Seeking to firm its position in the budding application data management space, VMware today released the latest upgrade to its vFabric GemFire product that enhances administrative controls, provides a new interface and aims to make it easier for applications to handle larger amounts of data faster than previous versions.

VMware is perhaps best known for its virtualisation products, including vSphere and its ESX hypervisor. Dave McJannet, a director at VMware, says the company's cloud application services group is another big focus for VMware. Today's update to vFabric GemFire 7.0 fits in with the company's other application management initiatives, such as Project Serengeti, which focuses on optimising Hadoop clusters to run on virtualised environments, and around it's vFabric SQLFire product, which is an accompanying tool to vFabric GemFire. "It really underpins the investments VMware is making in data management, which we see as a significant to our business group's focus," McJannet says.

VMware acquired the GemFire product line from Gemstone Systems in 2010. It's classified as an in-memory data grid (IMDG), which is basically an all software distributed in-memory, NoSQL database management tool. SQLFire is similar but for structured data. The key part about IMDGs is that data is stored in the main memory of one or multiple computers on a network. "This is all about how to get data in and out of apps quickly," McJannet says. "It's very good at processing data quickly."

Getting lots of data quickly is exactly what big data analytics apps need, as well as apps that store large amounts of transient data that may be latency-sensitive. Credit card processing apps use IMDGs, as do e-commerce apps to store users' "shopping cart" information. It's also used in online gaming, trading, banking, fraud detection and "other applications with demanding performance and scalability requirements," says Gartner VP Massimo Pezzini. It could grow from a $260 million market to reach $1 billion by 2016/2017, he predicts.

VMware's not alone in it, though. Oracle with Coherence, IBM with WebSphere eXtreme Scale, Software AG and others compete in the market. The predominant IMDG tool, though, Pezzini says, is the open source Memcached, which is a bare-bones version that does not provide replication of data across a computer network or transaction management capabilities.

That's where companies like VMware and others look to step in to offer proprietary versions of IMDG tools that provide a simpler interface, administrative tools and monitoring services. Those are two of the biggest areas VMware has improved upon in the 7.0 release of GemFire, Pezzini says. The simplified administration "is important because monitoring, management and administration are nightmares in large scale IMDG deployments."

The 7.0 release also provides improved support for replication over wide-area network, Pezzini says. "This is critical for disaster recovery across multiple data centers, synchronisation between on-premises and cloud and to support around-the-clock, around-the-world operations," he notes. VMware also added further support for JSON and Spring, which are used widely in mobile app development communities. And perhaps most impressive, VMware has scaled up GemFire's capacity. "We really wanted to address requirements of scale," McJannet says, noting that some users question if IMDGs are ideal for large-scale data uses. GemFire 7.0 has been tested with up to 4TB of data in memory, he says.