Bringing the Art and Science of Tessellation to Data

Steven Kaplan
Steven Kaplan
June 8, 2023
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Bringing the Art and Science of Tessellation to Data

In June of 2021, Bala Kuchibhotla first told me that his dream was to tessellate data - and that his new company was called Tessell. I was extremely enthusiastic about the concept of offering a database as a service (DBaaS) that disrupted existing services, but I had no idea what tessellation was or how it could apply to data.

During my research into tessellation, I quickly came across the famous Dutch artist, M.C. Escher, who died in 1974. Escher is well-known in art circles as the tessellation master, and I soon realized that I was familiar with some of his works and that I really liked them. My wife and I visited a well-known Escher collector in Marin and we ended up purchasing four original lithographs (albeit “original” is a bit of a misnomer when it comes to lithographs). This is my favorite: Mosaic II.

What is Tessellation?

Tessellation means arranging various shapes and objects in a repeating pattern without any gaps or overlaps, thereby forming beautiful patterns. We can see examples of tessellation all around us. For example, tiling a floor or laying down bricks to form a wall are examples of tessellation.

Tessellation in Art

Owing to the beautiful patterns that it creates, tessellation holds a special place in art. There are several artists whose work is inspired purely by the tessellation technique. The most popular among them are the above mentioned M.C. Escher.

Tessellation in Math

Similar to fractals, the tessellation of repeating polygons tends to appeal to both mathematicians and scientists. Just last week, mathematicians announced discovery of a new 13-sided aperiodic tessellation.

Pentagons are one of the most difficult polygons to tessellate. The pentagonal tessellation was also the inspiration for Tessell's logo which is a tessellation of six pentagons. If you look carefully, you'll notice a subtle T forming in the gap in the middle.

Tessellation in Computer Science

“Tessellation is a feature that converts a low-detailed surface patch to a higher-detailed surface patch dynamically on the Graphics Processing Unit (GPU). Using a low-resolution model with a few polygons, tessellation makes rendering high levels of detail possible by subdividing each patch into smaller primitives.”  Source: Github blog

Tessellating Data

Tessell coined the term “data tessellation” that brings the art and science of tessellation to data management. Here's how:

  • Better organize and manage data between various environments including production, stage, dev, QA, analytics, etc.
  • Optimize infrastructure resource cost efficiency.
  • Create a “walled-garden experience” by providing full-fledged self-service database access to data owners while also providing administrators with the ability to standardize data and enforce compliance requirements.

The ROI of Tessellation

Some semantic purists may argue that  tessellating data is not a real thing. But, 'Googling' terms was not a real thing either until the popularity of Google made it so.

Besides my affinity to Escher's tessellation art lithographs, I also bought them for investment purposes. My guess is that it won't take long before Tessell makes its mark throughout the global IT and business community.

A much broader understanding of the term, tessellation, will naturally result - followed by an inevitable introduction to, and appreciation for, M.C. Escher's works. I'm betting that my four lithographs will rapidly increase in value.

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