OpenAI acquires Rockset for vector database capabilities

GenAI LLM and chatbot pioneer OpenAI has acquired Rockset, an eight-year-old vector database business.

OpenAI was started up in 2015 by Sam Altman, Greg Brockman, Reid Hoffman, Jessica Livingston, Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, and others with $1 billion in funding. It has had a checkered, eventful, and spectacular history with its ChatGPT chatbot revolutionizing the speed and accuracy of large language models (LLMs). OpenAI is now engaged in a chatbot race with Google, Anthropic, X (Twitter as was), Meta, and others to develop an AGI (artificial general intelligence) capability. 

Sam Altman, OpenAI
Sam Altman

OpenAI wants to build an AI that counters hallucinations, gets faster, and has generic appeal. Altman says: “We can imagine a world where all of us have access to help with almost any cognitive task, providing a great force multiplier for human ingenuity and creativity.”

These LLMs depend upon a semantic search of chunks (tokens) of information represented as vectors and stored in vector databases. Rockset has developed and is extending its own vector database technology, with better indexing, retrieval, and ranking capabilities. It can index vectors as well as text, document, geo, and time series data, and is focused on hybrid search at scale.

An OpenAI blog says the company has “acquired Rockset, a leading real-time analytics database that provides world-class data indexing and querying capabilities … We will integrate Rockset’s technology to power our retrieval infrastructure across products, and members of Rockset’s world-class team will join OpenAI.”

Rockset co-founder and CEO Venkat Venkataramani blogged: “I’m excited to share that OpenAI has completed the acquisition of Rockset. We are thrilled to join the OpenAI team and bring our technology and expertise to building safe and beneficial AGI.” 

Venkat Venkataramani, Rockset
Venkat Venkataramani

He says: “Rapid advancements in LLMs are enabling a Cambrian explosion and numerous innovations across every industry, driving a preponderance of AI applications. While the nature of these applications has changed, the underlying infrastructure challenges have not. Advanced retrieval infrastructure like Rockset will make AI apps more powerful and useful. With this acquisition, what we’ve developed over the years will help make AI accessible to all in a safe and beneficial way.”

This is a technology and acqui-hire, with Venkataramani writing: ”We’ll be helping OpenAI solve the hard database problems that AI apps face at massive scale.” 

Rockset has attracted $105.5 million in funding across seed ($3 million), A ($18.5 million), B ($40 million), and extended B ($37 million) rounds and debt financing ($7 million). The acquisition price was not disclosed. According to Crunchbase, OpenAI has accumulated a gigantic $11.3 billion in funding from investors including Tiger Global, Sequoia, Andreessen Horowitz, and Microsoft. It can afford to splash cash on Rockset.

Other LLM developers such as Anthropic, Databricks (DBRX), Google (Gemini), Meta (Llama-3), and Mistral may now be looking at vector database suppliers – think Nuclia, Pinecone, and Zilliz – to ensure their LLMs can keep up with OpenAI’s GPT-4o.

Rockset said: “Existing Rockset customers will experience no immediate change. We will gradually transition current customers off Rockset and are committed to ensuring a smooth process.” Customers can check out the FAQ here.