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TDWI Blog: Data 360

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Teradata Expands Into Big Data

Teradata’s recent acquisition of Aster Data Systems is a huge signal that worlds of “big data” and data warehousing are coming together. The deal itself was not a surprise; Teradata made a down payment on Aster last September, when it bought 11 percent of the company. And before making that initial investment, Teradata proved that it was not averse to bringing in other people’s database engines by acquiring Kickfire, an innovator in MySQL and analytic appliances. However, unlike Kickfire, which was floundering in the market but offered interesting “SQL on a chip” technology, Aster was successful and well-funded. Teradata will now have an opportunity to expand its appeal beyond traditional, SQL-based data warehousing into the realm of particularly unstructured big data – and provide the technology to bring these worlds together.

“Big data” refers to the massive volumes of structured and unstructured data being generated by relatively new data sources such as Web and smart phone applications, social networks, sensors and robots, GPS systems, genomics and multimedia. For customer interaction, fraud detection, risk management and other purposes, it is often vital to analyze this data in something close to real time so that decision makers can be aware of events, trends and patterns for immediate response or predictive understanding.

The extreme requirements brought on by big data have accelerated the technology shift toward massively parallel processing (MPP) systems, which generally offer better speed and scale for the size and workloads involved in big data analysis compared with traditional symmetric multiprocessing (SMP) systems. TDWI survey data shows that data warehouse professionals intend to abandon SMP in favor of MPP. Not surprisingly, MPP’s growing appeal was a driver behind the market explosion in recent years of new data management systems and appliances that could take advantage of parallelism. Now, that market is consolidating; EMC bought Greenplum, IBM bought Netezza, HP bought Vertica and now Teradata has picked up Aster. And during this period, we’ve seen Oracle introduce Exadata, IBM introduce its Smart Analytics Systems and other developments that are bringing MPP into the mainstream for advanced analytics.

To take advantage of MPP for big data, many developers, particularly at Google, Yahoo! and other firms that bet their business on analysis of online data, have chosen to look beyond SQL, the lingua franca of relational databases, and implement Hadoop and MapReduce, which offer programming models and tools specifically for building applications and services that will run on MPP and clustered systems. Aster, with its nCluster platform, has strongly supported MapReduce implementations; as part of its “universal query framework” introduced with the 4.6 release of nCluster last fall, Aster released SQL-MapReduce to support a wider spectrum of applications.

My colleague at TDWI Research, Philip Russom, notes that while there are many synergies between Teradata and Aster – the technologies from both companies are fully capable of handling extreme big data and both assume use cases involving both big data and analytics – there are significant differences. “Teradata is designed for data that’s ruthlessly structured, even third normal form, whereas Aster, especially with its recent support for Hadoop, is known for handling a far wider range of data types, models, and standards,” Philip noted. “Most Teradata users are data warehouse professionals who are hand-cuffed to SQL, whereas Aster’s user base includes lots of application developers and other non-warehouse folk who are more interested in Pig and Hive. It’s a good thing that having diversity is strength. Assuming the Teradata and Aster camps can overcome their differences, they have a lot of great things to learn from each other.”

TDWI members have been ramping up use of advanced analytics against multi-terabyte data sets for the last several years, and Teradata platforms have been in the middle of that trend. Teradata’s move gives data warehouse professionals a strong reason to evaluate whether Aster’s technology can enable them to further exploit the power of MPP for both SQL and non-SQL applications that require advanced analytics of big data.

Stay tuned to TDWI for more insight into how organizations can expand data warehousing into the realm of big data. We are in the planning stages now for our TDWI Solution Summit, “Deep Analytics for Big Data,” to be held in San Diego, September 25-27.

Posted by David Stodder on March 11, 2011


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