EdgeDB wants to modernize databases for cutting-edge apps

·4-min read

Databases are an essential part of doing business in the digital world, but not every organization is achieving success with them. In a 2019 Vanson Bourne survey, enterprises said that they've been held back by legacy database technologies -- specifically relational databases systems. Relational databases weren't designed with newer apps or the cloud in mind, the respondents said -- making them sometimes difficult to adapt and work with. According to the survey, 72% of companies believe their reliance on relational databases -- including architectures built around them -- limits their ability to implement digital transformation projects.

Unsurprisingly, companies are increasingly embracing alternatives to relational databases, like NoSQL. Driven by a lack of scalability with legacy solutions, they're looking for modern systems -- including cloud-based systems -- that support scaling while reducing costs and accelerating development. Gartner predicts that 75% of all databases will be migrated to a cloud service by 2022 -- highlighting the shift.

"The database industry is facing a major shift to a new business model," Yury Selivanov, the CEO of EdgeDB, a startup creating a next-gen database architecture, told TechCrunch via email. "It’s clear that there is a long tail of small- and medium-sized businesses that need to build software fast and then host their data in the cloud, preferably in a convenient and economical way."

Selivanov touts EdgeDB, which he co-founded in 2019 with Elvis Pranskevichus, as one of the solutions to the legacy database problem. EdgeDB's open source architecture is relational, but Selivanov says that it's engineered to solve some fundamental design flaws that make working with databases -- both relational and NoSQL -- unnecessarily onerous for enterprises.

"EdgeDB has a very ambitious goal: re-imagine relational databases with a focus on developer experience," Selivanov said. "We're quite unique at that. While most database companies are concerned with scalability, we want to make actual developers vastly more productive when they build with EdgeDB compared to when they build with any other database, be it SQL or NoSQL."

In launching EdgeDB, Selivanov and Pranskevichus drew from their experiences at MagicStack, a Toronto, Canada-based software consultancy that they helped to co-found in 2008. In 2016, after observing the database hurdles that many of MagicStack's clients were facing, Selivanov says that he and Pranskevichus realized the path forward was to become a product company.

Version 1.0 of EdgeDB quietly launched in February, and brought with it an integrated access control system and a query language, EdgeQL, that Selivanov claims is 10 to 1,000 times faster than traditional SQL (depending on the operation). Currently in the works is EdgeDB 2.0, which will introduce a database visualization UI and experimental support for WebAssembly, the open standard for running binary programs in web browsers.

As is the case with most startups involved in open source, EdgeDB aims to make money with a managed service built on top of its GitHub-hosted codebase. The forthcoming EdgeDB Cloud will offer a "rich" graphical UI and support for terminal commands to create a cloud database instance, Selivanov says, as well as integration with the frontend web app development stack Vercel.

"Our cloud database will track slow queries and suggest how to optimize the database layout or the queries. It will offer built-in performance tracing and turnkey integration with services like DataDog," Selivanov added. "We don’t yet have any machine learning related functionality, but we are thinking about potentially building some data science capabilities directly in our database ... We don’t have any concrete plans at this point, but this is an intriguing future vertical for us."

EdgeDB remains pre-revenue, but Selivanov expects the company to start generating cash in Q4 2022, the tentative launch window for the premium EdgeDB Cloud. To date, 10-employee, San Francisco, California-headquartered EdgeDB has raised $4 million from Accel and angel investors including Greg Brockman, a co-founder and the CTO of OpenAI.

"In some of the areas we will be competing with various companies for developers mindshare, like Prisma, Supabase and maybe PlanetScale," Selivanov admitted when asked about who he sees as top competitors. "[But] EdgeDB’s value proposition is unique as we drastically improve database data exchange across many areas simultaneously ... We already see a successful grassroot movement with people starting to build real production applications with EdgeDB. We expect the traction to accelerate as soon as we launch our cloud product and native integration with Vercel in about a month."