In addition to its software story, Netezza of course has a rather unique chip story. Where other vendors might have standard disk controllers and high-powered microprocessors, Netezza respectively has a FPGA (Field-Programmable Gate Array) and lesser microprocessor (PowerPC). Netezza claims that two major advantages of these choices are:
- 5X throughput/performance improvement
- Much lower heat and power consumption.
The main function of the FPGA, other than generically getting data on and off disk, is to restrict and project tables (i.e., execute single-table WHERE clauses). Netezza claims that their FPGAs can perform these operations on the streaming data at least as quickly as an expensive, hot, power-hungry top-end microprocessor would, and indeed faster. The key word is “streaming”, which they contrast to the microprocessor’s need to get the data in and then back out of RAM (cache or otherwise).
I’ll be interested to see whether somebody can muster a ringing refutation to Netezza’s claims.