Xkoto’s Database Virtualization Expands Cloud Opportunities

Xkoto, the database virtualization pioneer, has generated substantial interest since its first deployments in 2006. Still privately held and in investment mode, Xkoto sees profitability on the horizon, but offers no target date, and appears in no hurry. Its progress has been steady: in early 2008, a B round of financing led by GrandBanks Capital allowed a step up to 50 employees as the company crossed the 50 customer mark. 2008 also saw Xkoto adding support for Microsoft SQL Server to its IBM DB2 base. Charlie Ungashick, VP of marketing for Xkoto, says that 2009 has been going well, and the third quarter was quite strong. And at the end of September 2009, Xkoto announced GRIDSCALE version 5.1, which adds new cluster management capabilities to its active-active configuration model, as well as Amazon EC2 availability.

“Traditional” models of passive failover and passive disaster recovery are high cost, inflexible architectures that xkoto’s GRIDSCALE replaces with multiple identical databases copies that it manages in an active-active configuration for lower cost scale-out and disaster recovery (DR.)  Applications don’t “see” it; GRIDSCALE captures the SQL statements and replicates them to the copies – both DDL and DML – with an optimistic, non-synchronous protocol: the first successful response goes back to the application.

Customers include CNN, Puma, HSBC, and the US Department of Homeland Security. Ungashick says Western Europe is doing very well – half of Q3 revenue came from Europe. The firm has recently added direct sales headcount in South Africa and Asia, and is continuing to add more. The partnership with IBM has been instrumental in some big wins for both parties. Xkoto is arguably the closest DB2 has to answer Oracle’s RAC, and Xkoto participated with IBM in several deals that needed this capability.

GRIDSCALE version 5.1’s Amazon EC2 availability enables multiple DB2 databases running in the cloud to work together, and avoid the limitations formerly resulting from the lack of shared storage – allowing load distribution in the cloud for the first time.Version 5.1 also adds automatic recovery, Kerberos support for authentication, and other features as described here.

The SQL Server version of GRIDSCALE 5.1 features a new, “driverless” configuration. Native SQL Server drivers, including ADO, .NET Framework, and OLE DB are now supported; GRIDSCALE has implemented the tabular data stream (TDS) protocol Microsoft inherited and updated from Sybase. Microsoft SQL Server Enterprise Manager and other tools compatible with Microsoft interfaces can be used for management of the server instances. Ungashick says he’s seeing more opportunities with Microsoft where the competition is Oracle RAC, similar to what Xkoto had already been seeing with DB2 prospects:

A number of situations have arisen recently with SQL Server customers recognizing that their data warehouses are not adequately designed for availability and disaster recovery. As the DWs become more important to the business, we think we’ll see much more interest in that use case,” he said.

Xkoto is hoping to leverage the Microsoft community to drive business there.  The recognition the company has already received – Best of Microsoft Tech•Ed 2009 and Gartner‘s “Cool Vendor in IT Operations and Virtualization” among them – will go a long way towards boosting its visibility. This is a promising model, and Xkoto has the early lead – which will be a challenge to hold as the big database vendors add their own capabilities in this area. Meanwhile, Ungashick says, there are other database products that could use similar capabilities and we can expect to see announcements with others in the year ahead.

Update: Teradata acquired xkoto in May. To date, no information has been posted on Teradata’s web site about its plans for the technology.

Published by Merv Adrian

Independent information technology market analyst and consultant, 40 years of industry experience, covering software in and around the data management space.

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