NuoDB, ParElastic Racing to Build Database Systems of the Future

10/23/12Follow @gthuang

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NuoDB co-founder Jim Starkey, a DEC veteran and longtime database techie, took a fresh look at the problem and saw that the databases of the past 30 years were built in an obvious way that was very successful, but doesn’t scale for today’s usage. “Jim asked, ‘Is there a non-obvious way?’” Morris says.

Morris, the former CEO of IONA Technologies and StreamBase Systems, was impressed after seeing Starkey’s ideas. So were venture capitalists Morgenthaler Ventures, Hummer Winblad Venture Partners, and Longworth Venture Partners, who have put some $20 million into the two-year-old Cambridge, MA-based startup. “We’re saying you don’t have to give up anything,” Morris says, referring to scalability and performance. “I said if this thing works, it’s the future. It’s the 21st century database.”

NuoDB’s technology is an “emergent” database. Instead of having a central control point or hierarchy like a traditional database, it has smart objects, or “atoms,” that work peer-to-peer. Some of the atoms effectively index the data, some describe where other atoms are, and so forth. There are about a dozen kinds of atoms, Morris says, and together they manage and represent all the data in the database.

“It’s the only way that nature builds things at scale,” he says, drawing an analogy to animal migrations and flocks of birds. “A few simple rules result in macro intelligence.”

That all sounds pretty ambitious—researchers have been working on swarm intelligence and emergent systems for decades—but the key is that to the outside world (and customers), the database behaves like any other, but it also scales simply by adding machines.

NuoDB has been testing its system with beta customers and is looking to do a general rollout later this year, targeting both Global 1000 companies and startups trying to build the next Facebook. “I’m here to tell you we’ve got it, and it’s working,” Morris says.

In terms of the business model, he calls NuoDB the “iPad of databases,” meaning it’s intuitive to use and easy to get started online. “I don’t think we’re going to sell this by explaining all the intricate and boring technical details,” he says. “It’s ‘Try it, you’re going to have your socks blown off.’ It’s much more Apple than it is Google, let alone IBM.”

Meanwhile, ParElastic, based in Waltham, MA, takes a very different approach to the same basic problem. “We’re trying to take advantage of the technologies that are already out there,” says CEO and co-founder Ken Rugg. He and co-founder Amrith Kumar are veterans of Progress Software and Netezza, respectively, so they know a little something about the database industry.

As Rugg explains, “The transformative change in the industry isn’t a new database technology, it’s this transition in the business model. People will stop purchasing databases on servers, and start … Next Page »

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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  • Jim Roberts

    NuoDB has an ex-database superstar running sales- look out as this could be a game changer alone

  • http://twitter.com/nuodb NUODB

    Please join us for our upcoming NuoDB live launch event, Jan 15, 11am EST. To register, please go to http://www.nuodb.com.