Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Algebraix: "Too Good To Be True" - Creating An Algebra For Data

Posted by Tom Foremski - April 8, 2010


"This is too good to be true," I told Charles Silver, CEO of Algebraix Data, a San Diego based startup that has developed a way of querying huge databases in near real-time without the need for any prior indexing.

Mr Silver was telling me about the technology behind Algebraix and it's unique approach to the difficult problem of handling very large databases. Companies spend tens of millions of dollars a year just on trying to make sense of the huge amounts of business data they collect.

Here are some notes from or conversation:

- The founders are maths professors and they've created an 'algebra' for querying databases.

- It works on any size database, we haven't yet found a limit.

- It works on any data in any database, including unstructured data.

- It goes beyond relational databases, which are based on rows and columns, essentially giant spreadsheets.

- Usually, querying large databases can be a multi-million dollar project to create the right data sets and then the testing. No prior data modeling is required with our approach.

- We've just begun to talk to potential enterprise customers in the past six weeks.

- The CIA and Navy were our first customers and we now have pilots running at some large financial services companies.

- It can be used to power other applications. It works with standard SQL and runs in near-real time.

- You could use it to mirror any application.

- It is based on extended set theory mathematics.

- We've raised a total of $12m -- all from angels.

- We have 22 employees.

- It's expensive. Our list price is based on the size of the data and is $100,000 for the first Terabyte.

- It runs on any Linux based hardware system. Our development center is in Austin, Texas, and Dell has given us a bunch of machines to use.

- The size of the application is very small just 7 MBytes.

- I used to run RealAge, which collected lifestyle data on millions of people and recommended pharmaceuticals. I sold it to Hearst in September 2007.

- I was an investor then joined as Chairman and took over as CEO in the fall.

- We have four patents on the technology. Getting software patents is not as easy as it once used to be.

- People don't believe it. Even our own developers don't believe that it does what it does.

Foremski's Take: Algebraix potentially has a very disruptive technology. If Charles Silver is right, Algebraix is onto a winner because we are all drowning in data and that data becomes less and less useful because its size make it more difficult to analyze.

Businesses today collect massive amounts of data and there is tremendous value in that data if it can be converted into actionable information. That's why Business Intelligence is a hot sector these days, and has been the focus of much M&A activity in recent years.

Any application is essentially a dynamic layer on top of a database. With the Algebraix approach virtually any application could be expressed as an algebraic expression.

Since the Algebraix approach works across different databases, it could also become a perfect systems integrator technology.

I'm just a reporter and I don't have any way of testing Algebraix's claims but if what Mr Silver says is true, this startup is going to do very well. It tackles one of the most difficult computational problems at the heart of all modern commercial IT systems.

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Please see:

Our technology | Algebraix Data, formerly Xsprada

Is The Relational Database Finally Finished? | The Virtual Circle


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