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VMware to buy GemStone for distributed data management in Java cloud

Rob Barry

The SpringSource division of VMware announced today it will acquire the Beaverton, Ore.-based GemStone Systems, a vendor of both relational and non-relational distributed data management systems. Though financial details were not disclosed, the roughly 100 employees at GemStone will join SpringSource. As VMware continues to grow its cloud computing platform, GemStone's software will improve application scalability, said Rod Johnson, general manager of SpringSource.

"One of the key things we're focusing on at SpringSource is enabling enterprise Java developers and organizations to make the transition to cloud computing," said Johnson. "We see solving the data latency problem and decoupling business logic from data at rest as being a very important enabling technology for cloud."

Aside from offering non-relational data management, GemStone's technology helps remediate some of the difficulties in scaling relational databases, said Johnson. If you attempt to scale an application tied to a relational database indefinitely, he said, you will get to a point where the middle tier overloads the database. GemStone help alleviate this with a memory-oriented approach to decoupling the logic tier from the data tier.

Both GemStone's relational and non-relational data systems will be important to VMware, said IDC analyst Al Hilwa.

"The non-relational data management capability is key to high-scale cloud applications," said Hilwa. "And the relational capability

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will be important to bring in existing or legacy apps initially written for non-cloud environments."

This acquisition follows last week's announcement of VMforce, a Spring Java-based cloud computing platform built in a partnership of VMware and SalesForce.com. Johnson said GemStone's data management technology will be integrated into the company's public and private cloud offerings over time, as well as SpringSource middleware and the Spring Framework.

Originally founded as Servio Logic in 1982, GemStone was first known for its object database (ODB) and the GemStone/S application server for the object-oriented language, Smalltalk. GemStone was owned briefly Brokat Technologies from 2000 to 2001, when it was purchased back by its original investor, Sgroup Holdings.

"What we saw is, with the maturing of the Java enterprise world and then as people began to deploy on large amounts of commodity servers," said Lamb, "there was going to be an opportunity to take those skills that we had and build a brand new product."

In 2002 GemStone released GemFire, a data platform that provides distributed caching, data virtualization and some complex event processing features. While competing against other distributed data systems vendors like Tangosol (now owned by Oracle) and GigaSpaces, GemStone's offerings found some success in the financial and federal sectors, Lamb said. More recently the company released a relational counterpart, SQL Fabric, a memory-oriented SQL data management platform.

"A lot of people in the early 90s believed that object-oriented databases were going to sweep away relational databases, and of course it didn't come to pass," said Johnson. "The relational database is not going to go away but, on the other hand, I think there will be a growing amount of data that never goes into the relational database in the first place."

As VMware looks to establish itself as a serious cloud platform player, data management is a key component to its growing stack, said IDC's Hilwa.

"Every application has to solve the issue of how to store its data of record and how to scale," Hilwa said. "Owning this part of the stack will prove essential for SpringSource to innovate ways of dealing with the relatively new problems of the cloud."


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