Nvidia joins $25M funding of graphics chip analytics startup MapD


Artificial intelligence applications aren’t the only kind of enterprise workload that can take advantage of graphics processing units. GPUs also lend themselves to visualizing data, a task that relies on many of the same operations involved in rendering videos, games and other multimedia content.

The effort to harness the technology for this dashboarding is led by a startup called MapD Technologies Inc. that today secured $25 million in funding. New Enterprise Associates led the round, while Nvidia Corp., the venture capital arm of Verizon Communications Inc. and a Canadian fund called Vanedge Capital Partners Ltd. contributed as well.

The investment comes at a time when GPUs are becoming increasingly accessible for organizations pursuing data processing projects. A growing number of server makers sell machines equipped with Nvidia’s graphics accelerators, while all major cloud providers similarly offer on-demand instances that use its silicon. MapD is capitalizing on the trend with two software products that promise to help streamline the creation of large-scale data visualizations.

The first is MapD Core, an in-memory columnar database that can harness 64 GPUs at once to execute a query against many tens of billions of database rows per second. To put these figures in proportion, the startup claims that its system is about 30 times faster than Amazon Web Services’ popular Redshift data warehouse. Moreover, a built-in rendering engine called Iris provides the ability to visualize the results of an analysis without having to move the results to a dedicated dashboarding environment.

Organizations can plug MapD Core into Tableau and other third-party business intelligence tools or employ the startup’s own Immerse workbench, which allows users to process their information visually. The software provides a SQL editor for running queries, data filtering features and the ability to overlay information over maps, which can ease geospatial analysis projects. A retailer seeking new expansion locations, for instance, could use the feature to visualize the number of potential customers in a given city.

MapD’s products are proving helpful in other areas well. Verizon, which has been using the startup’s software for more than a year now, claims that its analysts see queries return up to 50 times faster than before.

Besides the carrier and the three other participants in today’s round, MapD has also received funding from Alphabet Inc. investing arm GV and In-Q-Tel, a fund with ties to the U.S. intelligence community. The startup’s total raised stands at $37.1 million. 

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