March 23, 2014

Wants vs. needs

In 1981, Gerry Chichester and Vaughan Merlyn did a user-survey-based report about transaction-oriented fourth-generation languages, the leading application development technology of their day. The report included top-ten lists of important features during the buying cycle and after implementation. The items on each list were very similar — but the order of the items was completely different. And so the report highlighted what I regard as an eternal truth of the enterprise software industry:

What users value in the product-buying process is quite different from what they value once a product is (being) put into use.

Here are some thoughts about how that comes into play today.

Wants outrunning needs

1. For decades, BI tools have been sold in large part via demos of snazzy features the CEO would like to have on his desk. First it was pretty colors; then it was maps; now sometimes it’s “real-time” changing displays. Other BI features, however, are likely to be more important in practice.

2. In general, the need for “real-time” BI data freshness is often exaggerated. If you’re a human being doing a job that’s also often automated at high speed — for example network monitoring or stock trading — there’s a good chance you need fully human real-time BI. Otherwise, how much does a 5-15 minute delay hurt? Even if you’re monitoring website sell-through — are your business volumes really high enough that 5 minutes matters much? eBay answered “yes” to that question many years ago, but few of us work for businesses anywhere near eBay’s scale.

Even so, the want for speed keeps growing stronger. :)

3. Similarly, some desires for elastic scale-out are excessive. Your website selling koi pond accessories should always run well on a single server. If you diversify your business to the point that that’s not true, you’ll probably rewrite your app by then as well.

4. Some developers want to play with cool new tools. That doesn’t mean those tools are the best choice for the job. In particular, boring old SQL has merits — such as joins! — that shiny NoSQL hasn’t yet replicated.

5. Some developers, on the other hand, want to keep using their old tools, on which they are their employers’ greatest experts. That doesn’t mean those tools are the best choice for the job either.

6. More generally, some enterprises insist on brand labels that add little value but lots of expense. Yes, there are many benefits to vendor consolidation, and you may avoid many headaches if you stick with not-so-cutting-edge technology. But “enterprise-grade” hardware failure rates may not differ enough from “consumer-grade” ones to be worth paying for.

Read more

August 12, 2013

Things I keep needing to say

Some subjects just keep coming up. And so I keep saying things like:

Most generalizations about “Big Data” are false. “Big Data” is a horrific catch-all term, with many different meanings.

Most generalizations about Hadoop are false. Reasons include:

Hadoop won’t soon replace relational data warehouses, if indeed it ever does. SQL-on-Hadoop is still very immature. And you can’t replace data warehouses unless you have the power of SQL.

Note: SQL isn’t the only way to provide “the power of SQL”, but alternative approaches are just as immature.

Most generalizations about NoSQL are false. Different NoSQL products are … different. It’s not even accurate to say that all NoSQL systems lack SQL interfaces. (For example, SQL-on-Hadoop often includes SQL-on-HBase.)

Read more

June 6, 2013

Dave DeWitt responds to Daniel Abadi

A few days ago I posted Daniel Abadi’s thoughts in a discussion of Hadapt, Microsoft PDW (Parallel Data Warehouse)/PolyBase, Pivotal/Greenplum Hawq, and other SQL-Hadoop combinations. This is Dave DeWitt’s response. Emphasis mine.

Read more

April 1, 2013

Some notes on new-era data management, March 31, 2013

Hmm. I probably should have broken this out as three posts rather than one after all. Sorry about that.

Performance confusion

Discussions of DBMS performance are always odd, for starters because:

But in NoSQL/NewSQL short-request processing performance claims seem particularly confused. Reasons include but are not limited to:

MongoDB and 10gen

I caught up with Ron Avnur at 10gen. Technical highlights included: Read more

January 17, 2013

YCSB benchmark notes

Two different vendors recently tried to inflict benchmarks on me. Both were YCSBs, so I decided to look up what the YCSB (Yahoo! Cloud Serving Benchmark) actually is. It turns out that the YCSB:

That actually sounds pretty good, especially the extensibility part;* it’s likely that the YCSB can be useful in a variety of product selection scenarios. Still, as recent examples show, benchmark marketing is an annoying blight upon the database industry.

*With extensibility you can test your own workloads and do your own sensitivity analyses.

A YCSB overview page features links both to the code and to the original explanatory paper. The clearest explanation of the YCSB I found there was: Read more

June 19, 2012

Notes on HBase 0.92

This is part of a four-post series, covering:

As part of my recent round of Hadoop research, I talked with Cloudera’s Todd Lipcon. Naturally, one of the subjects was HBase, and specifically HBase 0.92. I gather that the major themes to HBase 0.92 are:

HBase coprocessors are Java code that links straight into HBase. As with other DBMS extensions of the “links straight into the DBMS code” kind,* HBase coprocessors seem best suited for very sophisticated users and third parties.** Evidently, coprocessors have already been used to make HBase security more granular — role-based, per-column-family/per-table, etc. Further, Todd thinks coprocessors could serve as a good basis for future HBase enhancements in areas such as aggregation or secondary indexing. Read more

November 12, 2011

Exasol update

I last wrote about Exasol in 2008. After talking with the team Friday, I’m fixing that now. :) The general theme was as you’d expect: Since last we talked, Exasol has added some new management, put some effort into sales and marketing, got some customers, kept enhancing the product and so on.

Top-level points included:

Read more

July 5, 2011

Eight kinds of analytic database (Part 1)

Analytic data management technology has blossomed, leading to many questions along the lines of “So which products should I use for which category of problem?” The old EDW/data mart dichotomy is hopelessly outdated for that purpose, and adding a third category for “big data” is little help.

Let’s try eight categories instead. While no categorization is ever perfect, these each have at least some degree of technical homogeneity. Figuring out which types of analytic database you have or need — and in most cases you’ll need several — is a great early step in your analytic technology planning.  Read more

June 20, 2011

The Vertica story (with soundbites!)

I’ve blogged separately that:

And of course you know:

Read more

February 5, 2011

Comments on the Gartner 2010/2011 Data Warehouse Database Management Systems Magic Quadrant

Edit: Comments on the February, 2012 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Data Warehouse Database Management Systems — and on the companies reviewed in it — are now up.

The Gartner 2010 Data Warehouse Database Management Systems Magic Quadrant is out. I shall now comment, just as I did to varying degrees on the 2009, 2008, 2007, and 2006 Gartner Data Warehouse Database Management System Magic Quadrants.

Note: Links to Gartner Magic Quadrants tend to be unstable. Please alert me if any problems arise; I’ll edit accordingly.

In my comments on the 2008 Gartner Data Warehouse Database Management Systems Magic Quadrant, I observed that Gartner’s “completeness of vision” scores were generally pretty reasonable, but their “ability to execute” rankings were somewhat bizarre; the same remains true this year. For example, Gartner ranks Ingres higher by that metric than Vertica, Aster Data, ParAccel, or Infobright. Yet each of those companies is growing nicely and delivering products that meet serious cutting-edge analytic DBMS needs, neither of which has been true of Ingres since about 1987.  Read more

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