30 Days of Relational AI

There was a show called “30 Days” where people would be inserted in to a lifestyle completely different from their beliefs to see what would happen. The idea wasn’t so much to change their mind, but to help them (and the viewer) understand a little bit of both sides. My experience with Declarative Query languages so far has led me to the belief that they were ultimately a performance dead end. I’ve always known more than the database, which allowed me to hand-craft high performance queries using stored procedures. Building RageDB I decided to stay away from query languages, going as far as letting you write part of your query in “c” if you wanted to.

One day, I was preparing for a presentation and looking at all the graph database companies that had raised money when Jake Graham mentioned I had missed RelationalAI. At that point I had never heard of them since they were in some kind of stealth mode. I met with Molham Aref and I didn’t believe what they were building. A new database, a brand new crazy fast multi-way join algorithm, a unique way of modeling data with narrow tables, a new piece-wise declarative language that allows the database to know as much as the developer, a “semantic” query optimizer that generates optimized algorithms using all the math they can cram into it, incremental updates driven by a dependency graph over the complete stack… cloud native, infinitely scalable, the works. RelationalAI is building the future.

Surely you’ve seen The Mother of All Demos by Douglas Engelbart, maybe Bret Victor’s talk Inventing on Principle or even In Search of Tomorrow by Chris Granger. My first 30 days at RelationalAI gives me that same feeling of what is possible if we reinvent the way we work with data. Watch this monster talk by Martin Bravenboer and you’ll see what I mean.

Let me ask you something: have you ever been in the middle of debugging some crazy 100 lines long SQL query when you get interrupted by a tap on the shoulder? It is the worst. It used to take me at least 10 minutes to re-read everything and get all that code back in to my head. I used to be jealous of application developers that could work one end of line semicolon at a time. Developers that would abstract away anything over 20 lines into a separate method so it wouldn’t clutter up their mental model. I wish we had that in SQL…but we don’t. There was a brief moment in time when the NoSQL “movement” started when I really thought we were going to replace SQL with something better. But instead all the vendors capitulated and added SQL to everything.

This new language Relational AI is building is called “Rel”. It’s the fulfillment of the promise the NoSQL movement failed to deliver. It gives database developers the same capability to abstract away concepts, to write code in small pieces, to join those pieces together into something greater than the sum of their parts and to have the optimizer make it all faster than hand-written code. I know, I didn’t believe it either until I saw it. That’s the reason I got hired. I’m a skeptic. If they can convince me, if I can convince myself, then we can convince you to give it a try…and yes they have an alternate SQL interface for the die hards.

The team is over 130 people, 1 out of 3 have a PhD, and I’m surely one of the least educated people there. The company is distributed all across the world. Everything is recorded. There are so many videos to watch, so much content to go through. My title is Developer Relations Engineer which is usually shortened to “DevRel” which is funny since my role is to make more “Rel Devs”. My job is to learn the system and be able to teach it to others like me. Developers who didn’t learn or don’t remember first order logic or abstract algebra. I’m going to help build an on-ramp so that anyone that can use Excel will be able to use RelationalAI. The start will be those closest to the data: Database developers, DBAs, and Data Engineers. We’re going to take their skills in modeling data from the bottom tier up to the middle tier. We’re going to empower them.

If you want to be the first kid on your block to see the future of databases, come and join us. Relational AI just announced their Series B and is hiring in all areas. Otherwise tell your friends and stay tuned.

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