FoundationDB — Not Your Standard NoSQL Database

FoundationDB, here at Disrupt San Francisco 2012, is a modern database with features that have been the foundation for databases since the 1970s. The result, they say, is an infinitely scalable database that goes beyond what most NoSQL databases offer.

By adopting the inherent strengths of NoSQL and integrating what they call “YesACID,” FoundationDB executives believe they have a database that is industrial strength, scalable, and fault tolerant. The service can scale across a distributed infrastructure without the worry of a single point of failure, making it simpler to scale.

Most NoSQL datbabases have discarded what gave the standard SQL database its place 30 years ago. This includes ACID, first developed in the 1970s, which is a set of properties that guarantees database transactions are processed reliably. Most NoSQL providers have discarded ACID and, as a result, have started to have longer-term problems, such as data consistency. The real effect is ease of development. It’s harder to build on top of a database without strong consistency guarantees.

“They have thrown out the baby with the bath water,” said FoundationDB Co-Founder David Rosenthal about NoSQL database companies.

The company founders say they have built a key-value store database, meaning it keeps an index of all values. Information associated with users, for instance, is considered a value. FoundationDB executives say it sets itself apart in how it serves as a foundation for different data models that can be layered on top of FoundationDB. Its goal is simply to be the foundation for database environments.

The most apparent use cases are for web apps that have issues scaling. It can be a complex task as illustrated by the issues Twitter faced when the service first started to scale. FoundationDB can scale once across a distributed infrastructure. That’s opposed to SQL database technology that has to be installed on individual servers. Standard NoSQL databases offer easy scaling with no transactions. FoundationDB can manage both scalability and transactions.

The founders say they have raised a significant angel round. The founders sold Visual Sciences in 2006 to Webside Story for about $60 million. Webside Story was later rebranded again as Visual Sciences. In 2008, Omniture acquired the new Visual Sciences for $394 million.

Foudation DB is still a product that its founders are defining quite broadly. It is one of those products that has universal uses so we’ll see where it goes. It is available in alpha right now and will go to beta by the end of the year and be available for download. The ecosystem will be open for people to build and share libraries and layers.

A band of NoSQL database companies have emerged to help manage the ever-growing amount of unstructured data that companies are trying to manage. FoundationDB’s challenge is to make the leapfrog. MongoDB may have its faults, but it is the top dog in the market with relationships with companies such as Red Hat. Displacing a legacy provider is one thing. Tackling an innovator is entirely another.

“The most important innovation with MongoDB is its API,” Rosenthal said. “We sell an amazing storage technology that could be compatible with NoSQL technologies like MongoDB.”