FoundationDB, however, has found a way to offer both availability and consistency through an agreement algorithm called Paxos, which ensures that multiple copies of the data -- the database keeps three copies of all data it stores -- stay synchronized. Google engineers also used Paxos in its Spanner global database architecture, though Google's setup is different from FoundationDB's, Rosenthal said.
"Transactions are fundamentally important for software engineering and for building solid abstractions," Rosenthal said.
The FoundationDB data store is designed to run across multiple servers. An average-size system might be a 24-node, 96-core system with 48 solid state drives (SSDs), capable of managing around 10 terabytes of data. Rosenthal said, at least for this initial release, it is not feasible for the software to manage petabytes of data.
The software will not be available as open source, though the company will offer a no-cost community version. The full general release should be available by the end of the year. The software runs on Linux, OS X, and Windows, as well as on Amazon's Elastic Cloud Compute (EC2).
Database analyst Curt Monash, of Monash Research, has warned against data stores that have been designed to support multiple data models, noting that "To date, nobody has ever discovered a data layout that is efficient for all usage patterns," he wrote in a recent blog post on the subject.
Nonetheless, FoundationDB is not the first attempt at combining features of traditional relational database management systems with those of NoSQL data stores. VoltDB, designed in part by database guru Michael Stonebraker, offers transactional capabilities in an in-memory database package, an approach, according to that company, that can rival NoSQL speeds. Oracle's latest version of its MySQL open source database offers a NoSQL memcached based API for faster data access.