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xkoto Founder and CSO interviewed; Data Virtualization explained

I spoke to Albert Lee, Fourder, CSO & Director of xkoto, last week and we had a very interesting discussion on this emerging trend. Applications is king! Without applications it really doesn't make any sense of even a business case to go ahead with virtualization. If one can ensure that their apps are going to function and perform seamlessly across all these virtualization domains, then surely you should go for virtualization.

Anyways, here are the Q&A's:

Hi Albert, tell us a bit about xkoto's history? What made you start xkoto?

xkoto was founded in 2005 by Albert Lee, Dr. Jeff Heisz, and Ariff Kassam. We were running a mature systems mgt s/w company and recognized customer trends towards commodity computing & virtualization. We recognized that all the virtualization technologies, whether at the app, O/S, storage, or network layer would need to interact with transactional data. xkoto is our response to the need for data virtualization that can enable the other tiers in the virtualization stack to work with the transactional data that the majority of customer applications rely on.

Tell us a bit about GridScale? What does it do?

GRIDSCALE is proven data virtualization middleware that requires no changes to applications nor databases. GRIDSCALE manages active/active multiple, independent copies of customer data to provide continuous availability (beyond high availability) and scale-out performance to applications. By allowing customers to use commodity servers if they choose, costs are decreased and utilization, reliability, and scalability increase. Applications connect to GRIDSCALE as they would any standard database. GRIDSCALE virtualizes the data infrastructure, so whether the copies of data are local or dispersed across multiple data centers in different cities, applications get consistent data reliably and quickly.

It currently supports IBM’s DB2 database but we will move to support other platforms such as Microsoft’s SQL Server later this year. Finally, GRIDSCALE has been very widely adopted by a number of prominent customers in financial services, healthcare, retail and travel – essentially any organization that cannot afford any downtime. We have signed up nearly 20 customers in less than two years, including UnitedHealthcare, The Children's Place Retail, Genworth Financial, InGrid, Travelport and two leading global investment firms.

Why is data or Middleware Virtualization so important?

Without data virtualization, customers would continue to use traditional costly silo'd or clustered big boxes to provide some measure of availability, but without any increase in performance, agility, or utilization. Furthermore, these traditional approaches do not allow IT operations to perform maintenance on their databases without downtime. By virtualizing data access and infrastructure, transactional data can now be liberated to experience the same benefits of that virtualization brings to the O/S layer, for example.

How is your technology superior to say, Oracle's RAC?

Oracle RAC is a shared disk and cache solution which our customers with RAC experience tell us requires significant cost and effort to implement. These customers also report that RAC cannot provide continuous availability since it has shared storage (single point of failure) and requires some downtime whenever the RAC node configuration changes. RAC also has real distance limitations since it requires shared storage - a SAN can only be extended so far. By comparison, GRIDSCALE provides real continuous availability without distance limitations. Because there is no reliance on shared storage, it is far simpler to dynamically add or subtract data nodes in multiple disparate locations without any downtime.

How are organizations going to benefit from it?

CIOs are pleased because GRIDSCALE gives their enterprises agility with a real dynamic data infrastructure that can eliminate the cost and anxiety of constant capacity planning to ensure that data can keep up with application demand.

CFOs appreciate the increased return-on-assets due to much higher IT utilization with a lower overall capital expenditure.

DBAs and IT operations are relieved that their data (and their weekends!) are protected 24x7 so that unplanned downtime is eliminated.

Why would I tell a client about xkoto's Middleware Virtualization as against traditional HA and clustering technologies?

Traditional high availability active/passive clustering provides some protection against local failures but do nothing for preventing outages altogether. They provide failover to an expensive, typically idle, passive secondary system that may not be fully up-to-date at time of failover. Traditional clusters do not provide scale-out performance. GRIDSCALE requires no failover since the architecture is always active/active. Improved performance, lower costs, configuration agility, and improved disaster prevention are all delivered by GRIDSCALE.

What is your future "In the Clouds" or Grid computing?

The three or four Grid computing incumbents are recognizing that they need to interact with virtualized infrastructure and in particular, with non-batch workloads, the majority of which involve transactional data. Similarly, cloud computing must also be able to dynamically provision for and serve up transactional data not only reliably and quickly, but at a competitive low cost in order to fulfill the vision of utility computing. Clearly, xkoto sees itself playing an important role in virtualizing access to enterprise data, whether behind the corporate firewall or "in the cloud."

How do you fit in the Virtualization world, is it more of a complementary nature or do you rest on an independent stack?

xkoto is helping to define the emerging data virtualization segment. In the broader virtualization ecosystem, xkoto is a complementary player. As discussed, we see xkoto as liberating corporate data for consumption by grids, clouds, and virtualized apps, leveraging virtualized storage and networks.

What are your plans for EMEA, S. America and Asia?

Each geography has its own particular needs. xkoto is partnering with some of the biggest IT players in all geographies to leverage their presence, expertise, and channels that are unique to each region.

What can we expect more from xkoto in the future?

xkoto will be going "deep and wide". We will forge new alliances with partners up and down the virtualization stack, and wider across multiple data and app platforms to provide our customers and partners with pre-certified technology that will serve as building blocks for virtualizating the enterprise.


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