Will Wilson's comment about Apple open-sourcing FoundationDB

5th January 2021 at 11:31am

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16877401 by Will Wilson

This is INCREDIBLE news! FoundationDB is the greatest piece of software I’ve ever worked on or used, and an amazing primitive for anybody who’s building distributed systems.

The short version is that FDB is a massively scalable and fast transactional distributed database with some of the best testing and fault-tolerance on earth[1]. It’s in widespread production use at Apple and several other major companies.

But the really interesting part is that it provides an extremely efficient and low-level interface for any other system that needs to scalably store consistent state. At FoundationDB (the company) our initial push was to use this to write multiple different database frontends with different data models and query languages (a SQL database, a document database, etc.) which all stored their data in the same underlying system. A customer could then pick whichever one they wanted, or even pick a bunch of them and only have to worry about operating one distributed stateful thing.

But if anything, that’s too modest a vision! It’s trivial to implement the Zookeeper API on top of FoundationDB, so there’s another thing you don’t have to run. How about metadata storage for a distributed filesystem? Perfect use case. How about distributed task queues? Bring it on. How about replacing your Lucene/ElasticSearch index with something that actually scales and works? Great idea!

And this is why this move is actually genius for Apple too. There are a hundred such layers that could be written, SHOULD be written. But Apple is a focused company, and there’s no reason they should write them all themselves. Each one that the community produces, however, will help Apple to further leverage their investment in FoundationDB. It’s really smart.

I could talk about this system for ages, and am happy to answer questions in this thread. But for now, HUGE congratulations to the FDB team at Apple and HUGE thanks to the executives and other stakeholders who made this happen.

Now I’m going to go think about what layers I want to build…

[1] Yes, yes, we ran Jepsen on it ourselves and found no problems. In fact, our everyday testing was way more brutal than Jepsen, I gave a talk about it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4fFDFbi3toc

Backlinks: FoundationDB is a foundation for database