Join the Journey of Self-Discovery With RisingWave
Curious to know more about the fascinating adaptations we've made? Here's a sneak peek into our journey.
RisingWave, a distributed stream processing system developed since early 2021, has always positioned itself as one that helps users build real-time applications with simplicity and efficiency.
Since its official open-source release on GitHub in April 2022 under the Apache 2.0 license, the RisingWave project has undergone continuous iterations, ensuring constant improvement and adaptability. This system has been successfully deployed in numerous enterprises of various sizes, garnering hundreds of daily Kubernetes deployments worldwide.
Despite the continuous development of our product as planned, our promotional message has undergone multiple revisions over the past 18 months, with adjustments to our slogan taking place approximately every two to three months. Here are the promotional slogans we have employed:
- Version 1 RisingWave: a cloud-native streaming database
- Version 2 RisingWave: a streaming database in the cloud
- Version 3 RisingWave: a distributed SQL streaming database in the cloud
- Version 4 RisingWave: a distributed SQL database for stream processing
- Version 5 SQL stream processing with a Postgres-like experience — more than a modern alternative to Apache Flink
- Version 6 SQL stream processing with a Postgres-like experience; 10X faster and more cost-efficient than Apache Flink
From a company perspective, frequently changing promotional slogans could be tricky as it requires creating new promotional materials and adjusting marketing strategies. However, modifying the slogans shows our continuous updates in positioning our product. Ultimately, developing a new project involves a process of self-discovery and finding our place. In this article, I will share our journey behind these changes and the reasons behind them.
The first change: From "Cloud-Native" to "In the Cloud"
The initial slogan of RisingWave in 2021 was "a cloud-native streaming database." However, during our gradual introduction to the public, we encountered an issue: many people needed to familiarize themselves with "cloud-native."
The term "cloud-native" carries multiple interpretations. Does it mean that RisingWave is exclusively available in the cloud? Does it utilize cloud infrastructure services? Does it support Kubernetes deployment? Does it have cloud-friendly designs? When the audience starts speculating about different meanings, it becomes challenging for the presenter. After all, most audiences don't want to invest time in understanding a product they aren't genuinely interested in.
Realizing this, we made our first change: we removed the term "cloud-native" and directly described RisingWave as a streaming database "in the cloud." This new slogan is clear and easy to understand: RisingWave is a product designed for the cloud. As for the architecture, deployment methods, and other details, we left them for the interested audience to explore further.
The second change: From "Streaming Database" to "Distributed SQL Streaming Database"
After changing RisingWave's slogan to "in the cloud" streaming database, we no longer struggled with explaining the term "cloud-native." However, as we continued introducing RisingWave to a broader audience, another challenge emerged: understanding what a "streaming database" is and how it is used.
We remained determined to use the term "streaming database" (and still do), but we wanted to convey to users how they can utilize RisingWave. After all, as a stream processing system, the ability to interact with SQL significantly lowers the entry barrier for users, which is a valuable selling point.
Considering these factors, we incorporated the keyword "SQL" and mentioned that RisingWave is a "distributed" system. This small change explicitly indicates the usage of RisingWave, making it easier for us to communicate with our audience.
The third change: From "Streaming Database" to "Database for Stream Processing"
The decision to abandon the term "streaming database" in our promotional slogan was a significant one made by our team towards the end of 2022. Letting go of a term we had been using for over a year was not an easy choice and came with its own set of challenges. However, the reasons behind this decision became clear: explaining the concept of a "streaming database" proved to be quite difficult.
By October 2022, we had transitioned from internal development to the gradual external rollout of our product. During our interactions with potential users, we often encountered confusion surrounding the term "streaming database." The word "streaming" typically implies real-time processing, and "streaming database" sounded similar to well-known databases focused on real-time analytics like ClickHouse, Apache Druid, and Apache Pinot. However, RisingWave's positioning was fundamentally different from these databases, as it complemented them in terms of usage scenarios. Moreover, explaining a "streaming database" as a system combining stream processing and database functionalities led to further confusion: Is it primarily a stream processing system or a database?
Rather than sticking to a term requiring extensive explanation, we returned to the core principles and provided a more straightforward answer. Hence, we chose to position RisingWave simply as a "database" specifically designed for stream processing. This shift allowed us to avoid the difficulties of distinguishing between a "streaming database" and a "real-time analytics database" and instead focus on promoting the concept of stream processing.
The fourth change: From "Database" to "PostgreSQL and Flink"
The fourth change occurred in April 2023, following RisingWave's first anniversary of its open-source release. At this point, we had gained many early users and aimed to expand our reach to a more extensive potential user base. Transitioning from individualized communication to mass dissemination required a significant transformation in our approach.
In one-on-one interactions, we had the opportunity to provide detailed explanations of RisingWave and tailor solutions to specific usage scenarios. However, addressing a broader audience meant we no longer had the luxury of engaging in private discussions. Additionally, most individuals needed more motivation to comprehend emerging technologies fully. People naturally gravitate toward what they already know and interpret the outside world based on their existing perspectives.
This reality prompted a complete shift in our promotional strategy: instead of explaining what RisingWave is; we now focus on demonstrating where RisingWave fits into users' existing technical stack.
For data engineers, two well-known systems are PostgreSQL and Apache Flink: PostgreSQL is one of the most popular databases worldwide, while Flink is one of the most popular stream processing systems. RisingWave is wire-compatible with PostgreSQL, allowing users to perform stream processing like they use PostgreSQL, while its use cases align with those of Flink. Therefore, describing RisingWave as "SQL stream processing with a Postgres-like experience; more than a modern alternative to Apache Flink" becomes a straightforward and easily understandable message.
While Apache Flink holds symbolic significance as an established stream processing product in the big data world, we acknowledge that the landscape has evolved with the advent of cloud computing. Just as Hadoop represented the big data era driven by MapReduce, it is widely recognized that products from that era could not sustain their leadership in the cloud era. However, as a newcomer without extensive data support, we choose to describe our relationship with the pioneering system more respectfully. That's why the fourth change describes RisingWave as "more than a modern alternative to Flink."
The fifth change: From "Alternative to Flink" to "10X Faster than Flink"
Two months after the fourth revision, we changed our promotional slogan, adopting a more assertive strategy by directly stating that "RisingWave is 10X faster than Flink." This decision was driven by two factors: first, the release of RisingWave's stable version, RisingWave 1.0, in July 2023, and second, months of extensive performance testing that gave us the confidence to make this claim.
Engineers familiar with performance evaluations can easily understand how tricky benchmarking can be, and so do our engineers. We don't really want to turn "benchmarking" into "benchmarketing." We do admit that achieving a 10-fold performance boost over competitors like Apache Flink can be challenging, but our soon-to-be publicly accessible results consistently arrived at the following conclusions:
- RisingWave demonstrates a performance improvement of 10-30% over Flink when processing stateless computations;
- RisingWave showcases a performance improvement of up to 600X over Flink in complex stateful computations.
Considering the need for a more conservative marketing approach, we chose to use the "10X" figure.
It is worth mentioning that RisingWave is one of many streaming processing systems to achieve a 10X performance improvement over Flink. Three years ago, the original Flink team from TU Berlin's database group developed a new streaming engine called NebulaStream, which achieved a similar performance boost. Like NebulaStream, RisingWave has clear reasons behind its significant performance advantages over Flink:
- It utilizes Rust, a high-performance programming language, instead of JVM languages.
- It optimizes database operators directly without intermediate abstractions, similar to MapReduce.
- It incorporates storage-aware computing and leverages improved storage structures to accelerate computations.
As a system accumulates practical experience and garners strong data support, challenging its predecessors becomes a compelling demonstration of technological innovation.
This article has highlighted the various adaptations in RisingWave’s advertising strategies throughout the past year. These adjustments reflect RisingWave’s ongoing quest to define its unique identity. As time passes, we are confident that RisingWave will persistently refine its advertising slogans and ultimately discover the one that truly captures its essence.