Sqrrl, a Cambridge, Mass.-based big data startup founded last year by six former National Security Agency employees, is building a business around tech that protects the US from terrorist attacks and other national security threats.The tech is called Accumulo, and the NSA created it in 2008 as a way to store super secret documents and only allow authorised people to access them. NSA released it as an open source project in 2011.
Accumulo is rumoured to have been used to help the CIA track down Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011. Ely Kahn, VP of business development at Sqrrl, declined to comment.
But Kahn did tell us that Accumulo is playing an important role in protecting the US.
“I can say that Accumulo is the foundation for a number of the most widely used analytical tools at the NSA and is a critical element to NSA’s cloud strategy,” Kahn told us. “As a result, Accumulo is a critical tool for ensuring the national security of the United States.”
Accumulo is a member of a new type of database called NoSQL which handles large amounts of data by spreading computing and storage across many machines. Where traditional databases only handle certain types of data and run on a single machine, Accumulo can handle multiple media types and runs on multiple machines.
This lets it grow really, really big.
It’s not the only noSQL database around. Others include MongoDB, Couchbase and Cassandra.
But Accumlo is different because the NSA designed it so that only certain people could access top secret files stored in it. This is useful for enterprises like banks, telecom and healthcare with strict security requirements.
Other big data startups are doing this, too, such as WibiData, Continuuity and LucidWorks. But Kahn said Sqrrl has an advantage because its tech is already used in government agencies.
“We have a lot of experience in this space, and our product is already proven,” Kahn said.
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