Basho Technologies Inc., a four-year-old startup, is challenging giants such as Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq: ORCL) and EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) in the database-technology market and with new products for Internet-based computing known as the cloud.

This week the Cambridge, Mass., company introduced its second-generation product Riak CS, to enable some of its initial customers such as Citigroup Inc. (NYSE: C), Best Buy Co. (NYSE: BBY) and Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA) to tap cloud applications.

Priced at only 4 cents per gigabyte, or 1 trillion bytes of data, Basho's offering is significantly cheaper than Oracle's rival Exadata product, unveiled last year, as well as others from EMC and NetApp Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP), said Bobby Patrick, chief marketing officer.

One reason is that unlike traditional databases from Oracle, International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE: IBM) and other stalwarts, Basho's products have been designed around data centers that are widespread, or distributed. The goal is to promote sharing and remote access.

Inspired By Haiku Master

Basho's developers, most of whom had been involved in creating and managing Akamai Technologies Inc. (Nasdaq: AKAM), one of the Internet's biggest managers of content for companies, were guided by the model promoted by Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN). In 2007 Amazon published a study examining how best to take advantage of databases for itself as well as search engines such as Google Inc.'s (Nasdaq: GOOG) and others.

Those enterprises, rather than using a centralized database, require dispersed ones that can be continuously updated while also offering storage of old data, Patrick explained.

Basho -- named to honor famed Japanese haiku master Matsu Basho for his simple, concise execution -- has raised about $13 million so far from investors including Georgetown Partners and Trifork A/S of Denmark.

It also has attracted Google's vice president for infrastructure, Eric Brewer, as a director. Brewer is the inventor of the CAP Theorem, which states that any system of shared data can achieve only two of three characteristics -- consistency, availability and partition tolerance.

Google Installation?

Patrick, 40, declined to say whether Google, the most popular search engine, is among Basho's initial customers.

Despite its youth, Basho has already won places in some of the top companies in the Fortune 500, Patrick said, as well as a place in Denmark's national health service. The company now is establishing an office in Washington, D.C., to tap the U.S. government market.

In January, Steven VanRoekel, the U.S. chief information officer, said he would direct much of the government's $80 billion annual technology budget to the cloud and distributed databases this year.

"My office is leading the charge on how to shift to the cloud," VanRoekel said at the International Consumer Electronics Show.

Meanwhile, Patrick said Basho hasn't yet filed to patent any of its technology, although it recently recruited a new general counsel from management-software maker Citrix Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CTXS) to determine whether that's a suitable step.