Web & PHP discusses cloud deployment using Xeround’s DBaaS

The Interview: Razi Sharir
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Razi Sharir is the CEO of Database-as-a-Service (DBaaS) firm Xeround, which provides a fully-elastic, scalable cloud database with a MySQL front-end. We spoke to him about Xeround’s NoSQL back-end and the company’s recent decision to partner with PHP-focused PaaS provider AppFog.

Q: First off, could you tell us a bit about the history of Xeround? Where’s the company coming from?

The company was founded with the original premise of hitting the telco arena, mobile carriers, and becoming among the A-list of databases for internal operations. It actually did fairly well there – T-Mobile in the US is using our databases in a couple of data centres; Pelephone, which is a carrier back in Israel where our R&D is, is also using our database. For all intents and purposes, the ‘telco-certified’, ‘telco-grade’ terms have been cleared and checked, so I don’t think we need to justify the technology any more – it’s there, it’s running, it’s live, it’s kicking, everything is good to go.

So, that was the initial plan. Back in 2009, four years ago, the company decided that this insane 24-month average of time-to-market in a telco is not a great place for a startup to be, and said, “OK, we have telco-grade genes and live, production technology – what else can be done with it?” Not surprisingly, the cloud came up. I was brought in to reboot the company, and this is what we’ve been doing for the past two years.

We worked hard for almost a year on prepping it all for beta, ran in beta for a few more months, then went commercially public last June. Underneath the hood, essentially, we’re a NoSQL database, we’re a distributed object store that gets dynamically and optimally balanced all the time based on the hash table and a bunch of indexes that we maintain. That’s the core trick that enables us to stretch, scale out, scale in and do all of these great things that we bring in from the telco pedigree. Yet from the front, we have the regular MySQL API plugged into the data storage API, so that we maintain full MySQL on the front end.

Q: So it’s essentially an emulation of MySQL from a NoSQL back-end?

It’s not an emulation – it’s full-blown MySQL on the front. We have our own core technology that picks up the MySQL queries and changes them around into a NoSQL engine, then backwards. So that’s the technology we went to market with. As you can probably imagine, Xeround is a very well-known company in the telco environment – I don’t know about today, but two years ago, if you asked anyone dealing with databases at the leading telcos in the world, Xeround would ring a bell. But in the cloud, we’re a no-name. For us, the core challenge this year was, “We need to go to market, we need to create buzz, we need to become a significant player in the marketplace and get a space. Then, beyond the foot in the door, we need to throw the door wide open.”

This is what we’ve been doing, and we’ve been doing it two-folded. First, we’ve been doing it on our own, which means that we provide the service to the end-users directly. Second, we’ve realised that we as a small company won’t be able to conquer the whole market, and it’s probably better for us in the long term – and the ‘long term’ is later this year, it’s not five years or something – to go to market through channels. Not surprisingly, the channels for us are also twofold: either the Infrastructure-as-a-Service providers themselves – Amazon, Rackspace and others – or the Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) providers, which have the leading, modern new-age ideas, whatever you want to call them – integrated DevOps and what have you.

When we went to market with our beta service, over a year ago, there was only Heroku and Engine Yard – it was mostly around the enterprise world. Over the last year, there’s been a whole slew of new companies, including AppFog, AppHarbor and a bunch of others. For Xeround, the customers we chase are exactly those customers – folks who are already in the cloud, who have made a conscious decision to run in the cloud, so we’re not trying to educate them about why the cloud is nice or not so nice. They’ve already made the decision, and now we’re saying, “OK, once you’ve decided to run in the cloud, you can run Xeround from your own shop and we’ll gladly provide the service, or if you’re running through Heroku or AppHarbor or AppFog or Engine Yard, we’ll be plugged in to their service, built-in, in a one stop shop.” This is very straightforward.


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