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Schooner nabs $20m in venture funding

And a storage hired hand

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Money might be tight right now, but venture capitalists are still cutting checks for ideas they think have a chance of going big out there in IT Land.

So it is with Schooner Information Technology, a Silicon Valley startup that came out of stealth mode in April with x64-based web-caching and database-acceleration appliances, and which today announced that it has landed $20m in Series B funding.

Schooner was founded in February 2007 by John Busch, who was the technologist behind the HP 3000 minicomputer line and who eventually ran Sun Labs (the research arm of the soon-to-be-former Sun Microsystems), and Tom McWilliams, who was a supercomputer designer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and who eventually did stints at Amdahl, Silicon Graphics, Sun, and PathScale.

Busch and McWilliams lined up their first round of funding ($15m) from CMEA Capital and Redpoint Ventures, which gave Schooner the money to create its own black-boxed, closed-source clone of the popular memcached web-caching appliance.

Schooner's box, however, knows how to take advantage of the multiple cores and threads in modern x64 chips - unlike the open-source memcached program.

The Schooner Memcached appliance costs $45,000, which is a lot for a two-socket, rebadged IBM System x server, but the appliance can replace up to eight servers running the open-source memcached appliance, allowing customers to save money on space, power, cooling, software licenses, and other operational costs.

The initial round of funding was also used to create the Schooner MySQL appliance. This unit puts a highly optimized version of the InnoDB 1.0.3 transactional storage engine in a System x box equipped with solid state disks and an OEMed version of Sun's MySQL 5.1 Enterprise Edition database, which Schooner has shown in benchmark tests can deliver about eight times the oomph of a plain vanilla x64 server running Linux and MySQL. The MySQL appliance costs $45,000 as well.

The second round of funding at Schooner was led by Menlo Ventures, which has investments in storage vendors 3Par and LSI Logic (among many other tech firms), with participation again from CMEA Capital and Redpoint Ventures. CMEA doesn't brag about its investments, but Redpoint is proud to point out that it has invested in networking vendor Juniper Networks as well as MySpace, Netflix, and Tivo.

Schooner says that it will be using the money to further expand product development and build out its sales and support operations.

The company also said today that it has hired Mark Lohmeyer to be vice president of products at Schooner, giving him control over strategy, engineering, and marketing for Schooner's appliances. Lohmeyer was formerly product development manager and then general manager for the Veritas Cluster Server group at Symantec, where Schooner says his team, working from the United States, India, and China, accounted for more than $300m in global sales each year.

Schooner has not yet said how many of its appliances it has sold since its formal launch in April, or how many customers it has bagged so far. ®

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