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Hadoop is nothing with applications, and Continuuity aims to deliver those apps by making Hadoop something developers can work with and innovate upon. Its efforts haven’t gone unnoticed — the company just closed a $10 million Series A round from a who’s who of big data VCs

Continuuity, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based startup that’s trying to build something like a Platform as a Service for Hadoop, has raised a $10 million Series A round from Battery Ventures and Ignition Partners, as well as Andreessen Horowitz, Data Collective and Amplify Partners. Co-founders Todd Papaioannou, Jonathan Gray and Nitin Motgi began building Continuuity in late 2011, and closed a $2.5 million seed round in January 2012.

The cash infusion will help Continuuity further develop its technology that abstracts the complexity of building and deploying Hadoop applications and also opens Hadoop to entirely new types of workloads. Although Continuuity’s AppFabric is built atop Hadoop and a collection of related technologies, it lets developers build what might be called big data applications, generally, rather than just Hadoop (read “inherently limited MapReduce“) applications. Taking advantage of YARNand HBase, for example, the company was able to build out methods for processing stream data in real time and elastically scaling a Hadoop cluster even while jobs are running.

The beauty of it all, though, are the high-level APIs, development environment and abstraction from the infrastructural complexity under the covers. Even though Hadoop, HBase and other foundational elements might be running on their own individual clusters and be linked together using a set of low-level APIs, Papaioannou says developers shouldn’t have to worry at all about nodes, clusters, data blocks or anything else that keeps engineers up at night.

This is the same idea driving the growing ecosystem of web-app-focused Platform-as-a-Service offerings such as Heroku, Cloud Foundry and Windows Azure, as well as a growing collection of data-focused services. Continuuity actually plans to join many of them in the cloud next year by launching a publicly hosted version of AppFabric to complement the on-premises version that’s currently in private beta.

That and other engineering projects are where this $10 million investment comes in. The seven-man Continuuity team — which helped build some of the largest Hadoop and HBase deployments in the world at Yahoo and Facebook — knows its way around big data, and there’s a lot of interest in the product, Papaioannou said. “But,” he added, “we know there’s a ton of work we need to do.”

Fellow co-founder Gray, who’s last gig involved building Facebook Messages, said there’s nothing less than the fate of the Hadoop market riding on whether Continuuity and its brethren can get the technology out of the weeds and into the hands of developers. “If there are no applications … then the market is going to go away,” he said. “Fundamentally, people who pay for infrastructure really want to pay for apps.”

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Vijay Nachimuthu

By Vijay Nachimuthu

Vijay Nachimuthu is a Managing Principal of AltaFlux. His blogs mainly focuses on latest cloud technology trends and its impact on enterprises.