Ayende @ Rahien

Oren Eini aka Ayende Rahien CEO of Hibernating Rhinos LTD, which develops RavenDB, a NoSQL Open Source Document Database.

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time to read 7 min | 1203 words

I have been doing Open Source work for just under twenty years at this point. I have been paying my mortgage from Open Source software for about 15.  I’m stating that to explain that I have spent quite a lot of time struggling with the inherent tension between having an Open Source project and getting paid.

I wrote about it a few times in the past. It is not a trivial problem, and the core of the issue is not something that you can easily solve with technical means. I ran into this fascinating thread on Twitter that over the weekend:

And another part of that is here:

I’m quoting the most relevant pieces, but the idea is pretty simple.

Donations don’t work, period. They don’t work not because companies are evil or developers don’t want to pay for Open Source. They don’t work because it takes a huge amount of effort to actually get paid.

If you are an independent developer, your purchasing process goes something like this:

  1. I would like to use this thing
  2. I need to pay for that
  3. The price matches the value I’m getting
  4. Where is my credit card…
  5. Paid!

Did you note step 2? The part about needing to pay?

If you don’t have that step, what will happen? Same scenario, an independent developer:

  1. I would like to use this thing
  2. I use this thing
  3. It would be great to pay something to show my appreciation
  4. Where did I put the credit card? Oh, it’s down the hall… I’ll get to that later (never).

That is in the best-case scenario where the thought of donating actually crossed your mind. In most likelihood, the process is more:

  1. I would like to use this thing
  2. I use this thing
  3. Ticket closed, what is the next one… ?

Now, what happens if you are not an independent developer? Let’s say that you are a contract worker for a company. You need to talk to your contact person, they will need to get purchasing approval. Depending on the amount, that may require escalating upward a few levels, etc.

Let’s say that the amount is under 100$, so basically within the budgetary discretion of the first manager you run into. They would still need to know what they are paying for, what they are getting out of that (they need to justify that). If this is a donation, welcome to the beauty of tax codes in multiple jurisdictions and what counts as such. If this is not a donation, what do they get? That means that you now have to do a meeting, potentially multiple ones. Present your case, open a new supplier at the company, etc.

The cost of all of those is high, both in time and money. Or… you can just nuget add-package and move on.

In the case of RavenDB, it is an Open Source software (a license to match, code is freely available), but we treat it as a commercial project for all intents and purposes. If you want to install RavenDB, you’ll get a popup saying you need a license, directing you to a page where you see how much we would like to get and what do you get in return, etc. That means that from a commercial perspective, we are in a familiar ground for companies.  They are used to paying for software, and there isn’t an option to just move on to the next task.

There is another really important consideration here. In the ideal Open Source donation model, money just shows up in your account. In the commercial world, there is a huge amount of work that is required to get things done. That is when you have a model where “the software does not work without a purchase”.  To give some context, 22% is Sales & Marketing and they spent around 21.8 billion in 2022 on Sales & Marketing. That is literally billions being spent to make sales.

If you want to make money, you are going to invest in sales, sales strategy, etc. I’m ignoring marketing here because if you are expected to make money from Open Source, you likely already have a project well-known enough to at least get started.

That means that you need to figure out what you are charging for, how do you get customers, etc. In the case of RavenDB, we use the per-core model, which is a good indication of how much use the user is getting from RavenDB. LLBLGen Pro, on the other hand, they are charging per seat. Particular’s NServiceBus uses a per endpoint / number of messages a day model.

There is no one model that fits all. And you need to be able to tailor your pricing model to how your users think about your software.

So pricing strategy, creating a proper incentive to purchase (hard limit, usually) and some sales organization to actually drive all of that are absolutely required.

Notice what is missing here? GitHub. It simply has no role at all up to this point. So why the title of this post?

There is one really big problem with getting paid that GitHub can solve for Open Source (and in general, I guess).

The whole process of actually getting paid is absolutely atrocious. In the best case, you need to create a supplier at the customer, fill up various forms (no, we don’t use child labor or slaves, indeed), figure out all sorts of weird roles (German tax authority requires special dispensation, and let’s not talk about getting paid from India, etc). Welcome to Anti Money Laundering roles and GDPR compliance with Known Your Customer and SOC 2 regulations. The last sentence is basically nonsense words, but I understand that if you chant it long enough, you get money in the end.

What GitHub can do is be a payment pipe. Since presumably your organization is already set up with them in place, you can get them to do the invoicing, collecting the payment, etc. And in the end, you get the money.

That sounds exactly like GitHub Sponsorships, right? Except that in this case, this is no a donation. This is a flat-out simple transaction, with GitHub as the medium. The idea is that you have a limit, which you enforce, on your usage, and GitHub is how you are paid. The ability to do it in this fashion may make things easier, but I would assume that there are about three books worth of regulations and EULAs to go through to make it actually successful.

Yet, as far as I’m concerned, that is really the only important role that we have for GitHub here.

That is not a small thing, mind. But it isn’t a magic bullet.

time to read 2 min | 270 words

I found myself today needing to upload a file to S3, the upload size is a few hundred GBs in size. I expected the appropriate command, like so:

aws s3api put-object --bucket twitter-2020-rvn-dump --key mydb.backup --body ./mydb.backup

But then I realized that this is uploading a few hundred GB file to S3, which may take a while. The command doesn’t have any progress information, so I had no way to figure out where it is at.

I decided to see what I can poke around to find, first, I ran this command:

ps -aux | grep s3api

This gave me the PID of the upload process in question.

Then I checked the file descriptors for this process, like so:

$ ls -alh /proc/84957/fd

total 0
dr-x------ 2 ubuntu ubuntu  0 Mar 30 08:10 .
dr-xr-xr-x 9 ubuntu ubuntu  0 Mar 30 08:00 ..
lrwx------ 1 ubuntu ubuntu 64 Mar 30 08:10 0 -> /dev/pts/8
lrwx------ 1 ubuntu ubuntu 64 Mar 30 08:10 1 -> /dev/pts/8
lrwx------ 1 ubuntu ubuntu 64 Mar 30 08:10 2 -> /dev/pts/8
lr-x------ 1 ubuntu ubuntu 64 Mar 30 08:10 3 -> /backups/mydb.backup

As you can see, we can tell that file descriptor#3 is the one that we care about, then we can ask for more details:

$ cat /proc/84957/fdinfo/3
pos: 140551127040 flags: 02400000 mnt_id: 96 ino: 57409538

In other words, the process is currently at ~130GB of the file or there about.

It’s not ideal, but it does give me some idea about where we are at. It is a nice demonstration of the ability to poke into the insides of a running system to figure out what is going on.

time to read 5 min | 962 words

When I started using GitHub Copilot, I was quite amazed at how good it was. Sessions using ChatGPT can be jaw dropping in terms of the generated content.

The immediate reaction from many people is to consider what the impact of that would be on the humans who currently fill those roles. Surely, if we can get a machine to do the task of a human, we can all benefit (except for the person made redundant, I guess).

I had a long discussion on the topic recently and I think that it is a good topic for a blog post, given the current interest in the subject matter.

The history of replacing manual labor with automated machines goes back as far as you’ll like to stretch it. I wouldn’t go back to the horse & plow, but certain the Luddites and their arguments about the impact of machinery on the populace will sound familiar to anyone today.

The standard answer is that some professions will go away, but new ones will pop up, instead. The classic example is the ice salesman. That used to be a function, a guy on a horse-drawn carriage that would sell you ice to keep your food cold. You can assume that this profession is no longer relevant, of course.

The difference here is that we now have computer programs and AI taking over what was classically thought impossible. You can ask Dall-E or Stable Diffusion for an image and in a few seconds, you’ll have a beautiful render that may actually match what you requested.

You can start writing code with GitHub Copilot and it will predict what you want to do to an extent that is absolutely awe-inspiring.

So what is the role of the human in all of this? If I can ask ChatGPT or Copilot to write me an email validation function, what do I need a developer for?

Here is ChatGPT’s output:


And here is Copilot’s output:


I would rate the MailAddress version better, since I know that you can’t actually manage emails via Regex. I tried to take this further and ask ChatGPT about the Regex, and got:


ChatGPT is confused, and the answer doesn’t make any sort of sense.

Most of the time spent on “research” for this post was waiting for ChatGPT to actually produce a result, but this post isn’t about nitpicking, actually.

The whole premise around “machines will make us redundant” is that the sole role of a developer is taking a low-level requirement such as email validation and producing the code to match.

Writing such low-hanging fruit is not your job. For that matter, a function is not your job. Nor is writing code a significant portion of that. A developer needs to be able to build the system architecture and design the interaction between components and the overall system.

They need to make sure that the system is performant, meet the non-functional requirements, etc. A developer would spend a lot more time reading code than writing it.

Here is a more realistic example of using ChatGPT, asking it to write to a file using a write-ahead log. I am both amazed by the quality of the answer and find myself unable to use even a bit of the code in there. The scary thing is that this code looks correct at a glance. It is wrong, dangerously so, but you’ll need to be a subject matter expert to know that. In this case, this doesn’t meet the requirements, the provided solution has security issues and doesn’t actually work.

On the other hand, I asked it about password hashing and I would give this answer a good mark.

I believe it will get better over time, but the overall context matters. We have a lot of experience in trying to get the secretary to write code. There have been many tools trying to do that, going all the way back to CASE in the 80s.

There used to be a profession called: “computer”, where you could hire a person to compute math for you. Pocket calculators didn’t invalidate them, and Excel didn’t make them redundant. They are now called accountants or data scientists, instead. And use the new tools (admittedly, calling calculators or Excel new feels very strange) to boost up their productivity enormously.

Developing with something like Copilot is a far easier task, since I can usually just tab complete a lot of the routine details. But having a tool to do some part of the job doesn’t mean that there is no work to be done. It means that a developer can speed up the routine bits and get to grips faster / more easily with the other challenges it has, such as figuring out why the system doesn’t do what it needs to, improving existing behavior, etc.

Here is a great way to use ChatGPT as part of your work, ask it to optimize a function. For this scenario, it did a great job. For more complex scenarios? There is too much context to express.

My final conclusion is that this is a really awesome tool to assist you. It can have a massive impact on productivity, especially for people working in an area that they aren’t familiar with. The downside is that sometimes it will generate junk, then again, sometimes real people do that as well.

The next few years are going to be really interesting, since it provides a whole new level of capability for the industry at large, but I don’t think that it would shake the reality on the ground.

time to read 2 min | 221 words

imageThis Wednesday I’m going to be doing a webinar about RavenDB & Sharding. This is going to be the flagship feature for RavenDB 6.0 and I’m really excited to be talking about it in public finally.

Sharding involves splitting your data into multiple nodes. Similar to having different volumes of a single encyclopedia.

RavenDB’s sharding implementation is something that we have spent the past three or four years working on. That has been quite a saga to get it out. The primary issue is that we want to achieve two competing goals:

  • Allow you to scale the amount of data you have to near infinite levels.
  • Ensure that RavenDB remains simple to use and operate.

The first goal is actually fairly easy and straightforward. It is the second part that made things complicated. After a lot of work, I believe that we have a really good solution at hand.

In the webinar, I’m going to be presenting how RavenDB 6.0 implements sharding, the behavior of the system at scale, and all the details you need to know about how it works under the cover.

I’m really excited to finally be able to show off the great work of the team! Join me, it’s going to be really interesting.

time to read 4 min | 750 words

I’ve been calling myself a professional software developer for just over 20 years at this point. In the past few years, I have gotten into teaching university courses in the Computer Science curriculum. I have recently had the experience of supporting a non-techie as they went through a(n intense) coding bootcamp (aiming at full stack / front end roles). I’m also building a distributed database engine and all the associated software.

I list all of those details because I want to make an observation about the distinction between fundamental and transient knowledge.

My first thought is that there is so much to learn. Comparing the structure of C# today to what it was when I learned it (pre-beta days, IIRC), it is a very different language. I had literally decades to adjust to some of those changes, but someone that is just getting started needs to grasp everything all at once. When I learned JavaScript you still had browsers in the market that didn’t recognize it, so you had to do the “//<!—” trick to get things to work (don’t ask!).

This goes far beyond mere syntax and familiarity with language constructs. The overall environment is also critically important. One of the basic tasks that I give in class is something similar to: “Write a network service that would serve as a remote dictionary for key/value operations”.  Most students have a hard time grasping details such as IP vs. host, TCP ports, how to read from the network, error handling, etc. Adding a relatively simple requirement (make it secure from eavesdroppers) will take it entirely out of their capabilities.

Even taking a “simple” problem, such as building a CRUD website is fraught with many important details that aren’t really visible. Responsive design, mobile friendly, state management and user experience, to name a few. Add requirements such as accessibility and you are setting the bar too high to reach.

I intentionally choose the examples of accessibility and security, because those are “invisible” requirements. It is easy to miss them if you don’t know that they should be there.

My first website was a PHP page that I pushed to the server using FTP and updated live in “production”. I was exposed to all the details about DNS and IPs, understood exactly that the server side was just a machine in a closet, and had very low levels of abstractions. (Naturally, the solution had no security or any other –ities). However, that knowledge from those early experiments has served me very well for decades. Same for details such as how TCP works or the basics of operating system design.

Good familiarity with the basic data structures (heap, stack, tree, list, set, map, queue) paid itself many times over. The amount of time that I spent learning WinForms… still usable and widely applicable even in other platforms and environments. WPF or jQuery? Not so much.

Learning patterns paid many dividends and was applicable on a wide range of applications and topics.

I looked into the topics that are being taught (both for bootcamps and universities) and I understand why in many cases, those are being skipped. You can actually be a front end developer without understanding much (if at all) about networks. And the breadth of details you need to know is immense.

My own tendency is to look at the low level stuff, and given that I work on a database engine, that is obviously quite useful. What I have found, however, is that whenever I dug deep into a topic, I found ways to utilize that knowledge at a later point in time. Sometimes I was able to solve a problem in a way that would be utterly inconceivable to me previously. I’m not just talking about being able to immediately apply new knowledge to a problem. If that were the case, I would attribute that to wanting to use the new thing I just learned.

However, I’m talking about scenarios where months or years later I ran into a problem, and was then able to find the right solution given what was then totally useless knowledge.

In short, I understand that chasing the 0.23-alpha-stage-2.3.1-dev updates on the left-pad package is important, but I found that spending time deep in the stack has a great cumulative effect.

Joel Spolsky wrote about leaky abstractions, that was 20 years ago. I remember reading that blog post and grokking that. And it is true, being able to dig one or two layers down from where you usually live has a huge amount of leverage on your capabilities.

time to read 1 min | 160 words

FizzBuzz is a well known test to show that you can program. To be rather more exact, it is a simple test that does not tell you if you can program well, but if you cannot do FizzBuzz, you cannot program. This is a fail only kind of metric. We need this thing because sadly, we see people that fail FizzBuzz coming to interviews.

I have another test, which I feel is simpler than FizzBuzz, which can significantly reduce the field of candidates. I show them this code and ask them to analyze what is going on here:

Acceptable answers include puking, taking a few moments to breathe into a paper bag and mild to moderate professional swearing.

This is something that I actually run into (about 15 years ago, in the WebForms days) and I have used it ever since. That is a great way to measure just how much a candidate knows about the environment in which they operate.

time to read 2 min | 324 words

imageThe phrase “work well under pressure” is something that I consider to be a red flag in a professional environment. My company builds a database that is used as the backend of business critical systems. If something breaks, there is a need to fix it. It costs money (sometimes a lot of money) for every minute of downtime.

Under such a scenario, I absolutely want the people handling the issue to remain calm, collected and analytical. In such a case, being able to work well under pressure is a huge benefit.

That is not how this term is typically used, however. The typical manner you’ll hear this phrase is to refer to the usual working environment. For example, working under time pressure to deliver certain functionality. That sort of pressure is toxic over time.

Excess stress is a well known contributor to health issues (mental and physical ones), it will cause you to make mistakes and it adds frictions all around.

From my perspective, the ability to work well under pressure is an absolutely important quality, which should be hoarded. You may need to utilize this ability in order to deal with a blocking customer issue, but should be careful not to spend that on non-critical stuff.

And by definition, most things are not critical. If everything is critical, you have a different problem.

That means that part of the task of the manager is to identify the places where pressure is applied and remove that. In the context of software, that may be delaying a release date or removing features to reduce the amount of work.

When working with technology, the most valuable asset you have is the people and the knowledge they have. And one of the easiest ways to lose that is to burn the candle at both ends. You get more light, sure, but you also get no candle.

time to read 3 min | 424 words

I like to think about myself as a database guy. My go to joke about building user interfaces is that a <table> is all I need for layout (it’s not a joke). About a decade ago I just gave up on trying to follow what is going on in the frontend land and accepted that I’ll reside in the backend from here on after.

Being ignorant of the ways you’ll write a modern frontend doesn’t affect the fact that I like to use a good user interface. I have seriously mixed feelings about the importance of RavenDB Studio to the project. On the one hand, I care that it is easy to use, obvious and functional. I love that it is beautiful and will generally make your life easier. And at the same time, I abhor the fact that it has such an impact on people’s decisions. I mean, the backend of RavenDB is absolutely beautiful, from a technical perspective. But everyone always talk about the studio.

Leaving aside my mini rant, we spend quite a lot of time and effort on the studio and the User Experience in general. This release is not an exception and we have a couple of major new updates to the studio.

One of the most common things you’ll do in the studio is run queries. In this release we have done a complete revamp of the automatic code completion for the client-side RQL queries written in the studio.
The new code assistance is available when writing any query in the Query view, Patch view, and in the Subscription Query. That was actually quite interesting, from a computer science perspective. We have formal grammar for RQL now, for example, which means that we can provide much better experience for query editing. For example, take a look:


Full code completion assistance and better error handling directly at the studio makes it easier to work with RavenDB for both developers and operations.

The second feature is the Identities page:


Identities has been a feature in RavenDB for a long time, and somehow they have never been front and center. Maybe the discoverability of the feature suffered? You can now create, edit and modify the identities directly in the studio, not just through the API.


time to read 2 min | 273 words

imageNext week is Black Friday, which has reached a global phenomenon status. It is a fun day for shoppers, and a nervous wreck for IT admins everywhere. It is not uncommon to see traffic doubles or triples and the actual load (processing more heavyweight requests) can go up an order of magnitude. Preparing for Black Friday can be a harrowing issue since you have a narrow window of opportunity and it is hard to know exactly where the stress points are.

This year, I decided to make your life easier, and RavenDB is offering a Black Friday Surge to all our customers. No, we aren’t offering you 50% off and everything must go. What we do instead is try to be of help.

This Black Friday (and Cyber Monday as well), we are offering all our customers double what they paid for. When running RavenDB on premise, if you purchased a RavenDB license for a 12 cores cluster (running on 3 nodes of 4 cores each), we’ll offer you 30 days of double the core count. In other words, you can scale your system to be twice as powerful, and it won’t cost you a cent.

On the cloud, as well, we will provide users with credits to upgrade their clusters to the next level up (doubling their power) for a full week during the next 30 days. Again, there is no extra cost here.

You can register for the Surge here to request the upgrade and you’ll get twice as much power to handle the increased load.

Enjoy the power up!


No future posts left, oh my!


  1. Challenge (72):
    19 Sep 2023 - Spot the bug
  2. Filtering negative numbers, fast (4):
    15 Sep 2023 - Beating memcpy()
  3. Recording (9):
    28 Aug 2023 - RavenDB and High Performance with Oren Eini
  4. Production postmortem (50):
    24 Jul 2023 - The dog ate my request
  5. Podcast (4):
    21 Jul 2023 - Hansleminutes - All the Performance with RavenDB's Oren Eini
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