Exploring The TileDB Universal Data Engine


August 17th, 2020

1 hr 5 mins 44 secs

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About this Episode


Most databases are designed to work with textual data, with some special purpose engines that support domain specific formats. TileDB is a data engine that was built to support every type of data by using multi-dimensional arrays as the foundational primitive. In this episode the creator and founder of TileDB shares how he first started working on the underlying technology and the benefits of using a single engine for efficiently storing and querying any form of data. He also discusses the shifts in database architectures from vertically integrated monoliths to separately deployed layers, and the approach he is taking with TileDB cloud to embed the authorization into the storage engine, while providing a flexible interface for compute. This was a great conversation about a different approach to database architecture and how that enables a more flexible way to store and interact with data to power better data sharing and new opportunities for blending specialized domains.


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  • Your host is Tobias Macey and today I’m interviewing Stavros Papadopoulos about TileDB, the universal storage engine


  • Introduction
  • How did you get involved in the area of data management?
  • Can you start by describing what TileDB is and the problem that you are trying to solve with it?
    • What was your motivation for building it?
  • What are the main use cases or problem domains that you are trying to solve for?
    • What are the shortcomings of existing approaches to database design that prevent them from being useful for these applications?
  • What are the benefits of using matrices for data processing and domain modeling?
    • What are the challenges that you have faced in storing and processing sparse matrices efficiently?
    • How does the usage of matrices as the foundational primitive affect the way that users should think about data modeling?
  • What are the benefits of unbundling the storage engine from the processing layer
  • Can you describe how TileDB embedded is architected?
    • How has the design evolved since you first began working on it?
  • What is your approach to integrating with the broader ecosystem of data storage and processing utilities?
  • What does the workflow look like for someone using TileDB?
  • What is required to deploy TileDB in a production context?
  • How is the built in data versioning implemented?
    • What is the user experience for interacting with different versions of datasets?
    • How do you manage the lifecycle of versioned data to allow garbage collection?
  • How are you managing the governance and ongoing sustainability of the open source project, and the commercial offerings that you are building on top of it?
  • What are the most interesting, unexpected, or innovative ways that you have seen TileDB used?
  • What have you found to be the most interesting, unexpected, or challenging aspects of building TileDB?
  • What features or capabilities are you consciously deciding not to implement?
  • When is TileDB the wrong choice?
  • What do you have planned for the future of TileDB?

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Parting Question

  • From your perspective, what is the biggest gap in the tooling or technology for data management today?


The intro and outro music is from The Hug by The Freak Fandango Orchestra / CC BY-SA

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