Start-up led by Sun veterans unveils data access appliances

Goal is to speed up Web 2.0, cloud computing apps

A start-up led by Sun Microsystems Inc. veterans emerged from stealth mode today with high-powered data-access appliances designed to speed up Web 2.0 and cloud computing applications.

Schooner Information Technology took IBM's newest Intel-based servers and souped them up with flash memory, 1 Gigabit and 10 Gigabit Ethernet connections, the Linux operating system, and a choice between the Memcached distributed memory caching system and the MySQL database.

Schooner claims to deliver eight times the performance of traditional servers, allowing data centers to consolidate onto fewer machines.

"These appliances really hit the core problems of data centers," namely cost, complexity and data growth, says CEO and co-founder John Busch. The appliances are in beta trials with customers and will ship in the third quarter at a price of $45,000.

Schooner was founded in 2007 by Busch and CTO Thomas McWilliams. Busch was research director of computer system architecture and analysis at Sun laboratories from 1999 through 2006, where he led research in chip-multiprocessing and multitier clustered systems.

McWilliams was a distinguished engineer and principal investigator for Sun from 1996 to 2001, handling server architecture. He has founded three companies, most recently PathScale, an InfiniBand vendor acquired by QLogic in 2006.

Schooner's data access appliance is based on the IBM System x3650 M2, a new server that contains Intel's latest Xeon processors, which were code-named Nehalem before being released last month.

Schooner began building its appliances two years ago with the previous Intel Xeon processors but didn't want to release a product that would be eclipsed by Intel's newest design.

"We didn't want to have a product that was out on the marketplace and then [overshadowed] a month later by a dramatic leap forward such as Nehalem," Busch says. "The performance we're getting is orders of magnitude better."

Each Schooner appliance contains 500GB of flash memory, 64GB of dynamic RAM, and eight Intel processing cores capable of running 16 threads simultaneously.

In addition to using IBM servers, Schooner announced a broader collaboration with IBM's sales and support teams to bring the new products to market. In a press release, IBM System x Vice President Roland Hagan described Schooner as "a nimble, cost-effective Silicon Valley start-up that leverages the proven IBM System x platform to create a highly innovative line of data center appliances."

Schooner was self-funded for six months and has since obtained $15 million in financing from CMEA Capital and Redpoint Ventures.

This story, "Start-up led by Sun veterans unveils data access appliances" was originally published by Network World.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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