Cool Vendors in In-Memory Computing
Published: 11 April 2014
Analyst(s): Massimo Pezzini, Joseph Unsworth, Tim Payne, Michele Reitz, Roxane Edjlali
IMC technologies support the agility and large-scale, fast data processing
needed to succeed in the digital era. Application architecture leaders should
master IMC architectures and technologies, or run the risk of undermining
their organizations' ability to leverage digital business opportunities.
■ In-memory computing (IMC) technology is increasingly emerging as a key enabler for the digital
business by empowering the agility, Web-scale processing and fast decision making needed to
respond to the business challenges of the digital era.
■ Innovation in IMC continues unabated across the entire spectrum of IT markets: from hardware
to application infrastructure to packaged applications.
■ IMC's impact is increasingly manifesting as notable innovation in business processes. Well-
established examples include manufacturing resource planning, corporate performance
management, dynamic pricing and supply chain planning (SCP). Even more dramatic innovation
will emerge as more IMC-enabled packaged business applications are released in the market.
■ Despite megavendors' overwhelming rhetoric, innovation in IMC technology and its application
is still largely driven by small, IMC-focused vendors that frequently anticipate trends and out-
innovate established players. Consequently, partnerships between IMC pure players and
traditional providers is destined to increase and will lead to a flurry of acquisitions.
■ Look at IMC as technologies and architectures that are rapidly reaching mainstream adoption,
although technology maturity is still uneven and industry experience continues to build up.
■ Don't just consider megavendors for your IMC initiatives; small, innovative pure players often
provide more cost-effective and/or more technically valid alternatives to large vendors'
3. ■ Mitigate the risk of adopting IMC technology from small players by using their products on
projects that can pay themselves off in three to four years.
■ Don't rule out the use of small vendors' IMC products for long-term initiatives as well, despite
the risks. The anticipated benefits of IMC-enabled business processes (for example, SCP) can
have a strategic impact on your organization.
This research does not constitute an exhaustive list of vendors in any given technology area, but
rather is designed to highlight interesting, new and innovative vendors, products and services.
Gartner disclaims all warranties, express or implied, with respect to this research, including any
warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.
What You Need to Know
This research provides CTOs, directors of application infrastructure, data management leaders,
application architecture leaders, supply chain management leaders, data center leaders and other
IT leaders engaged in defining their organizations' IMC strategies with an assessment of four
innovative IMC vendors, their technology differentiations and the challenges they face.
These vendors provide solid-state drive (SSD)-enabling technology, integrated IMC platforms, in-
memory database management systems (IMDBMSs) and IMC-enabled SCP applications:
■ Diablo provides its Memory Channel Storage (MCS) architecture and an accompanying chipset,
software stack and reference design kit that will give OEMs the ability to design high-
performance/low-latency SSDs by utilizing DDR3 dual in-line memory module (DIMM) (typically
leveraged to connect DRAM), rather than the slower Peripheral Component Interconnect
Express (PCIe), SATA or SAS interfaces (traditionally used to integrate hard-disk drives [HDDs]).
■ GridGain offers an out-of-the-box combination of IMC capabilities, including an in-memory data
grid (IMDG), complex-event processing/event streaming, IMDBMS features, high-performance
computing and an in-memory accelerator for Hadoop.
■ MemSQL provides an atomicity, consistency, isolation and durability (ACID)-compliant in-
memory row-store DBMS designed for supporting hybrid transactional and analytical
processing (HTAP) via a massively parallel processing system that scales horizontally with built-
in redundancy for high availability (HA) and disaster recovery across local and remote sites.
■ Relex supplies an in-memory-enabled, integrated SCP platform for the retail and wholesale
industries, which is highly configurable to allow users to take control of their data and plans
through strong analytics and root cause analysis.
This research also provides a retrospective on a previously Cool Vendor in application
infrastructure, PrismTech, a provider of in-memory-enabled, high-performance messaging
infrastructure targeting the Internet of Things and IT/operational technology (OT) integration
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4. Diablo Technologies
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada (www.diablo-technologies.com)
Analysis by Michele Reitz and Joseph Unsworth
Why Cool: Diablo Technologies is a semiconductor and storage architecture design company
founded in 2003 that operates from its base in Canada. The vendor provides hardware and
architecture solutions for the storage and memory industries.
Diablo has developed the MCS architecture and an accompanying chipset, software stack and
reference design kit that will give OEMs the ability to design SSDs that install in available DDR3
DIMM slots in a server host (DDR3 DIMM slots are usually populated with DRAM). As a result of
sitting directly on the faster memory channel, the SSDs can achieve drastically lower latencies than
any existing solid-state storage solution, and can function as a less expensive and nonvolatile
alternative to DRAM memory, if the slower access speeds are acceptable for the application.
Today, the limits for performance, scalability and latency of SSDs are due to the structure and
speeds of the standard storage channel interfaces (PCIe, SATA and SAS) that are used by most
SSDs, where the storage is remote from the CPU and memory. By installing the flash storage device
directly on the memory channel versus the storage channels, the flash no longer has to endure the
storage channel bottlenecks as inputs/outputs (I/Os) increase; these bottlenecks result in reduced
performance and scalability and increased latency. Because the memory channel provides a direct
and scalable interface to the CPU and memory, Diablo's memory channel intellectual property (IP)
should allow OEMs and SSD vendors to build systems that have advantages over traditional SSDs
in reduced write latency, increased input/output operations per second (IOPS) with better
scalability, and increased storage footprints and bandwidth.
In Diablo's first partnership with SanDisk for the ULLtraDIMM product, the flash management is
done by SanDisk's Guardian Technology Platform and enables usage of consumer-grade 19 nm
MLC flash. Thus, the implementation of Diablo's technology in this all-flash solution should hit the
"sweet spot" of ultralow latency and high performance, along with the capacity and cost-effective
economics of flash technology.
Challenges: Although Diablo has a unique approach with its MCS architecture, there are a number
of significant challenges for the vendor.
Primarily, Diablo presents only part of an overall solution; today, it is dependent on its exclusive
relationship with SanDisk for its flash management, which is an essential part of a completely self-
contained all-flash, nonvolatile-DIMM.
Additional OEM adoption will be essential to Diablo's long-term success, and the SanDisk-Diablo
solution has only one major OEM partnership with IBM to date. This required a concentrated effort
by IBM to modify the host server system. For new OEMs to fully utilize the technology, the host
server OEM will need, at minimum, to make basic input/output system (BIOS) changes in the
memory mapping, enhance the drivers to optimize the OS, potentially optimize system management
for the SSDs and implement needed hardware modifications. The customization needed could deter
Gartner, Inc. | G00262748 Page 3 of 11
5. OEMs from working with Diablo; however, as recently as March 2014, Boston Limited announced
that it will be shipping Supermicro solutions using Diablo MCS.
Additional use case scenarios will be essential to Diablo's long-term success. In order to get more
widespread adoption, the use cases for memory channel products will need to spread beyond the
extremely high-performance, high-bandwidth and ultra-low-latency applications, where they are
getting the most interest today. Competition for these scenarios may come from other memory
module makers in the future; however, at this point, no other vendor has produced an all-flash
solution. IBM's recently announced eXFlash for System x, which includes SanDisk's ULLtraDIMM, is
promising, but it is much too early to judge its success. History has shown that new storage
technologies can have slow adoption, so the involved companies will need to educate potential
users on the benefits of the product and reinforce the reduced total cost of ownership (TCO) of the
solution in different use cases.
From a business perspective, Diablo could be a likely takeover target because it does not have a
self-contained solution; rather, it provides important underlying technology. Any one of its partners
or competitors with the financial means to acquire Diablo could be motivated to do so. On the legal
front, Diablo is currently being sued by Netlist for alleged patent infringement. Diablo is contesting
this litigation, but a ruling in favor of Netlist could do irrevocable damage to the vendor.
Who Should Care: Data center managers and architects whose organizations are under pressure to
deliver operations with low latency should look at SSD manufacturers embedding the Diablo
technology and server OEMs that support Diablo technology. This includes the server and storage
IT teams responsible for data centers housing high-frequency trading, and other financial and
scientific industries where low latency and fast data acquisition and analysis are required. While
these sit on the extreme periphery of the application space, as the use cases for the memory
channel architecture evolve, it will be attractive to IT teams running virtualized environments as a
generalized use case, because of the combination of reduced storage cost and scalability. Big data
and cloud data center teams will be interested in the increased transactions per second and overall
improved response times. In addition, IT organizations in hyperscale companies can utilize Diablo's
IP as they build out their own all-flash data centers.
Foster City, California (www.gridgain.com)
Analysis by Massimo Pezzini
Why Cool: GridGain is a software company incorporated in 2007 that operates in the U.S., with
sales offices in California, Texas, New York and Florida, and R&D labs in Silicon Valley and St.
Petersburg (Russia). The vendor provides software products implementing a variety of IMC
The GridGain In-Memory Computing Platform provides, as an open source software product, an
out-of-the-box combination of IMC capabilities, including an IMDG, complex event processing/
event streaming and some in-memory DBMS features (SQL support for queries, but not for updates,
on top of the native IMDG). The platform also incorporates high-performance computing
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6. capabilities. The offering is completed with the In-Memory Accelerator for Hadoop, a Hadoop File
System (HDFS)-compatible in-memory file system (called GridGain File System [GGFS]) that can be
plugged in underneath any Hadoop 1.0 and 2.0 distribution. The GridGain Visor provides the unified
management and monitoring tool for the platform. The GridGain In-Memory Computing Platform is
certified to run on major Linux distributions and Microsoft Windows Server.
The vendor boasts 25 to 30 paid clients for its platform, including Apple, Avis, Canon, Daiwa
Institute of Research Group, IHG, McGraw-Hill Education, Moody's KMV, Sberbank, Sony, TomTom
and Worldpay. Several other organizations use the free versions of the product. User organizations
leverage the GridGain In-Memory Computing Platform for several use cases, including: securities
trading, e-commerce, online advertisement, risk management, medical/genomic data processing,
online gaming and online education.
The platform is proven to be able to support very large workloads (for example, 1 billion
transactions per second on commodity hardware in a proof of concept for a European bank) and
features a rich set of capabilities, including partitioning, replication, read-through, write-through,
write-behind, overflow management, ACID distributed transaction management (including support
for Java Transaction APIs [JTA]), cross-data center (WAN) replication, SQL and Apache Lucene-
based queries, off-Java Virtual Machine (JVM) heap data storing, security, pluggable failover,
topology and collision resolution, and other advanced features (such as a compute grid capability
that provides support for MapReduce-type applications).
However, the GridGain In-Memory Computing Platform's primary distinctive factors are:
■ The combination of IMDG, IMDBMS and complex-event processing capabilities in a single,
integrated in-memory-enabled platform, sharing a common in-memory data store and featuring
the ability to leverage these capabilities in the same application, is a characteristic that would,
for example, enable developers to implement HTAP (see "Hybrid Transaction/Analytical
Processing Will Foster Opportunities for Dramatic Business Innovation") applications.
This combination of capabilities represents a step forward in the aggregation of IMC technology
into broader and more comprehensive platforms, as anticipated by Gartner (see "Taxonomy,
Definitions and Vendor Landscape for In-Memory Computing Technologies").
■ The vendor's business model recently transitioned from a classic, although subscription-based,
closed-source approach to open-source software through which user organizations have free
access to GridGain technology via an Apache 2.0 license, but can also subscribe (for a fee) to
the Enterprise Edition, which provides premium features and services (security, manageability,
business-critical high availability and 24/7 support).
This positions GridGain as one of the few IMC open-source technologies available and the only
one, so far, providing such a rich set of functionality. Companies like Software AG (Terracotta
and Enterprise Ehcache), Red Hat (Infinispan) and Hazelcast provide open-source IMDG
technology, and EsperTech delivers open-source, complex-event processing technology, but
none of these vendors makes available an open-source combination of both these
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7. Challenges: Apart from the usual issues plaguing every small software vendors (such as minimal
awareness, limited geographic reach, low number of partners and competition from established
vendors), GridGain also faces some specific challenges. The IMC technology combination offered
by its platform is original, but also unusual, which may make it difficult, in some cases, for the
vendor to articulate a simple value proposition that could appeal to mainstream organizations. This
may imply long and costly sales cycles and may slow down growth. Moreover, finding skills for such
a complex platform will prove difficult, especially outside the U.S. Bay Area.
Open source has proved to be an effective way to foster widespread adoption of new technologies,
but is also hard to monetize in the absence of a large and vibrant community and vast industry
support. GridGain just changed its business model; therefore, it will probably take two to three
years to fully benefit from the new approach, thus giving time to the competition to catch up.
Who Should Care: Application development and other IT leaders looking at IMC technology to
support a wide range of use cases (including analytics, transaction processing and event
processing) or embarking on HTAP projects should take into consideration products (such as the
GridGain In-Memory Computing Platform) providing support for a plurality of IMC technology
aspects, rather than just point products. Although these integrated platforms may prove more
complex to deal with, they are also likely to improve TCO and to favor skills reuse across multiple
projects and initiatives.
San Francisco, California (www.memsql.com)
Analysis by Roxane Edjlali
Why Cool: MemSQL was founded in 2011 in San Francisco. The MemSQL DBMS is an ACID-
compliant, in-memory row-store and flash-optimized column-store database designed for
supporting heavy transactional loads as well as analytical queries. This makes MemSQL one of the
few emerging in-memory DBMS vendors supporting HTAP. MemSQL is a massively parallel
processing system that scales horizontally with built-in redundancy for high availability and disaster
recovery across local and remote sites. It offers automatic hash partitioning (see Note 1) and load
balancing of data across nodes, allowing for predictable scale-out and high rates of reads and
writes. Rather than interpreting SQL statements like a traditional DBMS, MemSQL generates and
compiles a query plan for the fastest possible query execution. Aggregator nodes complete the
execution plan by combining the partial results of the queries performed at the individual nodes,
allowing for very effective query optimization at execution time. Additionally, the generated code,
once deployed in the distributed nodes, can be later reused on subsequent queries.
The MemSQL DBMS now has over 35 production customers in multiple industries, such as
advertising, banking, insurance and gaming.
Challenges: MemSQL is entering the very busy in-memory DBMS market. Although it has unique
capabilities that can support HTAP, it will need to compete with small emerging vendors, as well as
with major vendors' offerings supporting HTAP, such as SAP and Microsoft.
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8. Who Should Care: Organizations looking at leveraging in-memory DBMS to accelerate existing
SQL-based applications or considering new applications with heavy transactional loads should
consider IMDBMS products like MemSQL. Furthermore, MemSQL will also allow operational
analytical queries to be performed on the same single database, which will enables real-time
analysis of transactional data.
Helsinki, Finland (www.relexsolutions.com)
Analysis by Tim Payne
Why Cool: Many people would not think there is anything particularly cool about SCP; after all, it
has been around for several decades. Fortunately, those people would be wrong. Supply chain
professionals are only too aware that their supply chain environments are becoming more complex
and more uncertain. This is driving the need to process ever bigger planning models, and to find
ways to increasingly protect and mitigate against uncertainty and unpredictability in the supply
chain. These requirements will drive a rethink as to what key characteristics a good SCP solution
will need to have. Among these is the need to be able to scale to a much higher number of products
and stocking locations, to cope with ever more granular data, to react to events in near real time,
and to do all this at much higher speeds. Key to this will be the convergence of SCP and execution
to help bridge the traditional gap between these two departments, in support of increased agility
and rapid decision making across the supply chain. For most current SCP vendors with traditional
solution architectures, this will be a step too far.
Relex, founded in 2005 in Finland, is one of the first of a new breed of SCP solutions that has been
developed to run on a proprietary IMDBMS specifically designed for SCP applications. It is
specifically focused on the retail and wholesale industries, which often puts much more pressure on
the scalability and speed of SCP solutions, due to the number of SKU location combinations. The
vendor provides an integrated planning platform that supports store operations and the distribution
supply chain; it is highly configurable to enable users to take control of their data and plans through
strong in-memory analytics and root cause analysis. Due to the platform's speed, flexibility and
configurability, users can easily iterate quickly through different planning model designs to see the
impacts of the various process options to identify the best fit for their current business model. This
also means that implementation timelines are among the fastest in the market for this type of
software. Additionally, process and business model changes postimplementation are much easier
to make, with users able to create new analytics to support innovative changes to their SCP.
Consequently, the professional services to software ratio for Relex is extremely low. All these
benefits are facilitated in part by the Relex IMDBMS.
Challenges: The overall SCP market is crowded, particularly in Europe, and the retail sector is one
that is of significant interest to many SCP vendors because it is seen to have significant
opportunities due to the prevalence of immature, in-house-developed planning systems. This puts
Relex into a very competitive marketplace.
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9. The Relex primary deployment model of cloud and SaaS is still unusual in the SCP market, although
that is rapidly changing. Relex's use of an embedded proprietary IMDBMS may pose integration
challenges for some companies. The SCP solution comes with its own data import/export tools,
which may or may not fit with the user organization's overall integration strategy or the use of other
IMDBMSs within the company. However, to date, Relex has integrated to over 25 different back-
end systems with little difficulty. With other vendors bringing in-memory SCP solutions to market,
the competitive environment will increase, but so will the appreciation of new SCP architecture
approaches. The key for vendors like Relex will be finding ways to help prospects see that SCP
functionality and integration to existing ERP systems are not the only things to consider when
selecting an SCP solution. Even the business side of the supply chain must be more aware of the
role that the solution architecture plays in delivering business value to the company.
Being a small vendor, Relex's ability to further develop its IMDBMS and its SCP solution set
concurrently may be stretched.
Who Should Care: Retail and wholesale supply chain VPs, directors and managers with planning
responsibility, along with their IT colleagues, should broaden their solution requirements to include
IMC. As far as SCP is concerned, the use of IMC-based solutions is not an IT-only discussion. It is a
discussion and evaluation that is firmly rooted in how these solutions will be able to deliver business
value, now and in the future.
Where Are They Now?
Stirling, U.K. (www.prismtech.com)
Analysis by Massimo Pezzini
Profiled in "Cool Vendors in Platform and Integration Middleware"
Why Cool Then: In 2008, PrismTech was one of the few vendors providing a high-performance
messaging infrastructure — one the key IMC-enabling technologies — based on the Object
Management Group Data Distribution Service (OMG DDS; see Note 2). At the time, PrismTech
already had a notable track record in the military and defense industry, where DDS originated, but
was just beginning to explore business opportunities in other vertical sectors.
To that end, in 2009, the vendor made available its DDS technology (OpenSplice DDS) as open-
source software, to reduce its technology cost of entry for government agencies and financial
services organization — at the time, just in the middle of the post-Lehman Brothers financial crisis
— and to favor adoption outside of its traditional niche.
Where Are They Now: Since 2009, PrismTech significantly grew its OpenSplice DDS business and
also notably evolved its go-to-market strategy. The company maintains its traditional focus on
defense, aerospace and public safety (where DDS is increasingly gaining traction as a mandated
standard in many countries), as well as financial services. However PrismTech now primarily targets
Internet of Things (IoT) and IT/OT integration opportunities in verticals like travel and transportation,
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10. energy and utilities, medical and health, manufacturing/industrial, smart cities, IT, and networking.
The sales strategy is based on a direct approach in the U.S. and Europe, and leverages partners to
cover the Asia/Pacific region. This diversification strategy has paid off: In 2013, over 60% of the
vendor's revenue came from non-military industry sectors.
In December 2013, the vendor decided to further concentrate its R&D, marketing and sales
resources on the high-performance messaging infrastructure market by selling off its OpenFusion
CORBA platform business to Micro Focus.
To further strengthen its offering in support of IoT use cases, PrismTech has recently announced
(on 27 March 2014) the Vortex Intelligent Data Sharing Platform, which extends the OpenSplice
DDS architecture with support for cloud deployments (Vortex Cloud), Java-enabled devices (Vortex
Cafe), Web browsers (Vortex Web) and small footprint devices (Vortex Lite). The Vortex platform is
meant to enable user organizations to implement a distributed, in-memory-enabled, DDS-based
messaging infrastructure to connect smart and embedded devices, mobile, Web, and enterprise
applications through the multitenant and elastically scalable Vortex Cloud. Such a distributed
architecture can also be extended to non-DDS-enabled applications through the Vortex Gateway,
an Apache Camel-enabled product that bridges between DDS and over 80 non-DDS environments,
including Java Message Service and IoT-oriented protocols (such as AMQP, XMPP and MQTT).
The Vortex Intelligent Data Sharing Platform announcement enables PrismTech to target users of
other DDS-based products, including its own OpenSplice, that need to move toward cloud, mobile
However, from a strategic perspective, the announcement positions PrismTech at the intersection
of the Nexus of Forces, and gives the vendor a chance to establish itself as a notable provider in the
emerging digital business market, if it is able to catalyze third-party investments and secure
strategic partnerships with key IoT and IT/OT integration players.
Who Should Care: Application infrastructure managers and other IT leaders looking for a scalable,
high-performance messaging infrastructure technology to support business-critical, IoT-centric
distributed applications integrating smart devices with on-premises, cloud and mobile applications
should consider DDS-based products, such as PrismTech's Vortex. The technology's ability to
combine in-memory-enabled, low-latency messaging with high reliability, even in hostile
environments (for example manufacturing plants, oil wells, railway networks, etc.) and over wireless
networks, is quite suitable to support many IoT scenarios.
The presence in the market of several vendors providing DDS-based technology enables a certain
level of portability and interoperability (through the DDSI-RTPS Wire Interoperability Protocol)
between different products. This helps mitigate the risk of adopting products from vendors that are,
for the most part, of small size and uncertain viability.
However, IT leaders should also balance the potential business and technical benefits of DDS-
based architectures with the limited skills availability, as well as industry experience with this
technology outside the military and defense vertical.
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11. Gartner Recommended Reading
Some documents may not be available as part of your current Gartner subscription.
"Market Trends: Evolving HDD and SSD Storage Landscapes"
"Where to Use SSDs in Your Storage Infrastructure"
"Who's Who for In-Memory DBMSs"
"Hype Cycle for In-Memory Computing, 2013"
"Taxonomy, Definitions and Vendor Landscape for In-Memory Computing Technologies"
"Hybrid Transaction/Analytical Processing Will Foster Opportunities for Dramatic Business
"Magic Quadrant for Supply Chain Planning System of Record"
Note 1 Partitioning by Hash
Partitioning by hash is used primarily to ensure an even distribution of data among a predetermined
number of partitions along multiple nodes.
Note 2 OMG DDS
OMG DDS is a formal standard defined by the OMG to support fast and guaranteed-delivery,
The DDS standard derives from the formalization of technologies that emerged from message-
oriented middleware experiences developed for the military and defense industry. As such, it is
designed to work in extremely severe environments where communication bandwidth is limited,
connectivity is intermittent and noisy, and applications run on embedded devices with low
processing and storage capacity.
DDS manages quality-of-service trade-offs between reliable communication, high throughput and
low latency, and also supports content-based filters to route messages to subscriber applications.
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