I spent a day with Teradata in Rancho Bernardo last week. Most of what we discussed is confidential, but I think the non-confidential parts and my general impressions add up to enough for a post.
First, let’s catch up with some personnel gossip. So far as I can tell:
- Scott Gnau runs most of Teradata’s development, product management, and product marketing, the big exception being that …
- … Darryl McDonald run the apps part (Aprimo and so on), and no longer is head of marketing.
- Oliver Ratzesberger runs Teradata’s software development.
- Jeff Carter has returned to his roots and runs the hardware part, in place of Carson Schmidt.
- Aster founders Mayank Bawa and Tasso Argyros have left Teradata (perhaps some earn-out period ended).
- Carson is temporarily running Aster development (in place of Mayank), and has some sort of evangelism role waiting after that.
- With the acquisition of Hadapt, Teradata gets some attention from Dan Abadi. Also, they’re retaining Justin Borgman.
The biggest change in my general impressions about Teradata is that they’re having smart thoughts about the cloud. At least, Oliver is. All details are confidential, and I wouldn’t necessarily expect them to become clear even in October (which once again is the month for Teradata’s user conference). My main concern about all that is whether Teradata’s engineering team can successfully execute on Oliver’s directives. I’m optimistic, but I don’t have a lot of detail to support my good feelings.
In some quick-and-dirty positioning and sales qualification notes, which crystallize what we already knew before:
- The Teradata 1xxx series is focused on cost-per-bit.
- The Teradata 2xxx series is focused on cost-per-query. It is commonly Teradata’s “lead” product, at least for new customers.
- The Teradata 6xxx series is supposed to be able to do “everything”.
- The Teradata Aster “Discovery Analytics” platform is sold mainly to customers who have a specific high-value problem to solve. (Randy Lea gave me a nice round dollar number, but I won’t share it.) I like that approach, as it obviates much of the concern about “Wait — is this strategic for us long-term, given that we also have both Teradata database and Hadoop clusters?”
- 1xxx and 2xxx systems are meant to be I/O-constrained. 6xxx systems are meant to be constrained mainly by CPU, but every system will be I/O-constrained at some point.
- There is at least one example of a Very Well Known organization buying Teradata’s Hadoop-only appliance despite not otherwise being a Hadoop customer. Teradata concedes, however, that this is not a common occurrence.
- Customers are increasingly using co-location rather than their own data centers. Many colo organizations charge more or less strictly by floor space. Hence, there’s a push for maximum processing density per rack, power density and weight be damned.
Speaking of not being CPU-constrained — I heard 7-10% as an estimate for typical Hadoop utilization, and also 10-15%. While I didn’t ask, I presume these figures assume traditional MapReduce types of Hadoop workloads. I’m not sure why these figures are yet lower than eBay’s long-ago estimates of Hadoop “parallel efficiency”.
Like Carson used to do, Jeff shared a variety of hardware and networking tidbits with me. In particular:
- Jeff is confident in Moore’s Law continuing for at least 5 more years. (I think that’s a near-consensus; the 2020s, however, are another matter.)
- Teradata still uses SAS rather than SATA for all disk (spinning or solid-state) controllers. They’re now seeing 6-700 MB/sec/device on SSDs (Solid State Disk), up from 3-400.
- SSD prices are down 60% over the past 6 months, vs. much slower declines previously.
- Formerly a SanDisk/Pliant partisan, Teradata now thinks there are multiple vendors of good SSDs. (I’m not sure whether they’d be happy if I said which one they currently like best.)
- Jeff foresees InfiniBand and Ethernet more or less merging. Right now Teradata is using a lot of 56 Gb/sec InfiniBand.
Since Oliver is now a Teradata mucky-muck, I asked about virtual data marts, an idea that he pretty much invented or at least popularized back in his eBay days. Comments included:
- Teradata now calls them Data Labs.
- Adoption is very high.
- One major feature is “time boxing” — they expire after a period of time unless you renew them.
- Analysis of virtual data mart usage is a good guide as to what you might want to add to your permanent data warehouse.
And I’ll stop here, although I hope that a couple more-focused posts will also eventually flow from the visit.