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New Client Profile: Fauna

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About

Fauna was founded in 2012 by Evan Weaver and Matt Freels, who before forming Fauna helped build the data platform that backed Twitter. In the intervening years the company has raised nearly $60M and has grown the team to roughly 40 people.

Fauna positions itself as a data layer for the serverless ecosystem, which is a notable framing; while their core product is FaunaDB, a distributed database, the company’s positioning is less around the database itself and is instead more focused on the database’s APIs. Fauna’s goal is to abstract away complexity and allow a broader range of developers to take advantage of the platform they’ve built.

Product

FaunaDB is a multi-model database supporting relational, document, and graph data structures. It supports globally-distributed ACID transactions, with a transaction system inspired by Calvin, a CP (consistent/partition tolerant) transaction protocol. The database can be accessed via two APIs: a GraphQL implementation or the Fauna Query Language (FQL).

Fauna is a 100% SaaS-based solution.

Competitive Landscape

Fauna is embracing a bottoms-up go to market approach that is targeted at developers. While there are many potential datastore competitors, when scoped to distributed, managed database services targeted towards developers, the most direct competitors to Fauna are MongoDB’s Atlas and Amazon Web Service’s (AWS) DynamoDB.

MongoDB has demonstrated developers’ appetite for a simple development model in terms of access to data; part of the reason the database became so widely deployed is because it was simple for developers to use and had well-considered API surfaces. This is especially true among JavaScript developers, where the JSON model suited a wide range of application types. MongoDB’s managed service product, Atlas, increases that ease of access. MongoDB is known more for its accessibility than its scale and reliability, so that will be a competitive differentiator Fauna will try to bring to bear, but any data platform that wants to be broadly accepted by developer communities should see MongoDB as a competitor.

As AWS grows as a deployment target for workloads, their data services will increasingly be part of the developer tool belt. DynamoDB’s hosted services have the potential to be a default choice for developers looking to move quickly and develop with velocity. Like MongoDB, DynamoDB shows that accessibility and distribution are virtues a modern data platform is going to have to provide.

Client-Serverless

While it’s important to consider Fauna’s datastore competitors, it’s also worth commenting on the broader context of the company’s serverless and API positioning.

Applications are increasingly composite; rather than building functionality from the ground up, instead apps are assembled from developer-friendly, API-driven managed services. From commerce to identity management to security functionality (and that is just scratching the surface), developers and enterprises are increasingly relying on third-party services to augment their applications’ core capabilities.

These backend services –accessed via API– combined with a wave of rich JavaScript-based front ends is driving the emergence of a new two-tier application development model. Our industry has massively swung towards three-tier applications in the past decade, but in this two-tier model we see rich front end orchestration over a host of API-driven backend services.

Fauna describes this new paradigm with the term ‘client-serverless.’ This terminology harkens back to the historical idea of the client-server two-tier model, but updates it for this modern era of APIs and powerful front ends.

By focusing their storytelling on their data API layer and serverless operations, Fauna seeks to position its product as a data enabler of this rising development model.

*Disclaimer: Fauna is a RedMonk client, but this research was not commissioned and all opinions were independently produced. MongoDB and AWS are also RedMonk clients.

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