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Netezza Says Netezza Performance Server R4 Doubles Query Performance

NPS R4 enhances query performance on existing NPS hardware—at no additional cost, Netezza officials claim

In the data warehouse (DW) appliance market, where a PR salvo by one vendor is invariably answered by one or more of its competitors.

Consider DATAllegro Corp.’s DW appliance announcements last month. That vendor was touting improved complex-query performance (as a result of a new grid-based DW appliance scheme) and affordable data archiving.

At the same time, DATAllegro rival (and DW appliance pioneer) Netezza Inc. announced Release 4 (R4) of Netezza Performance Server (NPS), its signature DW appliance. Thanks to its NPS refresh, Netezza says it’s able to deliver twice the query performance—on all Netezza systems.

One upshot, Netezza officials say, is that NPS R4 enhances query performance on existing NPS hardware—at no additional cost.

"Because Netezza systems are increasingly being deployed in environments with mixed workloads that combine deep ad hoc analytics, with shorter, more tactical queries, this release goes further to optimize these analytic algorithms for tactical analytic queries," says Netezza vice-president of marketing Ellen Rubin.

Netezza’s claim makes sense to at least one industry watcher, who thinks that a software upgrade can speed up an appliance. "One of the greatest challenges to optimizing a data warehouse technology stack for high-performance queries is that the average stack consists of pieces from multiple vendors, integrated by users into a one-off configuration," said Philip Russom, senior manager at TDWI Research.

"Technical users ping pong from piece to piece, trying to discover just the right combination of tweaks that will raise performance. NPS renders this challenge moot, because the pieces of its technology stack come from a single vendor, integrated into a predictable configuration, thereby making meaningful software-based optimizations by the vendor feasible."

There’s a lot to like in the new release, industry watchers confirm. James Kobielus, a principal analyst for data management with consultancy Current Analysis, says Netezza’s NPS performance improvement is basically free. It’s delivered via an operating system update that runs on all generations of Netezza hardware. Nor does it come with any attendant change in price, hardware footprint, or power and cooling requirements.

Netezza officials cited a laundry list of software improvements they say should help increase performance.

"[Netezza’s] performance improvements are due to algorithmic optimizations that address query pre-processing stages such as optimization, compilation, and scheduling," Kobielus notes. Query processing is made faster by avoiding unnecessary steps, aggregating responses in the communications layer, reducing the number of messages exchanged in the system, speeding communications within the system, increasing the parallelism of operations, and pushing more data filtering to enhanced field-programmable gate arrays.

Elsewhere, Netezza’s NPS refresh boasts enhanced query history and monitoring functionality, helping customers further tweak the performance and workload management characteristics of their DW appliances.

Kobielus says, however, that the claims haven’t been verified. Although Netezza did publish customer testimonials from MicroStrategy Inc. and others, it did not distribute benchmark results or other substantive performance metrics.

"Netezza has not provided any third-party benchmarks to substantiate the doubled query performance improvements it claims with the latest algorithmic optimization enhancements to NPS," he points out.

There’s a further wrinkle here, too. Netezza effectively gave birth to the data warehouse appliance category, but competitors such as DATAllegro and start-up Dataupia Corp. (which is managed by a number of former Netezza veterans) have made contributions of their own.

DATAllegro, for example, was the first DW appliance vendor to jettison proprietary—or, at least, non-high-volume—hardware in favor of off-the-shelf components from Dell Computer Corp., EMC Corp., and Cisco Systems Inc. Dataupia, which launched in May, also uses a commodity hardware model. That leaves Netezza as the odd appliance vendor out: its NPS systems use POWER-based processing units from IBM Corp.

Netezza officials like to point out that POWER—like Intel Corp.’s Pentium chip—is a commodity microprocessor. Kobielus suggests that Netezza might consider announcing some price breaks to counter the commodity edge enjoyed by both DATAllegro and Dataupia. To date, the company has been mum on this front. "Also, Netezza has not announced any price reductions for NPS, which would be necessary to keep its DW appliance product family competitive against DATAllegro, Dataupia, Sun/Greenplum, IBM, and others that offer increasingly low-cost, modular pricing," he points out.

With its IPO behind it, Netezza’s momentum doesn’t seem to be hurting, however. Kobielus says the company remains a strong—market-leading—competitor in spite of the challenges it faces.

"Netezza has continued to demonstrate impressive customer wins in DW appliance arena, and the latest enhancements further bolster its best-of-breed status in this growing niche," he concludes. "Large enterprises now realize that Netezza is an established, proven vendor that offers robust, scalable solutions that can contend with IBM, Teradata, Oracle, and other established DW vendors for the most demanding data-center deployments."

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a technology writer with 20 years of experience. His writing has focused on business intelligence, data warehousing, and analytics for almost 15 years. Swoyer has an abiding interest in tech, but he’s particularly intrigued by the thorny people and process problems technology vendors never, ever want to talk about. You can contact him at [email protected].

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