The news of Netezza’s new TwinFin product family has generated a lot of comments and questions, some pretty reasonable, some quite silly. E.g., I’ve seen it suggested privately or publicly that
- Netezza’s older products only handle one query at a time (nonsense, and I’m going to loyally protect the identity of the person who emailed that odd suggestion to me)
- A Netezza node can be a single point of failure (also nonsense, although performance degradation from a node failure might be considerable)
- Netezza has a cache consistency problem (also hardly true, except insofar as it’s an issue to overcome in future development as Netezza moves toward parallelizing bulk loads, transactional updates, and/or trickle feeds).
Netezza’s Phil Francisco addressed some points of this nature in a recent blog post.
More reasonable is the question:
Now that Netezza has changed its architecture, what are all those FPGAs (Field-Programmable Gate Arrays) being used for anyway?
The short answer is:
Almost everything they were used for before, except they aren’t substituting for the disk controller any more.
The longer answer is:
- “Visibility,” which for now seems to mean recognizing which rows are and aren’t valid under Netezza’s form of MVCC (MultiVersion Concurrency Control).
- Compression and/or decompression (I’m a little confused as to which, but I imagine it’s both)
- Netezza’s form of UDFs (User-Defined Functions)
Under NDA, Phil told me that one more item from the list on Page 11 of this two-year-old Netezza white paper explaining its FPGA use is coming soon.
- A recent discussion of the use of FPGAs for SQL operations in a post and comment thread around XtremeData’s product launch
- A January, 2008 post by Phil Francisco about Netezza’s FPGA use, based on the white paper linked above (I reposted same because Netezza’s own link to it is broken)
- Daniel Abadi tore into Netezza’s critics, but also opined that Netezza oversold the significance of the TwinFin announcement