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NorthScale, Zynga team up on NoSQL

NoSQL is getting another big push with Membase, a database that looks and acts like the popular Memcached caching server.

The massive amounts of data being created on the Web and the rise of cloud computing together make an ideal environment for alternative database technologies to thrive. And the Web is often proving to be just an entry point for bleeding-edge technology to be tested out before it starts heading into the enterprise.

NoSQL databases and associated operational-data technologies based on nonrelational approaches to data management and manipulation continue to be top of mind for big Web shops and are slowly starting to make their way into enterprise IT infrastructure.

I've spoken with a number of vendors roaming the NoSQL space over the last few months and there seems to be one common thread that they push: traditional relational databases are expensive, bulky, and simply not ideal for this new era of Web technology.

Elastro, the Membase mascot

On Wednesday, a new NoSQL database joins the fray: Membase. Launched as an open-source project under the Apache 2.0 license and co-sponsored by NorthScale, Zynga, and NHN (Korea's top online gaming portal), Membase is optimized for storing the data behind interactive Web applications.

Membase says it is 100 percent compatible with Memcached, the de facto standard for distributed object caching behind Web applications. Basically, Membase is as easy to use as Memcached but also stores data.

According to James Phillips, NorthScale co-founder and senior vice president of products, the thousands of organizations that use Memcached (18 of the top 20 most visited Web sites including Twitter, Facebook, and Google) have a demand for a solution that looks like Memcached but acts like a distributed, highly available, high-performance, elastic database technology.

"Membase is a natural progression for organizations using Memcached," Phillips said. "It lets users add a more elastic, NoSQL data layer to their Web infrastructure, alongside their SQL databases, without taking a leap into the unknown."

Casual-game provider Zynga found that its efforts to manage the load of its database operations dovetailed with work being done at NorthScale and NHN and decided to contribute research findings and to the open-source community, as well as sponsoring continuing efforts to maintain and enhance the software.

Fresh off a $10 million round of funding last month and emerging from stealth mode just three months ago, NorthScale on Wednesday also opened its commercial distribution of Membase, called NorthScale Membase Server, as a public beta. The packaged software will be soon be offered on an annual subscription basis, with several levels of support to choose from.

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