I talked Friday with Chris Piedemonte and Gary Sherman, respectively the Cofounder/CTO and Chief Mathematician of Algebraix, who hooked up together for this project back in 2003 or 2004. (Algebraix is the company formerly known as XSPRADA.) Algebraix makes an analytic DBMS, somewhat based on the ideas of extended set theory, that runs on SMP (Symmetric MultiProcessing) boxes. Like all analytic DBMS vendors, Algebraix has on some occasions run some queries orders of magnitude faster than they ran on the systems users were looking to replace.
Algebraix’s secret sauce is that the DBMS keeps reorganizing and recopying the data on disk, to optimize performance in response to expected query patterns (automatically inferred from queries it’s seen so far). This sounds a lot like the Infobright story, with some of the more obvious differences being:
- Infobright has fixed data structures, with what serve for indexes and precomputed aggregates added on the fly. Algebraix apparently reorganizes everything, including data partitions. (I also presume that Algebraix’s indexes and aggregates look rather different than Infobright’s data packs.)
- Infobright compresses data aggressively. Algebraix doesn’t yet compress.
- Infobright’s product is presumably much more mature.
So far as I can tell, that’s about it. Experience teaches that when a small company claims that some big mathematical breakthrough lets it have huge product superiority in DBMS or analytic tools, the claim doesn’t pan out. Maybe the company has good technology somewhat inspired by the mathematics, but the more breathless claims are always overwrought. Examples include Infobright (rough set theory), CrossZ/QueryObject (fractals), and KXEN (support vector machines). Algebraix (extended set theory) shows every sign of being another such case. An extended discussion about whether or not join operations are commutative – without benefit of any examples of their supposed non-commutativity – did little to convince me otherwise.
Finally, as per email from diligent PR guy David King,
- Algebraix has 22 employees in Austin and at its HQ in San Diego.
- Algebraix’s biggest customer is the Department of Defense (through BAE Systems).
- Algebraix’s product just became commercially available on March 1.
- Algebraix has completed one round of funding for $11 million.
- Algebraix is 100% angel-backed.
- Algebraix’s target market is “any mid-large sized organization that needs rapid access to analytics on large volumes of data.”