January 22, 2007

Who’s who in columnar relational database management systems

The best known columnar RDBMS is surely Sybase’s IQ Accelerator, evolved from a product acquired in the mid-1990s. Problem – it doesn’t have a shared-nothing architecture of the sort needed to exploit grid/blade technology. Whoops. The other recognized player is SAND, but I don’t know a lot about them. Based on their website, it would seem that grids and compression play a big part in their story. Less established but pretty interesting is Kognitio, who are just beginning to make marketing noise outside the UK. SAP’s BI Accelerator is also a compressed columnar system, but operates entirely in-memory and hence is limited in possible database size. Mike Stonebraker’s startup Vertica is of course the new kid on the block, and there are other columnar startups as well whose names currently escape me.

As a plausibility argument for the benefits of columnar systems, Mike likes to trot out three “tick processing” software offerings (that’s in the stock price sense of “tick”) – Vhayu’s Velocity, Sungard’s FAME, and Kx’s kdb. I know even less about these than I do about SAND, but I’m conjecturing they’re time series data stores rather than full RDBMS. Mike is less eager to talk about Required Technologies, a failed columnar RDBMS startup that he was involved in, and which is the pretext for (through no fault of his) TransRelational hype.

If columnar systems take off, be prepared for a lot of “We do that too” claims from mainstream DBMS vendors. Oracle and other conventional relational DBMS do feature bit-mapped indices. But while they’re more versatile than pure columnar systems, they won’t do columnar things as efficiently as the purists (or near-purists) do. Full-text indices are closely akin to bit-maps– e.g., SAP’s BI Accelerator grew out of TREX – but obviously it would not be accurate to call them “columnar” (or, for that matter, “relational”).


3 Responses to “Who’s who in columnar relational database management systems”

  1. paul on January 23rd, 2007 8:06 am

    what about alterian? they have been at it for a few years now…

  2. Curt Monash on January 23rd, 2007 8:18 am

    Thanks for the tip! Based on a web search, it sounds as if they have some kind of database management technology bundled into their applications. Unfortunately, their own web site http://www.alterian.com isn’t coming up right now, so it’s hard for me to get a sense of the details.

  3. Richard Grondin on May 15th, 2008 12:21 am

    Hello Curt,

    I’m the VP of R&D at SAND and if you are interested, we could have a discussion about SAND products which are taking advantage of Column store, Tokenization, Compress BitMap, advanced adaptive Compression Algo and could be deployed on a pure Share nothing architecture like a blade environment. On that topic, we have done a benchmark with SUN and did demonstrate 1TB/hr load speed using 32 V20z grid server and a compression ratio of 98%. I can also share with you the White Paper I did write on a new data warehouse concept named “Corporate Information Memory”

    Best Regards and looking to talk with you

Leave a Reply

Feed: DBMS (database management system), DW (data warehousing), BI (business intelligence), and analytics technology Subscribe to the Monash Research feed via RSS or email:


Search our blogs and white papers

Monash Research blogs

User consulting

Building a short list? Refining your strategic plan? We can help.

Vendor advisory

We tell vendors what's happening -- and, more important, what they should do about it.

Monash Research highlights

Learn about white papers, webcasts, and blog highlights, by RSS or email.