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Summary:

Former Facebook engineers Eric Frenkiel and Nikita Shamgunov launched a startup called MemSQL that seeks to speed relational databases by taking a page out of the Facebook playbook. MemSQL boosts performance by keeping data in memory and converting SQL code into faster C++.

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With Facebook engineers, it appears the high-performance database apple doesn’t far fall from the tree. On Monday, former Facebookers Eric Frenkiel and Nikita Shamgunov (who also spent six years as a senior engineer on Microsoft SQL Server) launched a startup called MemSQL that seeks to speed relational databases by taking a page out of the Facebook playbook. The company has raised a $5 million in venture capital thus far from First Round Capital, IA Ventures, NEA, SV Angel, Y Combinator, Paul Buchheit, Ashton Kutcher, Max Levchin and Aaron Levie.

As its name implies, MemSQL achieves its fast performance in part by keeping data in memory, but it doesn’t use memcached like Facebook does to keep its massive MySQL deployment up to speed. Rather, MemSQL takes a lesson learned from HipHop — Facebook’s tool for converting PHP code into faster C++ — and converts SQL to C++.

“This is like HipHop for SQL, essentially,” Frenkiel told me during a recent call. All told, he claims MemSQL performs up to 30 times faster than disk-based databases. “If you make money off your data and you actually measure time in microsecond or milliseconds,” he said, “then using a lightning fast DB like ours makes a lot of sense.”

Speed aside, the best part about MemSQL for developers is that, unlike memcached, it plays nice with MySQL. MemSQL uses a SQL interface and the MySQL API, Frenkiel explained, which means no management issues and no having to learn anything new. Essentially, MemSQL acts as the high-performance in-memory tier, while data requiring less performance and more durability sits on disk in MySQL. If you’re sharding the database by putting the newest data on the newest shard, he said, you don’t even have to change your sharding strategy.

Of course, MemSQL isn’t the only startup around claiming better-than-ever SQL performance and featuring a founding team with serious database street cred. There’s a whole slew of so-called NewSQL startups including VoltDB, NuoDB, ScaleBase, Tokutek, JustOneDB and Clustrix that claim to help relational databases scale and perform better than MySQL and at prices far less than options such as Oracle Database.

MemSQL is the second data-focused startup with Facebook roots to launch this month. Earlier in June, two former Facebook employees who help create the SQL-like Hive interface for Hadoop while at the social network launched Qubole, a hosted version of Hive that runs on Amazon’s cloud computing infrastructure.

  1. Reblogged this on Data Science 101 and commented:
    Databases (NoSQL and Relational) are getting more interesting everyday.

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  2. DB commentator Monday, June 18, 2012

    No outer or full outer joins, can only join two tables, no transaction support (except for one transaction at a time), limited transaction isolation levels, needs to have the full tables loaded into memory at any one time… not to mention it is a MySQL fork licensed from Oracle so is at the mercy of a direct competitor who can revoke the license if they get too successful… not sure if this is the best thing since sliced bread that this article is making out it is.

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    1. Derrick Harris Monday, June 18, 2012

      All fair points if true. Obviously, anyone looking to deploy any product has to dig into the tech and features to make sure it works for them.

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    2. Eric Frenkiel Monday, June 18, 2012

      not a mysql fork at all. wrt features, this is v1, you have to start somewhere. this fulfills base case of relational interface.

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  3. This was mentioned on the Techzing about a year ago, looking forward to trying it. PS: Why is your comment system asking me to login to WordPress.com? Makes no sense.

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  4. maybe you should check their LinkedIn before using Facebook as the subject line. What they did in facebook has nothing to do with database.

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    1. Derrick Harris Monday, June 18, 2012

      Kinda true. Of course, they did both come from Facebook and they are doing something analogous to HipHop but for SQL instead of PHP.

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  5. Have tried VoltDB, which is incredibly fast, but doesn’t support SQL stored procedures, rather Java stored procedures. I guess I should give memSQL a try.

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  6. There is nothing new there. MySQL already has in memory storage. I think they are just marketing a cosmetically improved version.

    http://dev.mysql.com/doc/refman/5.0/en/memory-storage-engine.html

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