Last week, Garantia Data raised $9 million in a Series A round led by Bain Capital and Carmel Ventures. The company had previously raised $3.8 million in seed funding to fund its managed service for deploying and scaling Redis, the popular NoSQL in-memory database. The funding comes as Garantia prepares for AWS re:Invent, the conference in Las Vegas this week for the most powerful cloud provider in the world and arguably Garantia’s biggest competitor.
The technology landscape is full of stories about fast-growing startups that suddenly face dominant providers that launch new, competing services. But for Garantia, the situation is a bit more complex as it faces not just AWS but Pivotal, the corporate sponsor for the Redis project. Pivotal is the spinoff from EMC, which combined Cloud Foundry, a platform-as-a-service with its Greenplum and other services.
In September, AWS added support for Redis, an in-memory, key-value store, popular with developers for its superior caching and ability to support multiple data types. It integrates with Amazon ElastiCache and accompany Memcached, another in-memory caching engine. As for Pivotal, it inherited Redis from VMware, which became the de facto corporate sponsor when it hired Redis inventor Salvatore Sanfilippo. According to Sanflippo in an interview on the Pivotal blog, Redis is one of the “big data” pieces for Pivotal. He said it helps with systems that have requirements for extremely low latency and very high operations per second. For example Twitter uses Redis to cache the last several hundred tweets from a person’s account.
Both AWS and Pivotal are trying to achieve what Garantia has already done so successfully. Redis is not designed to “scale-out” but instead it is meant to run on one master server. Garantia CEO Ofer Bengal said in an email interview with me that AWS, realizing Redis has become extremely popular, added it to their Elasticache service. Elasticache was a Memcached only service until then. However, AWS did not take upon themselves to improve open source Redis or Memcached. They simply packaged them as services to sell instances, pre-loaded with open source Redis or Memcached.
With Redis, a dataset cannot grow beyond a single master server. Sophisticated users sometime shard their datasets on the application level, but this can get very complex and error prone. The open source community is working on “Redis Cluster”, which is designed to overcome the Redis scale-out limitation. However, there is not yet a release date for this technology. Moreover, it is already known that when available, Redis Cluster will not support many popular Redis commands or data types.
Bengal said Garantia’s “Dynamic Clustering technology,” which runs on AWS and Windows Azure, wraps standard open-source Redis. He said its Redis Cloud service overcomes open source limitations, enhances Redis, and fully automates operations. It is designed to auto-scale with no need to add nodes or clusters. Instead, Redis Cloud adds memory according to the actual size of the user’s dataset. It also has auto-failover, replication across zones, efficient data persistence as well as backup.
AWS is a juggernaut that uses services like ElastiCache to lock in customers into value added services. And Piviotal, though new, has deep enough pockets to fund Redis, which gives the company its own leverage and power.
So it’s not going to be easy for Garantia. The company had decided to change its name to RedisDB. They had secured the domain and were ready to move ahead until Sanfilippo expressed concern that the RedisDB name would cause confusion as it is also the name of the Redis forum. Without that clear connection, Garantia does not have the brand association with the Redis ecosystem. In the meantime, AWS and Pivotal have plenty of money to do their own marketing and slowly but methodically build out features to put it on par with Garantia.