Cockroach Labs announces serverless version of SQL database

Cockroach Labs, the makers of CockroachDB, announced a public beta of a new serverless version of its SQL database today, giving developers an easier way to access database resources that scale up and down without having to explicitly define them.

Company co-founder and CEO Spencer Kimball says that the goal is to reduce complexity for developers, while providing a granular pricing structure. “[The serverless product] eliminates decision points upfront for the developer, which is quite important. But then the other thing that’s [a big advantage] is that you can be billed for fine-grained usage, so you only get charged for exactly what you use,” he told me.

The key thing with a serverless approach to the database is that it eliminates all of the capacity planning and everything associated with that for developers. That means they no longer have to predict the number of nodes or machine types that they will need to run their application. Instead, they simply point to the Cockroach serverless database and it will provide the exact number of resources required to run the workload. That might not even be a full node if the workload doesn’t require that.

While this involves using shared resources, Kimball points out that when it comes to individual data, that will always be isolated on the back end. “The important part where your actual data is unencrypted is completely isolated to any particular developer or use case. So there is still isolation, but on the back end a lot of the data storage and retrieval organization tasks are being shared across a large number of machines and essentially what that allows us to do is efficiently use the resources,” he said.

He says this ability to share resources efficiently has enabled the company to offer a generous free tier to developers to build their applications and not have to pay until it really begins to take off. What’s more, if you have bursty workloads, the resources will scale up and down for you automatically as needed, and you can dictate how much you’re willing to spend so the resources don’t outpace your ability to pay for them — an important point when you’re automating capacity in this way.

Kimball says the company doesn’t ask for a credit card until you cross the threshold of the free tier into a paid one, so you won’t be surprised with a bill if your application suddenly takes off. While he describes the free tier as generous, the exact details of these pricing tiers were still being worked out.

The serverless product is available in public beta today.

Cockroach Labs was founded in 2015 and has raised more than $355 million, according to Crunchbase data. Its most recent funding was a $160 million Series E at a $2 billion valuation in January.