One to watch: GE and Pivotal invest in SnappyData

It may not be much in terms of actual dollars, but this looks like a strategic investment in this big data analytics company

GE and Pivotal invest in SnappyData

Investments happen all the time. And usually a modest(!) sub $4 million series A round wouldn't raise much attention. After all, Silicon Valley is built on a high cadence of startup founding, investments and eventual exit out the other end (be it successful or otherwise).

But this one is interesting in part because of those investing in the company, and also because of who is involved in the founding of this particular startup.

SnappyData is building an in-memory transactional analytics database that is built on top of the Apache Spark open-source initiative. Nothing too exciting there, right? Well, an added twist is that the SnappyData leadership team—Richard Lamb, Jags Ramnarayanan and Sudhir Menon—previously built GemFire into one of most widely adopted in-memory data grid products in the market. Oh, and that little company, GemFire, was eventually acquired by VMware. And for those unaccustomed to the slight incestuousness that occurs in the technology industry, VMware went on to create, and eventually spin out, the Pivotal organization, headline investors today in SnappyData.

Not only that, but one of the higher profile customers that Pivotal has managed to score in its short life is GE. GE is, of course, a huge industrial company that makes power plants, jet engines and other heavy machinery. In recent years, however, it has been strongly articulating its perception that the future for GE is, in fact, in becoming a software company—leveraging the huge amount of data that its equipment gathers to deliver positive outcomes for its customers.

So, we have a very young startup doing something interesting. We have a founding team with a track record of delivering cutting-edge solutions and having their company acquired, and we have two commercial organizations that are at the forefront of a new age-of-technology approach. What's the connection?

Well, SnappyData's funding round is being led by none other than Pivotal Software and GE Ventures, along with another funder, GTD Capital. Things get more interesting.

Why is Spark important? And what is the follow-on opportunity here?

Spark has, over recent years, gained acceptance as a general-purpose platform for processing large data volumes. As it has, however, customers have begun to look for ways to extend it to solve big data problems ranging from streaming to real-time analytics in real-time environments.

SnappyData’s technology provides an alternative for customers who traditionally have used a combination of disparate products to handle their streaming, transactional and analytical data needs. Traditionally these customers have to custom-stitch heterogeneous environments together, resulting in increased development complexity and total cost of ownership, as well as frustration.

“We aim to do for real-time analytics what we did for in-memory transactions a decade ago with GemFire,” said SnappyData President Richard Lamb. “This investment helps us address what we believe is a real pain point for customers in a wide variety of markets”

The SnappyData open-source platform aims to eliminate these production woes by empowering customers to stream, transact and analyze, all in a single in-memory cluster. It achieves this via a unified engine for real-time operational analytics, wrapping stream analytics and the twin data-modeling technologies OLTP and OLAP into a single integrated cluster, coupled with approximate query processing, which offers promise in revolutionizing big data processing.

The solution fuses the big data computational muscle of Apache Spark in-memory design and unique “shared nothing” architecture that eliminates single points of failure while delivering very high performance based on GemFire—the most widely deployed enterprise-class in-memory data grid on the market. The funding will allow the company to further invest in engineering and sales.

The fact that SnappyData was incubated at Pivotal and then spun out only a few short months ago is interesting. The fact that Pivotal has now invested in the startup, alongside high-profile technology user GE, is a real stamp of approval. It may be only a few measly million dollars, but this is one company to watch closely.

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