Bringing Data Grids to the Masses

By Nicole Hemsoth

July 17, 2006

In this Q&A, GRIDtoday spoke with Tangosol CEO Cameron Purdy about the company's recent success in getting large enterprises to adopt it data grid solution, Coherence. Purdy also offers his thoughts on where the Grid market, in general.



GRIDtoday:
To start, I'd like to ask if you could give our readers a brief history of Tangosol. When was the company founded, how has it grown, etc.?
 
CAMERON PURDY: Tangosol was founded in 2000 and initially provided consulting around solving performance issues in large-scale, typically clustered, enterprise Java and J2EE applications. After many engagements across dozens of large enterprises, we saw the same issue cropping up again and again: data latency caused by bottlenecks on backend data sources and the inability to keep cached data coherent across multiple application servers. We focused on understanding and solving this problem and Coherence was born. The company has enjoyed consistent and continuous growth and profitability since Coherence 1.0 was released in 2001. Today, our customers are large enterprises who must scale their data-intensive applications in high volume environments in a reliable, predictable way, and insure that data access is fast enough even for the most demanding applications.

Gt: How is the company doing right now? It seems like I've been seeing its name more and more in the news, so that must be a good thing. Right?

PURDY: Right now Tangosol is benefiting from years of investment in customer-driven technology development and the resulting large and loyal customer base. At the same time, the market is realizing that our technology is a key enabler to successful data grid adoption. There is a great deal of purchase momentum from large enterprises, and the raised awareness that you are seeing is further fueling our growth and leadership position in the market.

Gt: Can you talk a little about Coherence, Tangosol's flagship solution? What makes it unique among data-focused Grid solutions?
 
PURDY: Coherence is unique for two reasons. First, our peer-to-peer mesh architecture ensures reliability, scalability and performance, regardless of the number of nodes in the grid. Other solutions sacrifice some of the three to achieve just one or two of these attributes as they add nodes. Just as our underlying architecture is peer-to-peer, so is our data management. We are able to equally partition data across the entire data grid, and do so automatically, dynamically, and transparently. This enables Coherence to manage the data grid, the data in the grid and the fault tolerance of the data. Adding nodes to or subtracting them from the grid doesn't decrease performance or alter the continuous availability of data.

Second, Coherence has advanced functionality around the parallelization of data processing and data calculation. This enables the calculations to be dispatched to execute locally wherever the data happens to be distributed to — all in parallel across the breadth of the data grid simultaneously, with both once-and-only-once processing and the aforementioned reliability. This combination of dynamic data and processing partitioning enables unparalleled optimization of both data access and calculations and makes Coherence completely unique.

Gt: Many people think of cycle harvesting when they think of Grid computing. Is there a CPU-power aspect to Coherence, or is it focused solely on managing data?

PURDY: The truth is that there are very few applications that are solely data intensive or solely computationally intensive, which is why our partnership with DataSynapse has been so fruitful for both of us. Most business applications — even those that are computationally intensive — end up suffering from data starvation as the applications scale out horizontally on a grid, because computational power is a linear function of the number of servers. Coherence scales the data throughput linearly as well — within the same environment.

Gt: In the past year, Tangosol has announced partnerships with both BEA Systems and DataSynapse. How are those partnerships working out, and what is it about those companies and their respective products that complement what you are trying to do with Coherence?

PURDY: Both partnerships are customer-driven and customer-focused and are being validated in the market by new joint implementations. Our strategy has always been to complement and support our partners and to ensure that our shared customers get substantial return on their investment from the joint solutions. With BEA, our recent efforts have been to provide out-of-the-box Coherence integration with WebLogic Portal Server and to help Portal customers get the maximum scalability and performance from their existing and new Portal deployments.

With DataSynapse, our joint customers are focused not only on achieving limitless scalability of real-time financial analysis and computational capacity, but on building a service-based infrastructure for consolidating information and resources across entire enterprises. Our partnership fundamentally supports the realization of our vision of data as a service across the enterprise.

Gt: Would you attribute any recent success and increase in activity to an evolution of the Grid market from a focus on the CPU aspect to a more data-centric focus?

PURDY: Absolutely. Companies are realizing massive benefits from a ubiquitous data grid available to all applications, providing fast, scalable access to data, while consolidating access across disparate back-end data sources.

Gt: Where do you see the Grid market heading in the next few years? What trends do you see developing, and on what technologies will Grid vendors be able to hang their hats?

PURDY: Over the next few years, grids will become commonplace as more companies use them as a “shared infrastructure” more than as a shared compute resource. Grid vendors providing solutions that virtualize applications, data and resources, while reducing Grid complexity, will all benefit from the broader adoption they are driving.

Gt: Where does Tangosol fit into all of this?

PURDY: We believe that our unique ability to reliably and transparently virtualize data and processing across grids will continue to make us a strategic choice in this market. Our proven track record and our dedication to the success of our customers has created a very strong foundation for future company growth.

Gt: Finally, I'm wondering what kinds of businesses do you see as the ideal customers for Coherence, and data grid solutions in general? How does this line up with what Tangosol has done thus far in terms of customers and what it plans to do in the future?

PURDY: We are gaining many new customers — large enterprises — in almost every vertical market, further validating our expert knowledge of the challenges associated with data availability, and the value that Coherence provides to these businesses and markets. We are witnessing the democratizing force of Grid computing: we and our partners are making available the technology that the largest financial and business systems in the world are built on to benefit wider ranges of applications across more segments of the industry.

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