From time to time I like to do “what I’m working on” posts. From my recent blogging, you probably already know that includes:
- Hadoop (always, and please see below).
- Analytic RDBMS (ditto).
- NoSQL and NewSQL.
- Specifically, SQL-on-Hadoop
- Spark and other memory-centric technology, including streaming.
- Public policy, mainly but not only in the area of surveillance/privacy.
- General strategic advice for all sizes of tech company.
Other stuff on my mind includes but is not limited to:
1. Certain categories of buying organizations are inherently leading-edge.
- Internet companies have adopted Hadoop, NoSQL, NewSQL and all that en masse. Often, they won’t even look at things that are conventional or expensive.
- US telecom companies have been buying 1 each of every DBMS on the market since pre-relational days.
- Financial services firms — specifically algorithmic traders and broker-dealers — have been in their own technical world for decades …
- … as have national-security agencies …
- … as have pharmaceutical research departments.
Fine. But what really intrigues me is when more ordinary enterprises also put leading-edge technologies into production. I pester everybody for examples of that.
IBM excels at game technology, most famously in Deep Blue (chess) and Watson (Jeopardy!). But except at the chip level — PowerPC — IBM hasn’t accomplished much at game/real world crossover. And so I suspect the Watson hype is far overblown.
I believe that for two main reasons. First, whenever IBM talks about big initiatives like Watson, it winds up bundling a bunch of dissimilar things together and claiming they’re a seamless whole. Second, some core Watson claims are eerily similar to artificial intelligence (AI) over-hype three or more decades past. For example, the leukemia treatment advisor that is being hopefully built in Watson now sounds a lot like MYCIN from the early 1970s, and the idea of collecting a lot of tidbits of information sounds a lot like the Cyc project. And by the way:
- MYCIN led to E-MYCIN, which led to the company Teknowledge, which raised a lot of money* but now has almost faded from memory.
- Cyc is connected to the computer science community’s standard unit of bogosity.
Cassandra’s reputation in many quarters is:
- World-leading in the geo-distribution feature.
- Impressively scalable.
- Hard to use.
This has led competitors to use, and get away with, sales claims along the lines of “Well, if you really need geo-distribution and can’t wait for us to catch up — which we soon will! — you should use Cassandra. But otherwise, there are better choices.”
My friends at DataStax, naturally, don’t think that’s quite fair. And so I invited them — specifically Billy Bosworth and Patrick McFadin — to educate me. Here are some highlights of that exercise.
DataStax and Cassandra have some very impressive accounts, which don’t necessarily revolve around geo-distribution. Netflix, probably the flagship Cassandra user — since Cassandra inventor Facebook adopted HBase instead — actually hasn’t been using the geo-distribution feature. Confidential accounts include:
- A petabyte or so of data at a very prominent company, geo-distributed, with 800+ nodes, in a kind of block storage use case.
- A messaging application at a very prominent company, anticipated to grow to multiple data centers and a petabyte of so of data, across 1000s of nodes.
- A 300 terabyte single-data-center telecom account (which I can’t find on DataStax’s extensive customer list).
- A huge health records deal.
- A Fortune 10 company.
DataStax and Cassandra won’t necessarily win customer-brag wars versus MongoDB, Couchbase, or even HBase, but at least they’re strongly in the competition.
DataStax claims that simplicity is now a strength. There are two main parts to that surprising assertion. Read more
|Categories: Cassandra, Clustering, Couchbase, Data models and architecture, DataStax, Facebook, HBase, Health care, Log analysis, Market share and customer counts, MongoDB and 10gen, NoSQL, Petabyte-scale data management, Specific users||8 Comments|
Hortonworks did a business-oriented round of outreach, talking with at least Derrick Harris and me. Notes from my call — for which Rob Bearden* didn’t bother showing up — include, in no particular order:
- Hortonworks denies advanced acquisition discussions with either Microsoft and Intel. Of course, that doesn’t exactly contradict the widespread story of Intel having made an acquisition offer.
- As vendors usually do, Hortonworks denies the extreme forms of Cloudera’s suggestion that Hortonworks competitive wins relate to price slashing. But Hortonworks does believe that its license fees often wind up being lower than Cloudera’s, due especially to Hortonworks offering few extra-charge items than Cloudera.
- Hortonworks used a figure of ~75 subscription customers. This does not include OEM sales through, for example, Teradata, Microsoft Azure, or Rackspace. However, that does include …
- … a small number of installations hosted in the cloud — e.g. ~2 on Amazon Web Services — or otherwise remotely. Also, testing in the cloud seems to be fairly frequent, and the cloud can also be a source of data ingested into Hadoop.
- Since Hortonworks a couple of times made it seem that Rackspace was an important partner, behind only Teradata and Microsoft, I finally asked why. Answers boiled down to a Rackspace Hadoop-as-a-service offering, plus joint work to improve Hadoop-on-OpenStack.
- Other Hortonworks reseller partners seem more important in terms of helping customers consumer HDP (Hortonworks Data Platform), rather than for actually doing Hortonworks’ selling for it. (This is unsurprising — channel sales rarely are a path to success for a product that is also appropriately sold by a direct force.)
- Hortonworks listed its major industry sectors as:
- Web and retailing, which it identifies as one thing.
- Health care (various subsectors).
- Financial services, which it called “competitive” in the kind of tone that usually signifies “we lose a lot more than we win, and would love to change that”.
*Speaking of CEO Bearden, an interesting note from Derrick’s piece is that Bearden is quoted as saying “I started this company from day one …”, notwithstanding that the now-departed Eric Baldeschwieler was founding CEO.
In Hortonworks’ view, Hadoop adopters typically start with a specific use case around a new type of data, such as clickstream, sensor, server log, geolocation, or social. Read more
My July 2 comments on predictive modeling were far from my best work. Let’s try again.
1. Predictive analytics has two very different aspects.
Developing models, aka “modeling”:
- Is a big part of investigative analytics.
- May or may not be difficult to parallelize and/or integrate into an analytic RDBMS.
- May or may not require use of your whole database.
- Generally is done by humans.
- Often is done by people with special skills, e.g. “statisticians” or “data scientists”.
More precisely, some modeling algorithms are straightforward to parallelize and/or integrate into RDBMS, but many are not.
Using models, most commonly:
- Is done by machines …
- … that “score” data according to the models.
- May be done in batch or at run-time.
- Is embarrassingly parallel, and is much more commonly integrated into analytic RDBMS than modeling is.
2. Some people think that all a modeler needs are a few basic algorithms. (That’s why, for example, analytic RDBMS vendors are proud of integrating a few specific modeling routines.) Other people think that’s ridiculous. Depending on use case, either group can be right.
3. If adoption of DBMS-integrated modeling is high, I haven’t noticed.
|Categories: Data warehousing, Hadoop, Health care, IBM and DB2, KXEN, Predictive modeling and advanced analytics, SAS Institute||2 Comments|
I talk with a lot of companies, and repeatedly hear some of the same application themes. This post is my attempt to collect some of those ideas in one place.
1. So far, the buzzword of the year is “real-time analytics”, generally with “operational” or “big data” included as well. I hear variants of that positioning from NewSQL vendors (e.g. MemSQL), NoSQL vendors (e.g. AeroSpike), BI stack vendors (e.g. Platfora), application-stack vendors (e.g. WibiData), log analysis vendors (led by Splunk), data management vendors (e.g. Cloudera), and of course the CEP industry.
Yeah, yeah, I know — not all the named companies are in exactly the right market category. But that’s hard to avoid.
Why this gold rush? On the demand side, there’s a real or imagined need for speed. On the supply side, I’d say:
- There are vast numbers of companies offering data-management-related technology. They need ways to differentiate.
- Doing analytics at short-request speeds is an obvious data-management-related challenge, and not yet comprehensively addressed.
2. More generally, most of the applications I hear about are analytic, or have a strong analytic aspect. The three biggest areas — and these overlap — are:
- Customer interaction
- Network and sensor monitoring
- Game and mobile application back-ends
Also arising fairly frequently are:
- Algorithmic trading
- Risk measurement
- Law enforcement/national security
- Stakeholder-facing analytics
I’m hearing less about quality, defect tracking, and equipment maintenance than I used to, but those application areas have anyway been ebbing and flowing for decades.
In typical debates, the extremists on both sides are wrong. “SQL vs. NoSQL” is an example of that rule. For many traditional categories of database or application, it is reasonable to say:
- Relational databases are usually still a good default assumption …
- … but increasingly often, the default should be overridden with a more useful alternative.
Reasons to abandon SQL in any given area usually start:
- Creating a traditional relational schema is possible …
- … but it’s tedious or difficult …
- … especially since schema design is supposed to be done before you start coding.
Some would further say that NoSQL is cheaper, scales better, is cooler or whatever, but given the range of NewSQL alternatives, those claims are often overstated.
Sectors where these reasons kick in include but are not limited to: Read more
|Categories: Health care, Investment research and trading, Log analysis, NewSQL, NoSQL, Web analytics||8 Comments|
With Strata/Hadoop World being next week, there is much Hadoop discussion. One theme of the season is BI over Hadoop. I have at least 5 clients claiming they’re uniquely positioned to support that (most of whom partner with a 6th client, Tableau); the first 2 whose offerings I’ve actually written about are Teradata Aster and Hadapt. More generally, I’m hearing “Using Hadoop is hard; we’re here to make it easier for you.”
If enterprises aren’t yet happily running business intelligence against Hadoop, what are they doing with it instead? I took the opportunity to ask Cloudera, whose answers didn’t contradict anything I’m hearing elsewhere. As Cloudera tells it (approximately — this part of the conversation* was rushed): Read more
|Categories: Business intelligence, Cloudera, EAI, EII, ETL, ELT, ETLT, Hadoop, HBase, Health care, Investment research and trading, MapR, Market share and customer counts, Telecommunications, Web analytics||4 Comments|
From time to time, I hear of regulatory requirements to retain, analyze, and/or protect data in various ways. It’s hard to get a comprehensive picture of these, as they vary both by industry and jurisdiction; so I generally let such compliance issues slide. Still, perhaps I should use one post to pull together what is surely a very partial list.
Most such compliance requirements have one of two emphases: Either you need to keep your customers’ data safe against misuse, or else you’re supposed to supply information to government authorities. From a data management and analysis standpoint, the former area mainly boils down to:
- Information security. This can include access control, encryption, masking, auditing, and more.
- Keeping data in an approved geographical area. (E.g., its country of origin.) This seems to be one of the three big drivers for multi-data-center processing (along with latency and disaster recovery), and hence is an influence upon numerous users’ choices in areas such as clustering and replication.
The latter, however, has numerous aspects.
First, there are many purposes for the data retention and analysis, including but by no means limited to: Read more
|Categories: Archiving and information preservation, Clustering, Data warehousing, Health care, Investment research and trading, Text||2 Comments|
Cray’s strategy these days seems to be:
- Move forward with the classic supercomputer business.
- Diversify into related areas.
At the moment, the main diversifications are:
- Boxes that are like supercomputers, but at a lower price point.
- “(Big) data”.
The last of the three is what Cray subsidiary Yarcdata is all about. Read more
|Categories: Data models and architecture, Health care, In-memory DBMS, Investment research and trading, Market share and customer counts, Parallelization, Petabyte-scale data management, RDF and graphs, Yarcdata and Cray||1 Comment|