Oracle has agreed to buy TimesTen, a privately held company that makes software for boosting the performance of database applications used for stock trading, airline reservations and other areas where fast response times are critical.
While customers used Oracle's database to store large volumes of information in back-end systems, TimesTen's products storde a subset of that data in memory in the applications tier, where it could be accessed more quickly, TimesTen's chief executive officer, James Groff, said.
Many of its customers are in the telecoms and financial services sectors, although enterprises are also warming to in-memory databases to create "real-time dashboards" that give managers a snapshot of their businesses, according to Groff.
TimesTen had about 1500 customers, he said, making it one of the leaders in its field.
Customers included JP Morgan Chase & Co, Sprint and United Air Lines.
More than half its customers already used Oracle's database, Groff estimated, and Oracle's was the only database that worked out of the box with its TimesTen/Cache product.
Its other two products work with other databases. Oracle would continue to support other database platforms if it saw enough demand, Oracle senior vice-president for database server technologies, Andy Mendelsohn, said.
TimesTen was founded about eight years ago and was profitable, according to Groff. It has headquarters in California.
Oracle would retain the vast majority of its approximately 90 employees if the deal was approved, he said.
It expects to close the deal by the end of July, pending regulatory approval. Financial terms were not disclosed.
Oracle's current plan is to keep selling TimesTen products on a stand-alone basis.
It would also fine-tune the software to work better with its middleware and SQL database engine, which should further improve performance, Mendelshon said.
Telecoms customers use its products in two primary ways: Equipment vendors such as Cisco Systems embed its software in network devices for call processing and other network operations. Operators also use the software to store customer information they need access to quickly, such as how many minutes a caller has left on a prepaid card.
Financial services companies use it to store information about client portfolios and market conditions, allowing them to make trading decisions rapidly. "We like to say we focus on applications where milliseconds matter," Groff said.
TimesTen's main competitor was software written in-house, he said.
"By far the number-one way that customers achieve real-time is with home-grown custom-built solutions," Groff said.
Other rivals include database vendors such as IBM and Sybase, and specialty vendors such as Ants Software of California.
IBM played down the significance of Oracle's acquisition. When it bought Informix a few years ago it gained two products, Real-Time Loader and Finance Foundation for Capital Markets, which it brought over to its DB2 database, and which perform an equivalent function to TimesTen's products, according to vice-president for IBM database servers, Bob Picciano.