Stonebraker calls his product a stream processing engine. On top of that engine, customers write applications to handle specific tasks, using a version of Structured Query Language that traditional database programs use. Streambase’s version is called StreamSQL and is designed to handle data on the fly.
Unlike traditional database programs, Streambase analyzes data without storing it to disk, performing queries on data as it flows. Traditional systems bog down because they first store data on hard drives or in main memory and then query it, Stonebraker says.
“Relational databases are one to two orders of magnitude too slow,” says Stonebraker, who is chief technology officer at Streambase, a 25-person outfit based in Lexington, Mass. “Big customers have already tried to use relational databases for streaming data and dismissed them. Those products are non-starters in this market.”
For now Streambase is focusing attention on financial services companies, which hope to do things like track how well traders are performing on a real-time basis, rather than aggregating trades at the end of the day and analyzing them overnight.
A bigger opportunity involves processing real-time data feeds generated by sensor networks and RFID tags. A military contractor wants to use Streambase to keep track of soldiers and vehicles in the battlefield. A casino in Las Vegas is considering using Streambase to track the performance of individual gamblers.