Since its inception, KX has been the exclusive domain of skilled programmers in the q language and is primarily used for the most demanding analytical workloads in the capital markets. As these use cases continue, the company is now seeking a larger audience, as demonstrated today by the unveiling of support for Python and SQL in KX Insights, its cloud-based offering.
The legend of Arthur Whitney was created at the intersection of high performance computing and Wall Street. As co-founder of KX (formerly Kx Systems) and creator of q and two other languages, A + and k, Whitney found ways to maximize throughput from the limited computing capacity available in the 1970s and 1980s.
KX has built a reputation for working with big data even before big data was a thing. Its customers could not only analyze large amounts of data in real time, but also compare it to large historical data sets. Time series data was a specialty of KX, especially among equity traders looking for an edge, any edge, hidden in the data.
But the language q has limited the adoption of the Kdb + database. Customers had to learn to write in q and use the database to take advantage of the analysis and modeling capabilities supported by KX. The company has established itself on Wall Street and has clients in telecommunications, manufacturing and auto racing. But he hasn’t enjoyed the kind of widespread success that matches his underlying abilities.
By allowing data analysts and data scientists to use SQL and Python respectively to access data stored in the KX environment, KX has significantly expanded the pool of developers who will be exposed to KX, said Eric Raab, who has joins the company as a new CTO. seven months ago.
“Due to its esoteric nature, Kdb + is extremely good but also limited to skilled practitioners of Kdb + and the q language,” Raab told Datanami. “What we hope [supporting SQL and Python] will do is to open up a universe of developers and data scientists who can work with Kdb + beyond what they already have.
The company offers full ANSI SQL in-database support, which means any query that can be written to target other databases must work with Kdb +. New language support, along with an ODBC connector under development, immediately puts Kdb + on the map for millions of data analysts and data scientists passionate about SQL.
“There is already a lot of data in Kdb + with our current customers, so that’s where we’ll start. This will allow these people to access company data without necessarily being trained on q, ”says Raab. “The next step will be for people who just want to improve the performance and other benefits of Kdb + and they will learn how to use Python with KDB, as this will change from what they are currently doing. “
KX announced support for Python and SQL in KX Insights, the new cloud-based version of Kdb + which is supported by all three cloud providers (although Raab says the version on AWS is the more mature) . KX Insights has been available since March and customers are starting to use it, Raab said.
However, support for Python and SQL will also be available in the on-premises versions of Kdb +. “Yes, it also works on-premises, equivalent to how it works in the cloud,” says Raab. “So if existing customers want it, they can get it. It’s an update.
Exposing Kdb + to SQL and Python doesn’t necessarily mean developers will automatically gain all of the benefits and analysis capabilities of KX Insight, says Raab. They will still have to pay attention to their p’s and q’s to take advantage of the system (well, maybe not the q’s).
“Just like when they learned SQL, you need to learn how to make a proper plan and prune your joins in the most efficient way,” says Raab. “You have to do the same, except it will be Kdb + behind, as opposed to PostgreSQL. “
But if users do it right, they should perform on par or even better than native q development, Raab. Plus, it will be available to a much larger audience, which should help KX spread its mantra and grow its customer base and subscribers.
“This is one of the reasons I was hired, to change the culture of the company,” explains the former Information Builders executive. “This is a question that the management team and the employees at this point all believe. But it’s a change and there’s got to be a lot of realignment as you go along with it. And that’s where in the process to go. Python is a big part of it. SQL is a big part of it. The move to the cloud is a big part of it. “
Gone are the days when KX users were members of a secret club, or at the very least, they are numbered.
“When I joined the company, I spoke to clients, to an engineer, and a lot of them liked that it was a secret. They liked that they had to find out, ”says Raab. “One of the attractions was the nature scavenger hunt of the discovery of this hidden gem among the plethora of modern languages. They alone held the secret key and they were able to unlock all this performance and algorithmic treasure that others did not have access to.
“It was really cool back then,” Raab continues. “But you reach a point of scale where you have to go beyond. We have reached this point of scale and we are opening it to a wider audience, of course consciously. We don’t want to lose [customer trust]. But we want more people to recognize the value of what we do.
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