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Building the perfect data platform with Directus

Building the perfect data platform with Directus

Miguel Amado
Directus is a data platform created in 2004 that secured a first round of funding in 2021 to “switch gears to growth mode”. We talked with Benjamin Hayes, CEO and Creative Director of the company to know more about Directus, the importance of being open-source and plans for the future. Check it out!

Why is Directus different from its competitors?

What makes Directus so unique is that it dynamically generates custom API endpoints based on your SQL database’s schema in real-time — something we call “Database Mirroring”. Whether you install fresh or on top of an existing database, you always maintain end-to-end control over your actual database, including: tables, columns, datatypes, default values, indexes, relationships, and more.

Perhaps one of the biggest advantages of Database Mirroring is that you have direct access to your pure and unaltered data. That means you have the option to bypass the Directus middleware (API, SDK, App) and connect to your data with proper SQL queries. This effectively removes all bottlenecks, latency overhead, and proprietary access limitations.

Your mission is to “build the perfect data platform”. Is that possible or just a goal to keep looking at. What is left to reach “perfection”?

True perfection is not attainable with software, it’s a constantly moving target that shifts as technology advances and requirements change. This is a good thing, though, as we believe in a rapid iterative development cycle based on real-world user feedback — and being open-source, we have an enormous user-base providing a constant flow of requests for how the platform can be improved. Our team’s primary job is not merely to build these requested features, but to judiciously review them and craft simple and elegant solutions that avoid bloating the codebase or UI.

We maintain a one-year general road-map that outlines the big advancements we’d like to make, but try to avoid getting bogged down in nuanced planning, as our priorities are quite fluid. It’s not uncommon to ideate a concept during a team meeting in the morning, and be writing it as production code a few hours later. We’re a small, flat organization, so we move quickly by not letting bureaucracy get in the way.

Can you explain to us the importance of open source and why it matters so much to Directus?

Being open-source is of the utmost importance given our product-led growth strategy, which keeps our entire team focused on one thing: the platform itself. With no budget for sales, marketing or advertising, being OSS allows us to reach a breadth of users that would otherwise be inaccessible. If you can build an amazing open-source tool, the users and monetization will follow in time.

It’s also important to note that many other vendors claim to be open-source, but add artificial limitations and low-hanging paywalls to force users into a paid license. Cordoning off key parts of the codebase under a separate proprietary license goes against the principles of open-source software, and is just a way to play both sides. At Directus, we believe in premium software that is completely open-source, and so our offering is the exact same, regardless of if you self-host for free or choose to pay for our managed Cloud service.

How did your experience in the Air Force help in your career and your day to day in Directus?

While my military job in electronic warfare did not directly train me for my civilian career, the military in general can be an excellent path for gaining organization and self-discipline. Regardless of your pursuits, these are critical qualities of any entrepreneur — especially in the technical realm. It’s one thing to have an idea, or build a proof-of-concept, but to actually build and properly grow that idea into a product or company is altogether different.

In the early days of any venture, chances are you’ll be wearing a lot of hats (maybe all of them) and you won’t be managing a team, you’ll be managing yourself. The military helped me realize that when properly motivated, I was capable of far more than I previously thought possible. This helped me push through the hurdles that come with building an extremely innovative platform on an open-source budget.

What are Directus plans for the future?

The company is shifting into a growth/stability phase. We’ve very recently received our first round of funding and are now actively formalizing and expanding our team to capitalize on immense inbound interest. In parallel, we’re balancing the ongoing work of code testing, stability improvements, and documentation, with some more exciting data discovery and data migration features.

More strategically, we’ve been repositioning Directus as an Open Data Platform, as opposed to simply a Headless Content Management System (which will remain a key use-case). This shift truly embraces our platform’s fundamental architecture, and we’re extremely excited to be at the bleeding-edge of data democratization. To that end, we have some big announcements we’ll be announcing in the coming weeks/months.

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