Xeround – Free Database as a Service for PaaS

Xeround is a SQL Database as a Service vendor which is aggressively targeting the PaaS vendors as a channel. It has established relationships with Heroku, Engine Yard, AppFog and AppHarbour so that if you subscribe to their PaaS you are offered an upgrade to their bundled MySQL database services through a service from Xeround.

We’ve recently been looking at an emerging marketplaces for public Application Services as a Service – public PaaS vendors offering enhanced features through partnership with third parties. These are typically services like Monitoring, Testing, Application Lifecycle Management and  both SQL and NoSQL Database. In most cases, billing and monitoring of that service is performed by the PaaS vendor, with second-line support from the ASaaS vendor. It’s very much like a Value-Added reseller (VAR) or channel model in the software industry.

So, why would you want to upgrade MySQL to Xeround?  The answer lies in the inherent scalability or lack of it of the MySQL database itself. It turns out to be really quite complicated to cluster MySQL and there are significant limitations in the capability of a clustered MySQL – to the extent that a clustered MySQL is no longer compliant with the SQL standard, and you may or may not expect an application to be required to be modified when it is migrated to a MySQL cluster.  Of course things could be improved here, but given the price point of Oracle Real Application Clusters we don’t expect Oracle to be investing too much in sorting out the clustering in MySQL.

Xeround has got around this not by offering a MySQL cluster, but by implementing a partitioned object store  (equivalent in architecture to a no-SQL database), putting a MySQL query processor on the front end, and implementing the necessary glue under the covers (including changes to the way indexing and query optimization work). The application can speak to Xeround as a standard non-clustered MySQL instance, but there is something much more scalable under the covers.  This means that there is no requirement for the end-user to concern him or herself with the clustering of the implementation, their code migrates seamlessly.

Xeround have patents on all of this, and if you are wondering why they haven’t had to Open Source it (if anything smells of being a “derivative work” this does), it’s because they are a service provider and service providers don’t “convey” the work in terms of the GPL.  If they offered a private cloud version they would almost certainly have to go Open Source.

Xeround say that their underlying object store has been around for a long time (since 2005) and is in widespread use in the Telecoms industry for subscriber information (i.e. the systems that check what your phone is allowed to do when you try and make a call or access the net).  This means Xeround is assured of its scalability and robustness.  The company has recently refocused on the PaaS marketplace because it offers greater possibility for growth.

It is worth noting that Xeround doesn’t offer the underlying distributed object store as a NoSQL  Database as a Service, it is only provided as a SQL database through the MySQL front-end.  Xeround has added  billing and monitoring systems, and implemented a public Database as a Service across multiple underlying IaaS clouds.  It claims the multi-cloud implementation and the way the redundancy works in the DaaS layer make it resistant to failure of an underlying IaaS cloud (e.g. Amazon AWS).

The product has been generally-available for about a year. Xeround has recently tweaked elements of its pricing and business model so as better to align itself with the PaaS market. At the moment you can still buy the DaaS direct, but over time the plan is to move to a more-or-less pure channel model – to avoid competing with PaaS vendors at the point of sale. Xeround has also reduced the complexity of its pricing model to ensure price certainty for the customer, there are now three options

  • Xeround Free – Up to 10MB for Free
  • Xeround Basic – up to 0.5GB from $17 per month
  • Xeround Pro – up to 50GB from $75 per month
  • Above that rates are negotiable.

Xeround is also negotiating with PaaS vendors to bundle the Xeround service as the base database offered with the PaaS, to improve scalaility and availability of the core PaaS vendor offering and reduce the PaaS vendor’s costs of maintaining and supporting a database.

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