Terracotta Bolsters Java In-Memory Caching Platform

In-memory caching is emerging as a viable alternative to those developing database applications that typically are used for Web-based transactions.

Terracotta Inc., a rapidly growing player in that field, last week released a higher throughput version of its open source in-memory database caching platform. The company said its Terracotta 3.0 improves throughput of Java-based applications three-fold while reducing database loads by 60 percent compared to the previous version. Terracotta 3.0 also offers new APIs for cloud and grid-based applications, and management and developer interfaces.

The San Francisco-based company has carved out a niche for those who need lots of database capacity for situations where transactions tend to peak at certain times, said Terracotta CEO Amit Pandey.

"People size for the maximize number of transactions the database handles," Pandey said. "If you look at the amount of data on those databases, it's only a small percentage of transactions. What we are providing is an infrastructure-class server to handle that peak operational load problem."

Instead of going to the database for the frequently accessed data, Terracotta has a client interface that basically intercepts a request, handles the data in memory and gives it to the application in memory, according to Pandey.

That prevents excessive use of the database, thus reducing database licensing costs and the need to manage that infrastructure, he said. Also, because the data is in memory, the object-relational mapping process is eliminated. "A database stores everything in relational format, so you need to do a mapping from object to relational," he said. "We don't do that -- we store everything in object form. We preserve all the relationships and the identities of objects."

A number of vendors including GigaSpaces, GemStone Systems and ScaleOut Software offer some form of in-memory caching. Oracle and Microsoft have also jumped into the market, Oracle through its acquisition of Tangosol (which developed what is now known as Oracle Coherence) and Microsoft via its forthcoming caching software code-named "Velocity." Microsoft released the third community technology preview (CTP) of Velocity earlier this month.

Pandey said Terracotta is similar to Velocity except the latter is .NET-based. "The biggest difference is in the implementation, and one of the things that we offer that no one else does is the persistence of the data," Pandey said. "If something were to go wrong, we perform a parallel write the disk, and we also offer network high-availability." Terracotta is considering developing a .NET implementation next year, he said.

"Terracotta has managed to carve itself a niche sector of the data-caching market with its open source software that clusters together Java virtual machines," said 451 Group analyst Matthew Aslett in an e-mail. "It continues to grow its customer base rapidly and is evolving its business model with new premium features such as server array striping and new developer- and operation-focused consoles that should be of more interest to paying enterprise customers than community open source users."

Aslett said it remains to be seen whether caching is a niche big enough to sustain an independent vendor, as opposed to part of the larger software stack. "From that perspective, the arrival of a new set of competitors focused on memory cached (Gear6 and Schooner, for example) could be positive for Terracotta, raising awareness for Web caching as a discipline," he said.

The new release is the first differentiated version over its open source offering, according to Pandey. In addition to the improved scalability, Terracotta 3.0 offers a management dashboard and a developer console that aids in tuning, memory browsing for debugging, and runtime visualization.

Pricing ranges from $7,000 to $12,000 per application instance and is available for download at Terracotta's Web site.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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