March 13, 2007

Greenplum’s strategy

I talked with Greenplum honchos Bill Cook and Scott Yara yesterday. Bill is the new CEO, formerly head of Sun’s field operations. Scott is president, and in effect the marketing-guy co-founder. I still don’t know whether I really believe their technical story. But I do think I have a feel for what they’re trying to do. Key aspects of the Greenplum strategy include:

Like every other Sun sales chief, Bill wasn’t very successful at selling software through the Sun sales force when he worked there. So I asked why he thought he’d succeed now. But he actually offered a good answer to that challenge. Bill claims that the Thumper/Greenplum pairing isn’t any different from Sun selling hardware by touting the virtues of Solaris or NFS. That’s a fair distinction; Sun’s multiple generations of (for example) application server or application development tool screw-ups may not be particularly relevant here.

What I discerned about the product architecture was roughly this. As in the other row-oriented MPP offerings, data is distributed via a hash partition key. The optimizer and execution engine are tied together, whatever that means – perhaps just that the optimizer is parallelization-aware? — for a high degree of parallelization goodness. There are “motion nodes” whose job is to ship tuples around.

In support of the claim to have done a kick-ass job of DBMS parallelization, Scott rattled off a bunch of developer names, each of whom supposedly built a key DBMS subsystem at Tandem, Teradata, Informix, Red Brick, or Microsoft. Impressive though that was, the claim was a little hard to evaluate in real-time, as I’d never actually heard of any of the guys.

On the hardware side, each Thumper box has 24 terabytes of raw storage. You run 4 active instances and 4 mirrored segments. One active master segment contains the parallel cost optimizer; there’s also a warm standby staying in sync via log shipping. Gigabit Ethernet interconnects apparently suffice.

As for market activity: Greenplum claims close to 20 customers. Most are software-only, in the 1-10 terabyte range. But most of the sales pipeline is through Sun, in the 10-300 terabyte range. List pricing on the software-only solution is subscription-based, at $25,000/terabyte/year; obviously, that’s not very attractive for large databases unless one negotiates a big quantity discount. The Sun boxes come in three sizes, with hardware/software bundled list prices at $440,000 for 20 terabytes of usable space, $800,000 for 40 terabytes, and $1.8 million for 100 terabytes. I didn’t drill down into exactly what kinds of apps these customers were concentrated in, but that would be an attractive area for follow-up.


5 Responses to “Greenplum’s strategy”

  1. DBMS2 — DataBase Management System Services»Blog Archive » EnterpriseDB tries PostgreSQL-based Oracle plug-compatibility on March 14th, 2007 2:49 am

    […] Like Greenplum, EnterpriseDB is a PostgreSQL-based DBMS vendor with an interesting story, whose technical merits I don’t yet know enough to judge. In particular, CEO Andy Astor: […]

  2. Infology.Ru » Blog Archive » Быстрый обзор технологий хранилищ данных on August 20th, 2008 12:37 pm

    […] аналитической нагрузки. Среди них Teradata, Netezza, DATAllegro, Greenplum, Dataupia, и SAS. Все они, за исключением SAS целиком или в […]

  3. Greenplum is in the big leagues | DBMS2 -- DataBase Management System Services on August 25th, 2008 2:56 am

    […] a March, 2007 call, I didn’t talk again with Greenplum until earlier this month. That changed fast. I flew out […]

  4. werutzb on October 7th, 2008 9:09 pm


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