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Big Data Analytics: The News from Teradata

Blog by Philip Russom
Research Director for Data Management, TDWI

Just moments ago, Teradata Corporation issued three announcements describing new capabilities, products, and releases. Instead of repeating the details of Teradata’s new stuff -- which you can read on, etc. -- I’d rather be self-indulgent and use each announcement as a springboard for my own thoughts about the bigger trends in Big Data Analytics these relate to.

Announcement Number One: Teradata Columnar

A few years ago, I was at the Teradata Partners Conference. Instead of attending speaking sessions, I was in a series of meetings for industry analysts and industry influencers. When the topic of columnar databases came up -- and it was my turn to pontificate -- I said something like: “Columnar storage engines will soon be available as just another feature of database management systems from larger, more established vendors.” The room fell quiet, and a cricket chirped in the background. Then, two experts mocked me, while Teradata people were noticeably mum. ;)

Does that make me a prescient visionary? No, not at all. I’ve just been paying attention for the last three decades, as one technology after the next is developed and proved by a small startup, then bought or built by one or more of the leading DBMS vendors. We’ve seen this trend played out with features for everything from security to parallel processing to OLAP to federation to in-memory databases. We’re now seeing the same trend with columnar data stores and other technologies for Big Data Analytics.

Newish vendors like ParAccel and Vertica -- and Sybase long before them -- have proved the usefulness and commercial potential of a columnar approach. Open source DBMSs MySQL and Infobright made similar contributions. In full compliance with the trend I’m describing, IBM and Oracle have released columnar storage engines they built, and now it’s Teradata’s turn. Teradata Columnar is a new capability of Teradata Database 14. What’s new here is that Teradata has integrated both columnar AND row-based tables, thereby making hybrid applications more feasible. All the above is goodness, regardless of vendor, because columnar data stores have compelling advantages for query speed, data compression, bla, bla, bla, and the usual miraculous benefits.

This recurring trend begs the question: What’s the next new innovation that’s on the path to DBMS assimilation? It’s obvious to me that Hadoop and MapReduce are already well down that path. And that brings us to the next Teradata announcement.

Announcement Number Two: Teradata Aster MapReduce Platform

On the upside, MapReduce is the secret sauce that brings advanced analytic capability to a big data repository, whether it’s Hadoop’s file system or a relational database management system (RDBMS). On the downside, MapReduce from most sources is mired in hand-coding and devoid of SQL (to which we’re hand-cuffed in BI). Hence, MapReduce shows great promise for the world of BI, but only if it can evolve to suit the technical requirements of BI and DW professionals.

Evolving MapReduce is what the small vendor Aster Data Systems has always been about, and the evolution continues now that Teradata has acquired Aster. First, Aster showed that MapReduce could be effective with an RDBMS – at least, with its own nCluster database, now called Aster Database 5.0. Aster then showed that MapReduce and SQL can be reconciled, and they received a patent for their innovation in this realm.

Let’s shift gears and look at data warehouse appliances. Despite the term “data warehouse” in the name, these are really “big data analytics appliances.” I say this based on the fact that at least 90% of DW appliance owners use them for multi-terabyte analytics, not data warehousing. Aster is now showing that a MapReduce-based RDBMS can be suited to an appliance, as in the new Aster MapReduce Appliance based on Teradata hardware.

I’ll say more about the evolution of MapReduce in a TDWI Webinar on October 27. Please register online and attend.

Announcement Number Three: Teradata Database 14

Most of the new functionality of Teradata Database 14 seems focused on making the system even more manageable and performable, especially in the context of multiple, diverse, concurrent data warehouse workloads.

The multiple workload problem is a thorny one. From the DW professional’s viewpoint, it’s not easy to optimize a data warehouse for several workloads; so most of EDWs are optimized for a short list of workloads. Since the primary deliverables of the average DW are reports (whether standard or dashboards) and OLAP, most EDW designers consciously decide to optimize for these. But that makes it difficult to add new workloads to a centralized enterprise data warehouse, so new workloads are often distributed to marts, operational data stores, and data staging areas outside the warehouse proper. Examples of “new workloads” include those for real time, detailed source data, non-structured data, and discovery or exploratory analytics (not OLAP).

How DW professionals and vendors are responding to the challenge of multiple workloads constitutes a trend. That’s because the responses affect data warehouse architecture, logical modeling, optimization, performance, platform selection, tool selection, selection of analytic methods, management strategies for big data, and so on.

Note that the multiple workload challenge is both a user design issue and a vendor platform capability issue. Yet, I think the former can win out over the latter. A good design on a weak platform can succeed, though you’ll probably end up with a heavily distributed DW architecture. Conversely a bad design on a strong platform can fail, especially if you expect the platform to be the design. Technology and design issues aside, I must also point out that the placement of a DW workload can be influenced by organizational issues, like sponsorship, funding, and compliance.

So, what do you think? Let me know!

Want to learn more about Big Data Analytics? Attend the TDWI Forum on Big Data Analytics for Business Insight. There's more information online.

Posted by Philip Russom, Ph.D. on September 22, 2011


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