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Aiven expands in APAC, builds new capabilities

Managed service provider of open source databases and data platforms Aiven grew its business in Asia-Pacific by over 100% over the past year, and is now building new capabilities in data warehouses and other areas

Aiven has been expanding its footprint in Asia-Pacific (APAC), growing its revenues and headcount by over 100% over the past year alone.

It recently appointed a new regional vice-president, Olivier van Grembergen, to build on that momentum and capitalise on the growing opportunities in managed services for databases and data platforms.

Headquartered in Helsinki, Aiven provides managed services for open source databases such as postgreSQL and MySQL, as well as a managed service for Apache Kafka, the open source event streaming platform which accounts for the bulk of its revenues.

Before Aiven established a presence in APAC, the company had not focused on growing its business in the region even through it had local customers that sought out its services, said Oskari Saarenmaa, CEO and co-founder of Aiven.

“Some customers from APAC found us online early on, but we’ve never really focused on our go-to-market in this region,” Saarenmaa said. “It was more opportunistic and while we were very happy to have those customers, it was more of them finding us rather than us making a deliberate effort to market to local customers.”

Aiven now sees more opportunities from customers in APAC that are building next-generation applications and technologies, not just migrating existing workloads – such as on-premise databases – to the cloud, Saarenmaa said.

In Indonesia, those customers include GoTo Financial, which is using Aiven’s managed Kafka service to consolidate separate Kafka instances. Saarenmaa said most Kafka customers also tend to use Aiven’s database offerings to store their events data.

Japan, where Aiven has a team of five people, is another market with great potential, given that it is the world’s third largest economy with room to grow in terms of cloud adoption, Saarenmaa said.

“It’s a very interesting market for us, but we also realised that Japan is very far behind in adopting cloud technologies. It’s just a matter of time before everybody moves to the cloud, so we have to find the right partners who are trusted by customers looking to reinvent themselves.”

Competitive landscape

The market for managed services for databases and data platforms is dotted with players such as public cloud providers that host not only their own proprietary cloud databases, but also open source databases. In addition, there are commercial open source companies such as Confluent that offer managed Kafka services.

Saarenmaa said Aiven delivers its services through major public cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud, and while its customers are customers of those hyperscalers, they may not want to lock themselves into proprietary cloud databases.

“We also have ISV [independent software vendor] customers who are building software for their customers in different public clouds and we are able to provide them with a solution that offers the same experience across all of them,” he added.

On the competition with Confluent, Saarenmaa pointed out that customers will only be able to get Kafka services from its rival, but “oftentimes when you’re building something big and complex, you need things beyond Kafka”.

“You need databases, metrics and monitoring systems, so you’d need to approach other vendors to get access to a suite of solutions, or you could work with us who can give you one platform with all these technologies,” he added.

Saarenmaa also warned about “proprietary licences” that some commercial open source companies apply to much of their technology, noting that while “you are still allowed to look at the code, they don’t allow you to build a business on the code”.

Product enhancements

Since Aiven started in 2016, much of the expansion of its capabilities involved bringing in new database engines, but its intention was not to host every possible database under the sun, Saarenmaa said.

“It’s more about looking at the kinds of jobs our users have to do today and the problems they face. Sometimes, they need to know their metrics better, or get better insights about their development pipelines,” Saarenmaa said.

To that, Aiven recently acquired Kafkawize, a governance tool for Apache Kafka that provides an interface for managing topic-level operations in Kafka. It has been renamed Klaw and will continue to be developed as an open source project.

“We are the stewards of the project and, of course, making sure that it integrates very well with our offerings. But it’s not exclusive to Aiven – we also want to allow others to make the most out of Kafka with this tool.”

Aiven has also entered the cloud data warehouse market with a managed service for Clickhouse, an open-source data warehouse, pitting itself against the likes of Snowflake.

While it might seem like Aiven is adding another database engine into its fold, Saarenmaa said Clickhouse is better suited for analytics use cases, plugging a gap in the company’s portfolio.

Aiven is now looking to build more machine learning capabilities into its platform. “With the large number of systems we’re running, we could be doing much more with machine learning based on what we know about our current runtime environment.

“There are some things that we are building for our own use, but we also want to productise them for the benefit of our customers,” Saarenmaa said.

Read more about database technology in APAC

  • EnterpriseDB has seen more enterprises in the region replacing their Oracle databases with Postgres to support their digital transformation initiatives
  • Neo4j is partnering with consulting firm Deloitte to meet the demand for graph technology on the back of its growing business in the ASEAN region. 
  • TigerGraph is approaching the Asia-Pacific region with a solution-based strategy and partnering with universities to grow local capabilities. 
  • MongoDB teams up with Alibaba Cloud to expand its presence in Asia-Pacific as it prepares to release a serverless variant of the open source database.

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