Xeround reinvents MySQL atop Amazon cloud

NoSQL. Without the No

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Upstart database maker Xeround has taken the wraps off the 1.0 release of its flagship product, but you can't install it in your local data center. It's only available as a service, from public clouds like Amazon's EC2.

Xeround got its start building massively scaled database management systems for telecom companies, including T-Mobile's US operations, which uses a variant of the Xeround database service behind its IP configuration databases on its cell networks, and Pelephone, a service provider based in Israel that uses the Xeround product as the databases for authenticating, initializing, and routing calls on its network.

Without getting into the patented technologies underlying Xeround, Razi Sharir, CEO at the company, says that it is a "super scalable distributed database" that not only runs inside virtual machines, but allows clusters of virtual machines to present a virtual image of a single database to SQL applications, even though the underlying guts of the database are founded on NoSQL technologies such as a distributed hash table, distributed Btrieve (for data access), and distributed object store.

MySQL that scales. No, really

That doesn't sound like something that is easy to program for, and the smart thing that Xeround has done is to take the open source version of MySQL and hack this distributed, virtualized database underneath MySQL as a data store (MySQL has many) using MySQL's own storage APIs. "The same old MySQL you have been using before suddenly has scalability," boasts Sharir to El Reg.

The upshot is that you get something that smells like MySQL as far as applications are concerned, but it is underpinned by a distributed database with replicated nodes for both throughput and high availability. The data is stored in main memory, which gives the Xeround database speed, and all nodes can both read and write data, which means you are not fussing around with master and slave nodes.

Copies of the database are kept on disk drives in the server as backup in the event something goes wrong. The Xeround node manager, says Sharir, is sophisticated enough to not only manage nodes within a cloud, but across clouds, allowing a database to span, for instance, Amazon EC2 instances in multiple regions of the globe – and soon across multiple infrastructure and platform cloud providers.

"In effect, we are a cloud within a bunch of clouds, serving up databases," explains Sharir, and he fully expects customers to sign up to use the database service on one cloud and have a second cloud as a backup in the event of a disaster such as the one that knocked out a whole bunch of Amazon's EC2 customers served from its Virginia database back in April.

Pick a cloud. Any cloud

The Xeround database service went into private beta in September 2010 and launched the following month in a trial on Amazon's US-based EC2 clouds for selected customers. In January, the Xeround database service launched on EC2 instances in Europe and a public beta was opened up. In March, a beta was available for Salesforce.com's Heroku platform cloud, and in April, Xeround got the database service in beta on the Rackspace Cloud and debuted its auto-scaling feature, which allows all of these clouds to automatically dial-up and dial-down infrastructure needed to support database workloads as conditions change. Xeround has over 2,000 companies that have put its service through the paces on these various clouds.

Starting today, Xeround 1.0 is available for purchase on Amazon clouds in both North America and Europe. Heroku will is using Xeround as one of its default database services, and CloudControl, a platform cloud for running PHP applications based in Germany, is going to tap Xeround as well. Sharir says that support on the Rackspace Cloud on both sides of the Atlantic is imminent, but declined to give a date.

“The same old MySQL you have been using before suddenly has scalability.”

Given the popularity of MySQL for Web applications and the limited scalability of that database, it was natural enough to start there. But Sharir says that the company can, in theory, offer compatibility with other SQL databases at some time in the future if customers are willing to pay for it. Ditto for other clouds. The virtualized, distributed MySQL database is not tied to any particular hypervisor or cloud.

While the Xeround database runs on Amazon's EC2, you don't have to buy your own EC2 images and then activate Xeround on it. The database-as-a-service company wants to make it simpler than that and get customers out of the business of trying to figure out what size Amazon virtual server images they need to buy to support their workloads ahead of time. Xeround runs the database service on your behalf atop the Amazon cloud, picking the right images from its pool of server slices to run your workload as it changes.

Xeround provides customers with a service level agreement ensuring 99.9 per cent uptime (that's seems about one or two nines shy of what most customers expect) and charges for the database service based on two metrics: the size of the database and the amount of data transferred between the database service and your applications.

Hey IBM, want a database service?

It costs 12 cents per gigabyte per hour for storage the Xeround service and 46 cents per gigabyte for data transfers. That price includes the underlying infrastructure from Amazon's EC2 cloud as well as email and Web support, daily backups, automatic scaling; 24x7 phone support and high availability "healing" are also available as options. Xeround is offering a 30-day free trial of the database service and after that trial period, customers are charged for what they use. Those who sign up for a commercial account before July 25 get a 25 per cent discount that holds through the end of 2011.

Xeround was founded in 2005, and the database-as-a-service has been in development for the past three years, says Sharir, based on the work the company had done building custom databases for telcos. The company raised $6.5m in its Series A funding in March 2005 and another $16m in its Series B round in July 2008. Benchmark Capital, Giza Venture Capital, Ignition Partners, and Trilogy Partnership all kicked in dough.

So, how long until Oracle or IBM buys Xeround? If Hewlett-Packard and Dell were thinking, they might want to buy something like this and then reverse productize it to build up their miniscule software businesses. ®

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