Clustrix Builds the Webscale Holy Grail: A Database That Scales

Clustrix, a Y Combinator graduate from 2006, launched today with the claim that it’s built a transaction database with MySQL-like functionality and reliability that can scale to billions of entries. Clustrix plans to sell its appliance (which consists of more than a terabyte of memory and its proprietary software) to web firms that don’t want to take on the complicated task of sharding their data (replicating it across multiple databases), or moving to less robust database options like Cassandra or a key value store such as what’s provided by Twitter.

This is big stuff. Indeed, Paul Mikesell — CEO of Clustrix and the former co-founder of storage system success story Isilon — said the goal is to use its appliance to solve a growing problem for companies managing large amounts of data, such as big travel, e-commerce and social websites. As the web grows more social, companies are trying to keep track of more pieces of data about users and their relationships to other users. This creates complicated and large databases that can slow down access to user information, and thus the end user experience.

We’ve written about myriad attempts to solve these data scalability problems, attempts that have spawned appliance startups and whole branches of code designed to help sites scale their data, from Hadoop to Cassandra to Twitter’s Gizzard. Mikesell said the product could replace the need for caching appliances such as those offered by Schooner or Northscale, but could also work in conjunction with them.

As for some of the open source options, new programming languages like Bloom, or cloud-based scalable databases such as Microsoft’s SQL Azure or Rackspace’s partnership with FathomDB, Mikesell is confident that the ability to replicate the functionality of a relational database at webscale without sharding or tweaking the existing code is powerful enough that customers would pay $80,000 for a 3-node machine containing the software. There are plenty of companies reluctant to trust the open-source spin-outs from companies like Twitter and Facebook.

The market is clearly there for scalable relational database products (GigaOM Pro, sub req’d), so if Clustrix can take the $18 million invested in it from Sequoia, ATA Ventures and US Venture Partners and turn it into an Isilon-like exit, more power to it.

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