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Facebook alumni wunderkind MemSQL is making a lot of wealthy friends

Lucy Carey
MemSQL-logo

Following an epic $35 million funding round, we examine the case for backing the company aiming to “bring the database to the masses”.

Big data continues to make headlines – both in terms
of tech, and big payouts. Even with huge players like MongoDB
lapping up the bulk of the attention, there’s more than enough room
for smaller guys to get in on that market growth curve.

This month, MemSQL, the speedy wunderkind of
ex-Facebook engineers
Eric Frenkiel and Nikita Shamgunov
, has recently enjoyed its
own cash bonanza, having raised $35 million in new funding.
Investors to date include the likes of Accel Partners, who led the
latest funding round, as well as Khosla Ventures, Data Collective,
and First Round Capital.

Officially launched in mid-2012, this in-memory
database system claims to be “30x times faster than conventional
databases on disk”. Back in their Facebook days, Frenkiel and
Shamgunov had seen firsthand how hawk-eyed analysts scrutinised SQL
queries to spot trends in users of the sprawling social network.
MemSQL was born when the pair decided to develop a way to extend
this capability to smaller companies without the budget for large
engineering teams to tool on their databases.

By incorporating familiar elements such as SQL-style
queries and the standard MySQL API, MemSQL can boost performance by
storing data in main memory and processing it in parallel.

It’s ability to swiftly deal with both transactional
and analytic workloads means that people like
Comcast
use it in front of Hadoop to add in all-important
real-time capabilities. In the case of Zynga, it’s used in front of
Vertica to add transaction support to the columnar system.

Whilst bigger, more established companies may have a
death grip on the top of the market for now, there are countless
startups like MemSQL looking to prise out a chunk of their own.
And, along with it’s purported speed, there’s the small value of
its budget friendliness.

MemSQL has a distinctly more friendly pricing
structure than Oracle - Frenkiel
notes
that San Fransisco
behemouth sets its prices at, “about $100,000 per terabyte (TB)
when you break down its $3 million hardware cost”. Random Access
Memory (RAM) on a commodity server priced at around $4,000 per
TB.

He’s termed the technology “future proof,” given that,
to increase capacity, all companies have to do is tag on a few
additional cheap physical servers to their cluster, eschewing the
need for pricier hardware add-ons.

So, faster and cheaper than the market leaders. What else?
Well, there’s also the fact that there’s also no need for users to
master a complicated new query language to get on board, making it
an attractive option for anyone looking to switch systems with as
little hassle as possible.

In an interview with
Venturebeat
, Frenkiel explained that this latest cash injection
will go towards driving further sales, and evolving the database.
To date, the startup has raised a total of $45.2 million, and
attracted users such as Comcast, Shutterstock, Ziff Davis, and
Zynga. And did we mention that Ashton
Kutcher
thinks they’re pretty sweet, dude?

By 2017, the big data technology market is expected to
grow by $32.4 billion – that’s  about six times faster than
the growth rate of the information and communication technology
market as a whole. Even with the shadow of Oracle looming over
them, that’s more than enough room for MemSQL to continue making
rain from both teeny little startups in the shallows, as well as
some very big fish indeed.

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