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Former Facebook Engineers Emerge from Stealth with Simplified Big Data Approach

The latest startup emerging from stealth mode to simplify Big Data analytics is Interana Inc., founded by engineers from Facebook Inc. with the goal of providing the same cutting-edge data tools used by the Web giants to companies of all sizes.

After six months of stealth, the Menlo Park, Calif.-based company today unveiled its namesake Big Data analytics software, which focuses on working with "sequences of events" gleaned from the usual sources: Web site clickstreams, phone call detail records, transactions and sensors. The company says billions of these event sequences can be analyzed in seconds via a visual interface that facilitates ad hoc queries by users.

The company seeks to lessen the need for specialized developers, data scientists and complex integration efforts, claiming that companies can just connect the software to various kinds of semi-structured data and get started with queries immediately.

"With Interana focusing on event-based analytics, key business metrics like growth, retention, conversion and engagement can now be made available to decision makers in seconds, rather than the hours or days it can take with many other approaches," the company quoted Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Nik Rouda as saying. "This will allow a whole new class of applications, delivers real business value and promises more new innovations in real-time analytics."

The Interana dashboard
[Click on image for larger view.] The Interana Dashboard (source: Interana Inc.)

Interana said its software is well-suited for companies that produce large amounts of data, such as those in the social media, e-commerce, media and entertainment, gaming, telecommunications and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) industries. It said the software is highly scalable, can be used on commodity hardware and can be deployed on-premises or in private clouds.

"For many companies, event data is the source of the most important questions, such as how users find a new product, what users do before deciding to buy an item and what experiences users have before canceling a service," the company said in a statement. "But trying to analyze event data with existing tools is incredibly complex; it requires extensive programing skills, expensive systems, and a lot of time -- and even then most users can't always get answers to all the questions they want to ask. While new database designs have reduced query latency, they have not eliminated the need for error-prone ETL, the need to express questions with complex query languages, or the cost of building full data-visualization solutions."

The company was founded by the wife-and-husband team of Ann and Bobby Johnson and Lior Abraham, the latter two being former Facebook staffers instrumental in that company's huge growth spurt from 2006 to 2012. In fact, Bobby Johnson was an executive on the team that adopted the new Hadoop technology and actually built the Apache Hive data warehousing software and Apache Cassandra, an open source NoSQL distributed database management system. According to the company, Bobby Johnson himself wrote Scribe, a server that aggregates streamed log data, and Haystack, a generic object storage system. Abraham, meanwhile, invented SCUBA, described as the most popular Internet analytic tool used internally at Facebook, still used monthly by more than half the company.

Key to Interana's offering are a design-first approach and a proprietary database in which data is organized by date and time, allowing single-pass queries and obviating the need for intermediate sorts.

"This enables Interana to process raw data sets at massive scale, benchmarked at 100 million rows per core per second, allowing large and complex queries to be done at runtime rather than in offline ETL jobs," the company said.

In its six-month private beta, Interana worked with customers such as Sony, Jive, Asana, Tinder and Orange Silicon Valley. The company completed a round of Series A funding early last year. The startup is soliciting requests to schedule demos but didn't provide any pricing details.

About the Author

David Ramel is the editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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