnstores, they are generally best for analytical workloads whereas rowstores are generally best at transactional workloads. (Should you use a rowstore or columnstore?) After investigating columnstore databases such as AWS RedShift, Vertica, MariaDB, and kdb+, they discovered SingleStore met - or rather exceeded - all of their requirements. The benefits were clear. It had a better total cost of ownership, provided a managed service in Azure, executed stored procedures multiple times faster than AzureSQL, and accelerated database backups from 1 hour to just 10 minutes. To learn more about how these application developers scaled and accelerated the analytics in their SaaS applications, watch How DailyVest Drove a 90% Performance Improvement.

For IEX Cloud, the data bottleneck they encountered when scaling their cloud service was a little different. IEX Cloud is a division of IEX Group, the company made famous by Michael Lewis’ 2014 book “Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt”. The key service IEX Cloud delivers is a real-time financial market data API. It requires the collection and aggregation of many historical and real-time data sources which are then processed and served to their customers. Balancing the flow of data from disparate sources and to over 130,000 consumers with serving over 1.5 billion API responses per day and 800,000 data operations per second demands quite a lot of simultaneous read and write volume on their database backend. Tracking the real-time changes in stock prices is a write-intensive operation while serving billions of API requests against that fast-changing data is read-intensive. Serving real-time streaming analytics with metrics like P/E ratios and market capitalization on real-time streaming data and historical data adds compute-intensive workloads to the mix. Furthermore, as a data aggregator, IEX Cloud must refresh reference data from many 100s of providers throughout the day through ETL. They expect the number of ETL processes will soon be in the 1000s. Compounding the situation, daily market volatility correlates to volatility in the volume of API traffic from their customers.

IEX Cloud needed improved performance in multiple areas that their initial Google Cloud SQL for MySQL service wasn’t delivering. These requirements include high performance bulk-loaded data through ETL, streaming data ingestion, store all the data, perform real-time analytics, low latency responses to many parallel API requests, and the ability to easily scale horizontally. After trying a variety of database types, including CockroachDB, YugaByte, Clickhouse, and Google BigQuery, IEX Cloud found that only SingleStore could satisfy all of their requirements, and do it in just one system that was cost-effective, had an established community, and good support. Learn more about this SaaS analytics scaling challenge in The FinTech Disruption of IEX Cloud webinar.

common-first-stepsCommon First Steps

When performance and scaling issues arise, application developers are among the first to know in today’s DevOps world. Application performance monitoring alerts the team and triage get into motion. At this point, if a DBA is available the investigation begins, queries are profiled and indexes are modified or added. If handling read volume is the issue, a common technique is to provide a read replica by replicating from the primary database. This offloads work, but at the cost of adding latency and duplicating data. If the data is fast-changing, the approach is less effective as the data in the replica is out-of-date all too often.

Caching is the next option for scaling read-heavy workloads. You’ve seen it work great for static assets in Gatsby, Next.js, or React Static, but managing your dynamic business data this way is another animal. Managing cache eviction is complicated and expensive for fast-changing data. Another challenge is that the size of your cached data must fit into the memory of a single machine. This works well for small datasets, but you’ll soon be looking for a way to scale the cache if your data is large. Scaling out a cache by adding more nodes, for Redis for instance, provides the availability of data but at the cost of data consistency. It also adds infrastructure and more complexity.

Another option for scaling is to use database partitioning. This technique cuts the data into sizes that will fit into a single server, no matter how much data you have. There are various types of partitioning/sharding to ensure no downtime or data loss in the event of a node failing. There are various approaches for partitioning and indexing the data based on your queries. You can try to do this yourself, but it may get you more than you bargained as an application developer. There is an easier way which provides the scalability with the speed and simplicity you need.

solving-for-scale-simplySolving for Scale, Simply

SingleStore solves 3 key challenges for SaaS applications which embed live or real-time analytics without the need of changing your application design, adding a cache, manual partitioning, or other external middleware:

  • Scaling Data Ingest
  • Scaling Low Latency Queries
  • Scaling User Concurrency

SingleStore is a distributed, highly-scalable SQL database. This is an important characteristic as it’s the foundation for how it addresses each of the SaaS analytics scaling issues. For scaling data ingestion, SingleStore breaks the scaling bottleneck by providing parallel ingestion from distributed streaming sources in addition to bulk data loads. As mentioned earlier, both are important for IEX Cloud’s analytics API. Next, query responses can return trillions of rows per second on tables with over 50 billion records. This is the kind of low latency query speed that makes fans out of your SaaS application users. Finally, SingleStore scales to meet the need of your growing customers through support for high concurrency. For Nucleus Security, every millisecond matters when it comes to thwarting cyberattacks. Their original database choice was MariaDB but it failed to keep up with their needs to perform more frequent vulnerability scans and serve real-time analytics to a quickly growing number of government users. SingleStore delivered the high concurrency needed for their rapidly growing SaaS applications while dramatically improving performance by 50x, at ⅓ the costs of the alternatives. Scott Kuffer, co-founder of Nucleus Security, describes the details in the Every Millisecond Counts in Cybersecurity webinar.

Every successful SaaS application includes analytics either as a core offering or as an adjunct feature. Analytics places increased demand on the database. Customers won't wait for your spinning animation while their data loads. So, it is imperative to deliver the app and the analytics fast. Otherwise, you see more incidents raised, negative reviews are posted on social feeds and review sites, and you may find that your customer churn increases. In short, your business goes down and you have to fight to get your growth back. This can happen in the blink of an eye when switching costs are relatively low for SaaS services. That’s no way to claim your slice of the \$157 billion global SaaS application market.

SingleStore accelerates and scales the analytics in your SaaS application by delivering scalable data ingestion with single millisecond low latency queries queries, and high concurrency. But beyond the ludicrous speeds and thrills it delivers, our customers rave about our customer support and optimization services, our established robust community, and how cost-effective the solution is. To learn more about Singlestore Helios to scale the analytics in your SaaS application, join us for the upcoming webinar on April 8.