Oct 23, 2012 · 2 minutes

After a year in stealth, Continuuity is today showing itself to the world and promising developers that it will help them make big-data apps easily and fast.

The Palo Alto-based startup has been waiting for today’s Hadoop World conference in New York City to unveil its first product, Big Data AppFabric, which the founders claim will help even dudes in their basements build big-data apps with minimal resources. The application fabric, which is built on top of existing open-source Hadoop infrastructure components, provides the basic building blocks for building and deploying cloud-based apps quickly. The startup hopes the platform will unleash a wave of big-data developers.

Hadoop-based work typically requires teams of more than 10 developers and has traditionally been the domain of large Internet companies such as Yahoo, which developed the technology, and Facebook, which relies on it. Continuuity’s plan is to allow developers to focus on development instead of having to worry about complex infrastructures or managing distributed systems. AppFabric comes with a visually rich interface, simple APIs, and push-button deployments.

Continuuity is positioning AppFabric as a "Platform as a Service" offering, providing customers with three choices: a single-node edition, a private cloud edition, and a public cloud edition. Existing services such as Amazon’s Elastic MapReduce tend to be effective but cumbersome. “I've had good luck in the past with Amazon's Elastic MapReduce service, which greatly simplifies Hadoop set-up but still involves a lot of work,” says Mike Subelsky, a serial entrepreneur and founder of AdStaq.com. “If this company lets me use most of the full power of Hadoop (like I can do with Amazon) without having to do as much configuration, it could be a big success. A whole generation of developers is now used to building apps using cloud infrastructure like this. It seems like a natural next step in the progression of web infrastructure tools.”

Continuuity was started by Todd Papaioannou, former chief cloud architect at Yahoo and entrepreneur-in-residence at Battery Ventures, and Jonathan Gray, founder of personalized news streaming startup Streamy and more recently a top engineer at Facebook, where he worked on the company’s Messages product. At Hadoop World last year, Gray presented a talk on how to build real-time big-data services with Hadoop and Hbase. While both are geeks, Papaioannou is clearly the business brain of the operation, while Gray zooms in on the programming problems. The two met at a Starbucks as part of a “find a cofounder” networking event.

“Jonathan Gray is top of the heap,” says Philip Kromer, CTO of Austin-based big-data startup Infochimps, which he describes as “competi-neighbor” to Continuuity. “He built Facebook's near-real-time streaming solution and scaled HBase to 2 petabytes online. He's a name you circle on the program for any conference.”

Kromer says that both Continuuity and Infochimps have found that although an existing big-data stack helps solve the petabyte problems faced by Facebook and Yahoo, there’s a large market of people who are working at "big-not-huge" scale. However, such a stack not only costs companies seven-figure sums, but also throws up the intimidating challenge of hiring experienced big-data programmers, who are expensive and in short supply.

For its part, meanwhile, Continuuity plans to move forward by building up its engineering team, which currently sits at seven. The startup received $2.5 million in seed funding in January from Battery Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, Ignition Partners, and a group of angel investors. Expect a juicy Series A round in the not-too-distant future.