Two weeks ago, Taos officially announced a $47 million Series B funding round. A team of 40 people, in four years, has obtained a total of nearly 70 million dollars of investment from Sequoia, Jingwei, GGV, Mingse, etc., with an estimated value of over 300 million dollars, and an estimated per capita value of over 50 million RMB. When the news was announced, there were many exclamations. Myself, a 53-year-old programmer, was even more impressed. I have already reached the age of travel, but with more than 18,000 lines of procedures written by myself at the beginning of 2017, I started my third entrepreneurial journey, and continued to gain the favor of capital, so that I could continue to struggle and pursue my dream. Weekend leisure, summarize their own mind course, and share with you.

One person, two months, 18,000 lines of code

In 2016, I saw many things, intelligent hardware project, found everyone in with gm’s big data platform of dealing with the Internet of things, the efficiency is not high, complex operations, and generally complain about big data technology talented person hard to find, especially a lot of traditional enterprise, want to do digital transformation, but as a result of treatment, management and other issues, looking for big data technology talented person more difficult.

As a developer, when I see so many common pain points, my first reaction is that these problems should be solved in a technical way. After analyzing the characteristics of IoT data (regarding the characteristics of IoT data, see my previous article: Why do I develop a dedicated IoT big data platform and open source it?) I think we can make full use of these characteristics to design and implement a new storage and computing engine and develop an All in One dedicated big data platform for the Internet of Things, which can greatly reduce the complexity of software system design and maintenance, improve data processing efficiency and reduce the total cost of ownership.

Considering the rapid growth of the number of connected devices, I expect that more than 90% of the world’s data will come from the Internet of Things in the future, which will be a huge market and requires a dedicated and efficient big data platform to deal with it. Therefore, I judge this is an excellent entrepreneurial opportunity.

Once I had this idea, I naturally thought of forming a team to work on it and just setting the direction and being part of the overall design. However, after careful consideration, I find that this is not feasible, because the big data platform is the underlying software. Apart from the innovative design, the engineering implementation is very difficult and the programming requirements are extremely high, which is beyond the competence of ordinary programmers. As a veteran entrepreneur, I deeply understand that technology is the core of entrepreneurial projects such as the big data platform of the Internet of Things. The founder must be deeply involved in the research and development of the product, otherwise it will be out of control. So I decided to build Prototype on my own, to see if my innovative design of “one data collection point one table” and “super table” could beat the existing products on the market.

The first line of program in my life was written in 1984, when I was a senior high school student. Due to Deng Xiaoping’s saying that “you should start with a child when you use a computer”, the Changsha No. 1 High School where I studied was lucky enough to get 6 Laser 310 as a gift from the Central Committee of the Youth League. Since then, I have been linked with programming for nearly 40 years. Later, no matter in China University of Science and Technology, to the United States to study abroad, in the United States Motorola, 3Com and other companies to work, have written too much code. However, since I started my own business in 2008, although I wrote the core code of the product by myself, such as the push engine of the letter and the fetal heart rate calculation of the happy mother, I spent most of the time away from the front line, so it is hard to say that I am a research and development expert.

But after nearly 40 years of “yardage” experience and continuous entrepreneurial projects, I firmly believe that nothing is a problem. Within a few days, I will pick up the tools I used to be familiar with, such as Vim, cscope, GDB, valgrind. I wanted to develop it in the trendy Go language, but I decided to develop it in C after thinking that the most famous database in the world is written in C and I am a proven C programmer.

At the end of December 2016, I started writing code. Over two months, working an average of 12 hours a day, I wrote 18,000 lines of code. Through basic comparison tests, my innovative design has been proved to be superior to the existing products on the market.

53 years old, ushered in the peak state of research and development

After the product prototype was verified and I was confident in the broad market of the Internet of Things in the future, I successfully obtained angel investment from Bright Power Capital and Manzi Fund and started to build a team.

I think it’s useless to have too many people in low-level software development, and startups need 10 times as many programmers, so they are extremely strict in selecting people. The team size was always small. In the first year and a half, including myself, Sheng Liang and Hong Ze, and Dr. Liao, who graduated from the Institute of Computing Technology, there were only four programmers who wrote programs and debug day and night. Besides, Wang Jing, a two-time business partner, was responsible for all non-research and development work.

In August 2018, Taos Data released the first official commercial version of Tdengine, positioning the product as a big data platform for the Internet of Things All in One. As of July 2019, the Taos team has only seven people, six of whom are programmers.

In retrospect, Tdengine was a much harder technology to develop than I expected. Although the product is very easy to use and excellent performance, but stability has been a problem for us. With the belief that the product is unstable and the company will close down, and with the determination to chew on the hard bones of technology, my team and I re-engineered TDengine for many times. In particular, version 2.0 completely overturns the original code and design, rewrites each module, increases the testing effort, and improves the stability to the extent that the product can be used commercially.

My own technical skills and practical skills have improved as I have to deal with all kinds of difficult technical problems, such as memory leaks and memory overwrites. In order to fully and systematically solve the problem of resource lifecycle management in multi-threaded asynchronous invocation scenarios, I wrote the tref. C module, which improved the system stability by an order of magnitude. During the entire epidemic in 2020, I submitted nearly 200 PR for Tdengine, solved too many bugs, and wrote several internal tech blogs dissecting specific technical issues.

In this way, I reached the peak of my skill level at the age of 50, not in the United States, but in China. So, there is no magic spell at the age of 35, as long as you want to write, love to write, keep writing, the peak is next station.

Open source has led to huge changes

A good product needs a good promotion. How to make the Internet of Things, Internet of Vehicles, Industrial Internet and other industries as soon as possible to use Tdengine, thinking for a long time, and finally we decided to fully open source the core code.

In the uneasy mood, in July 2019, Taos data announced that the TDengine standalone version officially open source. In August 2020, we will open source the cluster version again.

The effect of open source, far beyond expectations. For a few days, Tdengine topped GitHub’s global trends charts. At present, Tdengine has more than 15K stars on GitHub, more than 3800 forks, more than 1000 clone code per day, and more than 200 new instances of Tdengine per day.

Every day I see these numbers, I am excited, because it shows that the program I wrote has been recognized by everyone, and the debugging of day and night is not in vain. I am even more pleased that with the hard work of the sales team at Forrest, we have been able to increase our sales revenue exponentially despite the open source code. It allowed us to prove that the closed loop of business, the Open Core business model could work in China.

Because of the success of open source, we quickly gained capital attention. In January 2020, Taos Data obtained pre-A round of investment from GGV Source Capital and Sequoia China Seed Fund; In April 2020, the company also obtained A-round investment from GGV and Sequoia China. Two weeks ago, it obtained 47 million US dollars of B round financing from Matrix China, Sequoia China and Index Capital. The total amount of financing is close to $70 million.

Because of the success of open source, we have also gained the favor of the technology titans. Steven, a long-time friend who is far away in Silicon Valley but has been helping out with data advice of Taos, finally joins us full-time. Yi Hao, who had been doing database research and development in 360, joined in, Pan Wei, who had been doing research and development in Huawei and Oracle, joined in. Students Ming Lei and Wei Can, who have been working in technology entrepreneurship, joined in. Students Li Chuang, who was doing low-level storage research and development in netease, joined in. There are many more.

We grew from a team of five to a team of more than 40 people. And in addition to research and development, finally have a full-time personnel and full-time finance. Xiao Bo, my partner in the previous two ventures, joined us and set up a professional delivery team.

The Golden Age of Programmers

Back in 2000, there were a lot of people who said IT had peaked and that IT was better not to do software development. Now, 20 years later, the number of IT professionals in China is estimated to be 10 times that in 2000. You may not imagine that more than half of the employees of Ford Motor are software engineers. Suning has more than 10,000 software developers, and Ping ‘an has more than 10,000 software developers. Software has become the growth engine of various enterprises. And as the digital transformation deepens, the scale of software development personnel will further expand.

The most exciting is open source, which ushered in the golden age of programmers. Open source makes a programmer’s code a work of art that can be appreciated, used, and passed on by programmers around the world, just like an artist’s painting. For closed source software, this is not possible. No matter how elegant the database core module you developed in Oracle is designed, or how powerful the transaction processing module you designed for e-commerce backstage in Alibaba is, no matter how powerful the high concurrency capability is, it will never be appreciated or marveled at. But with open source, everything changed. If your code is good enough to solve a big problem, it will be a masterpiece. Even if there are flaws, future generations can build on your foundation, but your name will always be engraved in the code, not buried in history.

Open source, will let programmers on their own code quality to produce the ultimate pursuit. Before deciding to open source Tdengine in July 2019, the Taos data team spent several months cleaning up the code and documenting it in order not to make it look bad. Without open source, we wouldn’t have the incentive to do it, because users wouldn’t be able to see it. At the end of 2019, the development of TDengine 2.0 is even more so, in order to make the design and code of TDengine more elegant, more clear structure, so that other programmers can enjoy a kind of happiness and beauty when watching. I have also shown the code of Tdengine to my non-R & D colleagues, and they can understand the general logic of a piece of code without any technical background. All thanks to open source, every line of Tdengine’s code is written with the idea that “this is my work” and “this is for the world to see”.

If you go to GitHub to download or even fork our TDEngine code, you will appreciate the exquisite work we are committed to creating and you will be the biggest support for our open source.

Open source provides a great opportunity for programmers to show their personal abilities. “Show me the code”, whether you graduated from Tsinghua Yao Class, or the Second University, whether you were born in the 90s or the 60s like me, whether you were a boy or a girl, whether you majored in computer science, or I majored in astrophysics, whether you were in the eastern half of the world or in the western hemisphere. Your code is your best proof of strength.

Open source code, can let everyone abandon prejudice, see a programmer behind the real value.

If a 53-year-old programmer can do it, so can you!

When I founded Taos Data at the age of 49, I single-handedly developed the first version of Tdengine, and then led the team to constantly refactor and iterate on the product. At the age of 53, I am slowly leaving the frontline of research and development to focus on operation and management. However, I believe that I can return to the battlefield at any time to debug and solve technical problems together with my friends as long as necessary. And I’m convinced that even when I’m 80, if I can still move, I’ll still be able to program.

In China, it is widely believed that 35-year-old programmers are no longer competitive and need to do technical management or change careers. Look closely at software development. Although applications are constantly changing, new architectures are emerging, and programmers have to learn new things every day, the basic methods and principles rarely change. For example, the processing of big data is nothing more than a specific realization of Divide and Conquer. The technology of partition and Conquer is a natural thing with high reliability and high availability. For me, a veteran of R&D in the communication industry, it just means to cook the rice all over again in a new scene, which is nothing new. For the processing of time series data, there is no essential difference from the processing of message queue, only the part of calculation and analysis is added.

In fact, human beings have been slow in making breakthroughs in the basic principles and methods of science and technology. As long as programmers master the basic principles and methods of IT technology, love to write and want to write programs, and have the determination to roll up their sleeves and work hard, age is no longer an issue, your every line of code will be recognized and rewarded.

My son likes fencing. “Scores don’t determine if you lose or not, you do. Throwing down your sword and mask is true defeat”, said coach Miller. As a programmer, too, age and skills don’t matter, but when you step away from the keyboard and the Coding battle, you are truly out of the world.

Tao Jianhui in Wangjing, Beijing, June 6, 2021

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