December 15, 2008

How to buy an analytic DBMS (overview)

I went to London for a couple of days last week, at the behest of Kognitio. Since I was in the neighborhood anyway, I visited their offices for a briefing. But the main driver for the trip was a seminar Thursday at which I was the featured speaker. As promised, the slides have been uploaded here.

The material covered on the first 13 slides should be very familiar to readers of this blog. I touched on database diversity and the disk-speed barrier, after which I zoomed through a quick survey of the data warehouse DBMS market. But then I turned to material I’ve been working on more recently – practical advice directly on the subject of how to buy an analytic DBMS.

I started by proposing a seven-part segmentation self-assessment:

  1. What is your tolerance for specialized hardware?
  2. What is your tolerance for set-up effort?
  3. What is your tolerance for ongoing administrative burden?
  4. What are your insert and update requirements?
  5. At what volumes will you run fairly simple queries?
  6. What are your complex queries like?
  7. Are you madly in love with your current DBMS?

That’s my way of unpacking such general questions as:


Then I got even more direct, drilling down into the four-stage analytic DBMS buying process:

The least obvious part of that drill-down was probably my points on making sure you actually were building the evaluation around the right use cases, and hence the right target queries. I plan to say much more about that part soon. Stay tuned.

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10 Responses to “How to buy an analytic DBMS (overview)”

  1. Seth Grimes on December 22nd, 2008 6:11 pm

    Curt, you visited Kognitio, an analytical DBMS vendor that is pitching “data as a service,” and don’t see as an explicit, general question, “Would you be better off with a hosted solution?”

    Kognitio’s isn’t the only hosted analytical DBMS that comes to mind of course. There’s also, for instance, LucidEra for folks doing performance management. And — the reason I mention LucidEra particularly — there’s what should possibly be your question 8:

    8. What’s your budget?

    That question springs relates to LucidEra because the analytical DBMS that backs LucidEra, LucidDB, if free, open source, as are the MonetDB analytical DBMS and MySQL+Infobright.

  2. Curt Monash on December 23rd, 2008 12:43 am


    I certainly agree that the “Are you hopelessly prejudiced?” class of questions is important. But while “Are you hopelessly prejudiced in favor of your incumbent DBMS?” and “Are you hopelessly prejudiced against specialized hardware?” will each get enough “Yes”es to be deserve top billing, I don’t see the same sort of commitment yet to data warehousing SaaS. It’s a rare buyer that won’t seriously consider an inhouse solution.

    As for “Check your budget” — I seriously hope I don’t have to put THAT on a slide in an hour-long talk.


  3. Seth Grimes on December 23rd, 2008 10:06 am

    Yeah, you’re right. Hosted data warehousing holds an infinitesimal market share. Still, there are other examples such as Vertica’s use of the Amazon cloud.

    Regarding budgets, (to further argue against myself), there’s the truism that data integration and cleansing can be expensive, and open source does not eliminate those labor costs.

  4. Curt Monash on December 23rd, 2008 4:39 pm



    But the real reason it’s not in those slides is just a matter of expository flow. The points you raised were in the words of my talk much more than they were in the slides.

    And even so the word “cost” is in them at least twice. I checked. 😉

    My theory is that a large fraction of the discussion boils down to TCO anyway. Cash cost for license and maintenance fees may or may not be a big part of overall TCO. And to the frustration of my clients at Kognitio, I’m not in love with the argument that eliminating capex is a huge benefit in and of itself. After all, one can usually just lease the equipment one buys.

  5. Confluence: Product on February 2nd, 2009 4:37 pm


    General Philosophy Extreme Lucidity Products Cloudera Cloud Service Customers Market Research Scale Unlimited Survey…

  6. Curt Monash on February 2nd, 2009 5:03 pm

    OK. That has to be one of my odder trackbacks …

  7. Amr Awadallah on June 9th, 2009 1:36 am

    Curt, that trackback was not supposed to happen :), this is our internal wiki. Checking into reason, thanks for pointing out. (would appreciate it you delete it).


    — amr

  8. Curt Monash on June 9th, 2009 2:44 am


    Not to worry. Experience shows that trackback technology is not exactly bulletproof …



  9. Arvind on August 9th, 2011 6:30 am


    We are currently in the process of selecting a DBMS vendor and I am trying to compare the TCO of different vendors. I came across this article quoting Gartner research:

    This seems dated (2001) and wondering what relevance it has in today’s market. Can you comment?

    Thank you

  10. Curt Monash on August 9th, 2011 1:12 pm


    I’m not even going to look at a 2001 Gartner quote, unless it’s for historical reasons. 😉 may be relevant, however. 🙂

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