Data Council Blog

Data Council Blog

Storing Cold Metadata, Snowflake Data Cloud, and More: Top 10 Links From Across the Web

Here's our January 2021 roundup of links from across the web that could be relevant to you:

1. Storing Cold Metadata with Alki (Dropbox)

Dropbox shared insights into Alki, the petabyte-scale metadata store it designed for infrequently accessed metadata (“cold data”). The post details how one-size-fits-all database Edgestore was reaching capacity limits, and why audit logs were a good candidate to be moved elsewhere than on costly SSDs. After considering off-the-shelf options, the team settled on building its own solution on top of AWS services: Alki; with DynamoDB as the hot store, and S3 as the cold store. Like HBase or Cassandra, Alki is based on log-structured merge-trees (LSM trees), but is better suited to handle hot-then-cold audit logs, as well as future use cases at Dropbox.

The Modern Data Stack, Metadata Architectures, and More: Top 10 Links From Across the Web

Here's our December 2020 roundup of links from across the web that could be relevant to you:

1. The Modern Data Stack (Fishtown Analytics)

This long-form post on the dbt blog is a must-read. Titled “The Modern Data Stack: Past, Present, and Future,” it answers the question that Tristan Handy has been asking himself for the past two years: “What happened to the massive innovation we saw from 2012-2016?” His carefully thought-out analysis covers the natural cycles of technological shifts, defines the phase we are in as a ‘deployment’ one, and points out high-impact opportunity areas for the next few years - which you might find particularly useful if you are considering launching a new product.

NLP Heroes, Pinot, Data Testing, and More: Top 10 Links From Across the Web

Here's our November 2020 roundup of good reads and podcast episodes that might be relevant for your career in data:

1. Heroes of NLP: Quoc Le (

NLP researcher Quoc Le was recently Andrew Ng’s guest as part of the ‘Heroes of NLP’ video series. Their discussion covered Le’s impressive journey, from growing up in Vietnam and developing his first basic chatbot in high school to becoming Google Brain’s first intern, and everything that followed. This includes the ‘Google Cat’ experiment, the Meena chatbot project, and work on Seq2Seq models. Check out the conversation here, and consider subscribing to the series to hear from other guests such as Chris Manning, Kathleen McKeown, and Oren Etzioni.

State of AI, Data Quality, and More: Top 10 Links From Across the Web

Here's our October 2020 roundup of good reads and podcast episodes that might be relevant to you as a data professional:

1. Multiplayer Editing: a Pragmatic Approach (Hex)

Data collaboration startup Hex published a great long read on its approach to live collaboration . Written by software engineer Mac Lockard, it takes a look at the respective pros and cons of Operational Transforms and Conflict-free Replicated Data Types (CRDTs), before explaining the solution that Hex adopted. Inspired by Figma's hybrid approach, it can also be described as "Atomic Operations (AO), as all edits to application state are broken down to their smallest atomic parts." "If the application you are building can rely on last-writer-wins semantics, Atomic Operations might provide a more pragmatic approach," the post concludes. This is a highly recommended read if you are pondering about a similar decision.  

Hot Data Tools pt. 2, End-to-End Data Scientists, and More: Top 10 Links From Across the Web

Here's our September 2020 roundup of good reads and podcast episodes that might be relevant to you as a data professional:

1. What Data Tools Don't Do (Data Council)

Our founder Pete Soderling co-authored a follow-on piece to his previous post with Great Expectations' core contributor Abe Gong and Partner at Amplify Partners Sarah Catanzaro, for which they had interviewed the makers of some of the hottest data tools. The focus is still the same: rather than what their data tools can do, we hear about what they don't do, as a way to better understand how they fit together. From ApertureData to Xplenty, this new installment covers 21 new tools, and you can read it here.

Open Source Highlight: Cube.js

Cube.js is an open source analytics framework meant to answer the "lack of tools for software engineers who are building production, customer-facing applications and need to embed analytics features into these applications," its co-founder and CEO Artyom Keydunov explained in a blog post

How to "Democratize" the Responsibility for Data Quality Across your Organization



Writing endless data transformations wasn't sustainable for an engineering team handling hundreds of inputs. Here's how Clover Health enabled their business users to help.

It's rare to find an ETL system that's completely static. As organizations change and grow they develop new business requirements. Because of this their data pipelines must change and adapt, ultimately becoming more robust and full-featured. Yet constant development can make already brittle ETL systems seem even more fragile.

Furthermore, systems with large numbers of different types of inputs bring special challenges - building, testing and managing an exploding number of data transformations can become a daunting project for the engineering team. 

The Clover Health ETL system supports hundreds of inputs and more than 500 custom transformations in production as well as a large number of custom connections between their different ETL pipelines. When hearing about the magnitude of the system, one might rightfully wonder, "how does Clover guarantee and maintain data quality across so many different inputs and transforms?"

Exploring the development trajectory of Clover's system makes for a fascinating story; hearing about their data team's successes and pitfalls are illustrative lessons to other engineers as they seek to increase the robustness of their own ETL systems.

The Future of Distributed Databases is Relational



What if developers could ditch their No-SQL solutions and still get scalability from a more traditional relational datastore?

I've been noticing an interesting pattern recently where developers seem to be rejecting some of the newer, more en vogue data stores with limited functionality and use-cases (while promising easier scale) and returning to the comfortable tried-and-true paradigm of relational databases. It seems that we've hit a watershed point where developers finally believe they don't necessarily need to make a trade-off between database features on one hand and easy scalability on the other.

One such company enabling this return to the golden era of of RDBMS is Citus Data. Citus is blazing a trail in 'cloud-proofing' the gold standard of relational databases, PostgreSQL, through extensions that allow their customers to achieve much easier horizontal scalability than ever before. 

How Dremio Uses Apache Arrow to Increase the Performance


(Image source:

What if all the best open-source data platforms could easily share, ("ahem,") data with each other?

As data has proliferated and open-source software (OSS) has continued to dominate both the stacks and the business models of the top tech companies in the world, the number of different types of data platforms and tools we've seen emerge has accelerated.

Having a hard time keeping up with the differences between Kudu, Parquet, Cassandra, HBase, Spark, Drill and Impala? You're not alone, and obviously this is one of the reasons we bring together top OSS contributors to these platforms to share at DataEngConf.

But there's one new innovation that attempts to bind all the above projects together by enabling them to share a common memory format. It's a new top level Apache Project called Arrow that aims to dramatically decrease the amount of wasted computation that occurs when serializing and deserializing memory objects. The serialization pattern is commonly used when building analytics applications that interact between data systems which have their own internal memory representations.  

Introducing our Data Startups Track


Machine Learning, Neural Nets, "AI" and Computer Vision are changing the world. Discover the data startups that matter.

As an engineer turned founder I've been passionate for years about helping other technical founders succeed. There are a unique set of challenges faced by founders, and building support communities to help them successfully overcome their obstacles helps move innovation forward. 

More broadly speaking, I'm also a proponent of bringing engineers together - hence our efforts in the data community via meetups, our conference series and via organizing other, smaller, events for engineers, data scientists and CTOs through Hakka Labs for the past 5 years.

This is why I'm so excited to be introducing the intersection of these two efforts - supporting startups and supporting the data community - into our upcoming DataEngConf NYC.

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