May 10, 2006

White paper on memory-centric data management — excerpt

Here’s an excerpt from the introduction to my new white paper on memory-centric data management. I don’t know why WordPress insists on showing the table gridlines, but I won’t try to fix that now. Anyhow, if you’re interested enough to read most of this excerpt, I strongly suggest downloading the full paper.


Conventional DBMS don’t always perform adequately.

Ideally, IT managers would never need to think about the details of data management technology. Market-leading, general-purpose DBMS (DataBase Management Systems) would do a great job of meeting all information management needs. But we don’t live in an ideal world. Even after decades of great technical advances, conventional DBMS still can’t give your users all the information they need, when and where they need it, at acceptable cost. As a result, specialty data management products continue to be needed, filling the gaps where more general DBMS don’t do an adequate job.

Memory-centric technology is a powerful alternative.

One category on the upswing is memory-centric data management technology. While conventional DBMS are designed to get data on and off disk quickly, memory-centric products (which may or may not be full DBMS) assume all the data is in RAM in the first place. The implications of this design choice can be profound. RAM access speeds are up to 1,000,000 times faster than random reads on disk. Consequently, whole new classes of data access methods can be used when the disk speed bottleneck is ignored. Sequential access is much faster in RAM, too, allowing yet another group of efficient data access approaches to be implemented.

It does things disk-based systems can’t.

If you want to query a used-book database a million times a minute, that’s hard to do in a standard relational DBMS. But Progress’ ObjectStore gets it done for Amazon. If you want to recalculate a set of OLAP (OnLine Analytic Processing) cubes in real-time, don’t look to a disk-based system of any kind. But Applix’s TM1 can do just that. And if you want to stick DBMS instances on 99 nodes of a telecom network, all persisting data to a 100th node, a disk-centric system isn’t your best choice – but Solid’s BoostEngine should get the job done.

Memory-centric data managers fill the gap, in various guises.

Those products are some leading examples of a diverse group of specialist memory-centric data management products. Such products can be optimized for OLAP or OLTP (OnLine Transaction Processing) or event-stream processing. They may be positioned as DBMS, quasi-DBMS, BI (Business Intelligence) features, or some utterly new kind of middleware. They may come from top-tier software vendors or from the rawest of startups. But they all share a common design philosophy: Optimize the use of ever-faster semiconductors, rather than focusing on (relatively) slow-spinning disks.

They have a rich variety of benefits.

For any technology that radically improves price/performance (or any other measure of IT efficiency), the benefits can be found in three main categories:

  • Doing the same things you did before, only more cheaply;
  • Doing the same things you did before, only better and/or faster;
  • Doing things that weren’t technically or economically feasible before at all.

For memory-centric data management, the “things that you couldn’t do before at all” are concentrated in areas that are highly real-time or that use non-relational data structures. Conversely, for many relational and/or OLTP apps, memory-centric technology is essentially a much cheaper/better/faster way of doing what you were already struggling through all along.

Memory-centric technology has many applications.

Through both OEM and direct purchases, many enterprises have already adopted memory-centric technology. For example:

  • Financial services vendors use memory-centric data management throughout their trading systems.
  • Telecom service vendors use memory-centric data management in multiple provisioning, billing, and routing applications.
  • Memory-centric data management is used to accelerate web transactions, including in what may be the most demanding OLTP app of all —’s online bookstore.
  • Memory-centric data management technology is OEMed in a variety of major enterprise network management products, including HP Openview.
  • Memory-centric data management is used to accelerate analytics across a broad variety of industries, especially in such areas as planning, scenarios, customer analytics, and profitability analysis.


3 Responses to “White paper on memory-centric data management — excerpt”

  1. The Monash Report»Blog Archive » Burning issues in an analyst’s life on May 19th, 2006 6:56 am

    […] So anyway, I visited Intersystems today, at the insistance of PR lady Rita Shoor, even though it seemed a phone call would have sufficed. Notwithstanding that this was a relatively longstanding meeting, Linda scheduled a dinner for us in Cambridge with my stepdaughter, which is basically good, because Intersystems is in Cambridge, but forgot about my meeting, and wound up scheduling the dinner for 9:30. Rescheduling ensued, but when I drove to Intersystems for a 2:30 meeting, it was still in flux. I was in an odd state anyway driving to the meeting, because I was already rather tired (my sleep schedule oddities), but psyched from having FINALLY posted the white paper online that represented my biggest writing project in almost a decade (because of the number of sponsors). […]

  2. DBMS2 — DataBase Management System Services»Blog Archive » SAP’s BI Accelerator on September 20th, 2006 11:55 pm

    […] I wrote about SAP’s BI Accelerator quite a bit in my white paper on memory-centric data management, but otherwise I seem not to have posted much about it here. In essence, it’s a product that’s all RAM-based, and generally geared for multi-hundred-gigabyte data marts. The basic design is a compression-heavy column-based architecture, evolved from SAP’s text-indexing technology TREX. Like data warehouse appliances, it eschews indexing, relying instead on blazingly fast table scans. I asked Lothar Schubert of SAP how BIA was doing in the market in its early going. This was his response: […]

  3. The Monash Report»Blog Archive » Flash drives as hard-drive replacements on January 5th, 2007 1:13 am

    […] SanDisk is pushing a 32-gig flash disk that costs multiple hundreds of dollars more than a large hard drive. (Here’s The Register’s take on it.) One figure they cite is a 100-fold+ improvement in access speed. The speed difference between disk and silicon, of course, is something I’ve focused on in my research into memory-centric data management, and also in some of the work on data warehouse appliances as well. They are proposing this as the entire fixed memory for laptops. And in a much cheaper vein, Nicholas Negroponte is proposing a diskless architecture for the 100-dollar laptop. […]

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