Theory and architecture
Analysis of design choices in databases and database management systems. Related subjects include:
I’m taking a few weeks defocused from work, as a kind of grandpaternity leave. That said, the venue for my Dances of Infant Calming is a small-but-nice apartment in San Francisco, so a certain amount of thinking about tech industries is inevitable. I even found time last Tuesday to meet or speak with my clients at WibiData, MemSQL, Cloudera, Citus Data, and MongoDB. And thus:
1. I’ve been sloppy in my terminology around “geo-distribution”, in that I don’t always make it easy to distinguish between:
- Storing different parts of a database in different geographies, often for reasons of data privacy regulatory compliance.
- Replicating an entire database into different geographies, often for reasons of latency and/or availability/ disaster recovery,
The latter case can be subdivided further depending on whether multiple copies of the data can accept first writes (aka active-active, multi-master, or multi-active), or whether there’s a clear single master for each part of the database.
What made me think of this was a phone call with MongoDB in which I learned that the limit on number of replicas had been raised from 12 to 50, to support the full-replication/latency-reduction use case.
2. Three years ago I posted about agile (predictive) analytics. One of the points was:
… if you change your offers, prices, ad placement, ad text, ad appearance, call center scripts, or anything else, you immediately gain new information that isn’t well-reflected in your previous models.
Subsequently I’ve been hearing more about predictive experimentation such as bandit testing. WibiData, whose views are influenced by a couple of Very Famous Department Store clients (one of which is Macy’s), thinks experimentation is quite important. And it could be argued that experimentation is one of the simplest and most direct ways to increase the value of your data.
3. I’d further say that a number of developments, trends or possibilities I’m seeing are or could be connected. These include agile and experimental predictive analytics in general, as noted in the previous point, along with: Read more
I talked with the Snowflake Computing guys Friday. For starters:
- Snowflake is offering an analytic DBMS on a SaaS (Software as a Service) basis.
- The Snowflake DBMS is built from scratch (as opposed, to for example, being based on PostgreSQL or Hadoop).
- The Snowflake DBMS is columnar and append-only, as has become common for analytic RDBMS.
- Snowflake claims excellent SQL coverage for a 1.0 product.
- Snowflake, the company, has:
- 50 people.
- A similar number of current or past users.
- 5 referenceable customers.
- 2 techie founders out of Oracle, plus Marcin Zukowski.
- Bob Muglia as CEO.
Much of the Snowflake story can be summarized as cloud/elastic/simple/cheap.*
*Excuse me — inexpensive. Companies rarely like their products to be labeled as “cheap”.
In addition to its purely relational functionality, Snowflake accepts poly-structured data. Notes on that start:
- Ingest formats are JSON, XML or AVRO for now.
- I gather that the system automagically decides which fields/attributes are sufficiently repeated to be broken out as separate columns; also, there’s a column for the documents themselves.
I don’t know enough details to judge whether I’d call that an example of schema-on-need.
A key element of Snowflake’s poly-structured data story seems to be lateral views. I’m not too clear on that concept, but I gather: Read more
|Categories: Amazon and its cloud, Cloud computing, Data mart outsourcing, Data models and architecture, Data warehousing, Market share and customer counts, Parallelization, Pricing, Software as a Service (SaaS), Structured documents||1 Comment|
1. I wish I had some good, practical ideas about how to make a political difference around privacy and surveillance. Nothing else we discuss here is remotely as important. I presumably can contribute an opinion piece to, more or less, the technology publication(s) of my choice; that can have a small bit of impact. But I’d love to do better than that. Ideas, anybody?
2. A few thoughts on cloud, colocation, etc.:
- The economies of scale of colocation-or-cloud over operating your own data center are compelling. Most of the reasons you outsource hardware manufacture to Asia also apply to outsourcing data center operation within the United States. (The one exception I can think of is supply chain.)
- The arguments for cloud specifically over colocation are less persuasive. Colo providers can even match cloud deployments in rapid provisioning and elastic pricing, if they so choose.
- Surely not coincidentally, I am told that Rackspace is deemphasizing cloud, reemphasizing colocation, and making a big deal out of Open Compute. In connection with that, Rackspace has pulled back from its leadership role in OpenStack.
- I’m hearing much more mention of Amazon Redshift than I used to. It seems to have a lot of traction as a simple and low-cost option.
- I’m hearing less about Elastic MapReduce than I used to, although I imagine usage is still large and growing.
- In general, I get the impression that progress is being made in overcoming the inherent difficulties in cloud (and even colo) parallel analytic processing. But it all still seems pretty vague, except for the specific claims being made for traction of Redshift, EMR, and so on.
- Teradata recently told me that in colocation pricing, it is common for floor space to be everything, with power not separately metered. But I don’t think that trend is a big deal, as it is not necessarily permanent.
- Cloud hype is of course still with us.
- Other than the above, I stand by my previous thoughts on appliances, clusters and clouds.
3. As for the analytic DBMS industry: Read more
I’ve talked with many companies recently that believe they are:
- Focused on building a great data management and analytic stack for log management …
- … unlike all the other companies that might be saying the same thing …
- … and certainly unlike expensive, poorly-scalable Splunk …
- … and also unlike less-focused vendors of analytic RDBMS (which are also expensive) and/or Hadoop distributions.
At best, I think such competitive claims are overwrought. Still, it’s a genuinely important subject and opportunity, so let’s consider what a great log management and analysis system might look like.
Much of this discussion could apply to machine-generated data in general. But right now I think more players are doing product management with an explicit conception either of log management or event-series analytics, so for this post I’ll share that focus too.
A short answer might be “Splunk, but with more analytic functionality and more scalable performance, at lower cost, plus numerous coupons for free pizza.” A more constructive and bottoms-up approach might start with: Read more
I have a small blacklist of companies I won’t talk with because of their particularly unethical past behavior. Actian is one such; they evidently made stuff up about me that Josh Berkus gullibly posted for them, and I don’t want to have conversations that could be dishonestly used against me.
That said, Peter Boncz isn’t exactly an Actian employee. Rather, he’s the professor who supervised Marcin Zukowski’s PhD thesis that became Vectorwise, and I chatted with Peter by Skype while he was at home in Amsterdam. I believe his assurances that no Actian personnel sat in on the call.
In other news, Peter is currently working on and optimistic about HyPer. But we literally spent less than a minute talking about that
Before I get to the substance, there’s been a lot of renaming at Actian. To quote Andrew Brust,
… the ParAccel, Pervasive and Vectorwise technologies are being unified under the Actian Analytics Platform brand. Specifically, the ParAccel technology … is being re-branded Actian Matrix; Pervasive’s technologies are rechristened Actian DataFlow and Actian DataConnect; and Vectorwise becomes Actian Vector.
Actian … is now “one company, with one voice and one platform” according to its John Santaferraro
The bolded part of the latter quote is untrue — at least in the ordinary sense of the word “one” — but the rest can presumably be taken as company gospel.
All this is by way of preamble to saying that Peter reached out to me about Actian’s new Vector Hadoop Edition when he blogged about it last June, and we finally talked this week. Highlights include: Read more
|Categories: Actian and Ingres, Clustering, Database compression, Hadoop, ParAccel, Pervasive Software, SQL/Hadoop integration, VectorWise, Workload management||4 Comments|
My client Teradata bought my (former) clients Revelytix and Hadapt.* Obviously, I’m in confidentiality up to my eyeballs. That said — Teradata truly doesn’t know what it’s going to do with those acquisitions yet. Indeed, the acquisitions are too new for Teradata to have fully reviewed the code and so on, let alone made strategic decisions informed by that review. So while this is just a guess, I conjecture Teradata won’t say anything concrete until at least September, although I do expect some kind of stated direction in time for its October user conference.
*I love my business, but it does have one distressing aspect, namely the combination of subscription pricing and customer churn. When your customers transform really quickly, or even go out of existence, so sometimes does their reliance on you.
I’ve written extensively about Hadapt, but to review:
- The HadoopDB project was started by Dan Abadi and two grad students.
- HadoopDB tied a bunch of PostgreSQL instances together with Hadoop MapReduce. Lab benchmarks suggested it was more performant than the coyly named DBx (where x=2), but not necessarily competitive with top analytic RDBMS.
- Hadapt was formed to commercialize HadoopDB.
- After some fits and starts, Hadapt was a Cambridge-based company. Former Vertica CEO Chris Lynch invested even before he was a VC, and became an active chairman. Not coincidentally, Hadapt had a bunch of Vertica folks.
- Hadapt decided to stick with row-based PostgreSQL, Dan Abadi’s previous columnar enthusiasm notwithstanding. Not coincidentally, Hadapt’s performance never blew anyone away.
- Especially after the announcement of Cloudera Impala, Hadapt’s SQL-on-Hadoop positioning didn’t work out. Indeed, Hadapt laid off most or all of its sales and marketing folks. Hadapt pivoted to emphasize its schema-on-need story.
- Chris Lynch, who generally seems to think that IT vendors are created to be sold, shopped Hadapt aggressively.
As for what Teradata should do with Hadapt: Read more
|Categories: Aster Data, Citus Data, Cloudera, Columnar database management, Data warehousing, Hadapt, Hadoop, MapReduce, Oracle, SQL/Hadoop integration, Teradata||6 Comments|
Oracle is announcing today what it’s calling “Oracle Big Data SQL”. As usual, I haven’t been briefed, but highlights seem to include:
- Oracle Big Data SQL is basically data federation using the External Tables capability of the Oracle DBMS.
- Unlike independent products — e.g. Cirro — Oracle Big Data SQL federates SQL queries only across Oracle offerings, such as the Oracle DBMS, the Oracle NoSQL offering, or Oracle’s Cloudera-based Hadoop appliance.
- Also unlike independent products, Oracle Big Data SQL is claimed to be compatible with Oracle’s usual security model and SQL dialect.
- At least when it talks to Hadoop, Oracle Big Data SQL exploits predicate pushdown to reduce network traffic.
And by the way – Oracle Big Data SQL is NOT “SQL-on-Hadoop” as that term is commonly construed, unless the complete Oracle DBMS is running on every node of a Hadoop cluster.
Predicate pushdown is actually a simple concept:
- If you issue a query in one place to run against a lot of data that’s in another place, you could spawn a lot of network traffic, which could be slow and costly. However …
- … if you can “push down” parts of the query to where the data is stored, and thus filter out most of the data, then you can greatly reduce network traffic.
“Predicate pushdown” gets its name from the fact that portions of SQL statements, specifically ones that filter data, are properly referred to as predicates. They earn that name because predicates in mathematical logic and clauses in SQL are the same kind of thing — statements that, upon evaluation, can be TRUE or FALSE for different values of variables or data.
The most famous example of predicate pushdown is Oracle Exadata, with the story there being:
- Oracle’s shared-everything architecture created a huge I/O bottleneck when querying large amounts of data, making Oracle inappropriate for very large data warehouses.
- Oracle Exadata added a second tier of servers each tied to a subset of the overall storage; certain predicates are pushed down to that tier.
- The I/O between Exadata’s two sets of servers is now tolerable, and so Oracle is now often competitive in the high-end data warehousing market,
Oracle evidently calls this “SmartScan”, and says Oracle Big Data SQL does something similar with predicate pushdown into Hadoop.
Oracle also hints at using predicate pushdown to do non-tabular operations on the non-relational systems, rather than shoehorning operations on multi-structured data into the Oracle DBMS, but my details on that are sparse.
- Chris Kanaracus’ coverage of the announcement quotes me at length.
|Categories: Data warehousing, Exadata, Hadoop, Oracle, SQL/Hadoop integration, Theory and architecture||8 Comments|
As part of my series on the keys to and likelihood of success, I outlined some examples from the DBMS industry. The list turned out too long for a single post, so I split it up by millennia. The part on 20th Century DBMS success and failure went up Friday; in this one I’ll cover more recent events, organized in line with the original overview post. Categories addressed will include analytic RDBMS (including data warehouse appliances), NoSQL/non-SQL short-request DBMS, MySQL, PostgreSQL, NewSQL and Hadoop.
DBMS rarely have trouble with the criterion “Is there an identifiable buying process?” If an enterprise is doing application development projects, a DBMS is generally chosen for each one. And so the organization will generally have a process in place for buying DBMS, or accepting them for free. Central IT, departments, and — at least in the case of free open source stuff — developers all commonly have the capacity for DBMS acquisition.
In particular, at many enterprises either departments have the ability to buy their own analytic technology, or else IT will willingly buy and administer things for a single department. This dynamic fueled much of the early rise of analytic RDBMS.
Buyer inertia is a greater concern.
- A significant minority of enterprises are highly committed to their enterprise DBMS standards.
- Another significant minority aren’t quite as committed, but set pretty high bars for new DBMS products to cross nonetheless.
- FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) about new DBMS is often justifiable, about stability and consistent performance alike.
A particularly complex version of this dynamic has played out in the market for analytic RDBMS/appliances.
- First the newer products (from Netezza onwards) were sold to organizations who knew they wanted great performance or price/performance.
- Then it became more about selling “business value” to organizations who needed more convincing about the benefits of great price/performance.
- Then the behemoth vendors became more competitive, as Teradata introduced lower-price models, Oracle introduced Exadata, Sybase got more aggressive with Sybase IQ, IBM bought Netezza, EMC bought Greenplum, HP bought Vertica and so on. It is now hard for a non-behemoth analytic RDBMS vendor to make headway at large enterprise accounts.
- Meanwhile, Hadoop has emerged as serious competitor for at least some analytic data management, especially but not only at internet companies.
Otherwise I’d say: Read more
I’m commonly asked to assess vendor claims of the kind:
- “Our system lets you do multiple kinds of processing against one database.”
- “Otherwise you’d need two or more data managers to get the job done, which would be a catastrophe of unthinkable proportion.”
So I thought it might be useful to quickly review some of the many ways organizations put multiple data stores to work. As usual, my bottom line is:
- The most extreme vendor marketing claims are false.
- There are many different choices that make sense in at least some use cases each.
Horses for courses
It’s now widely accepted that different data managers are better for different use cases, based on distinctions such as:
- Short-request vs. analytic.
- SQL vs. non-SQL (NoSQL or otherwise).
- Expensive/heavy-duty vs. cheap/easy-to-support.
Vendors are part of this consensus; already in 2005 I observed
For all practical purposes, there are no DBMS vendors left advocating single-server strategies.
Vendor agreement has become even stronger in the interim, as evidenced by Oracle/MySQL, IBM/Netezza, Oracle’s NoSQL dabblings, and various companies’ Hadoop offerings.
Multiple data stores for a single application
We commonly think of one data manager managing one or more databases, each in support of one or more applications. But the other way around works too; it’s normal for a single application to invoke multiple data stores. Indeed, all but the strictest relational bigots would likely agree: Read more
The pessimist thinks the glass is half-empty.
The optimist thinks the glass is half-full.
The engineer thinks the glass was poorly designed.
Most of what I wrote in Part 1 of this post was already true 15 years ago. But much gets added in the modern era, considering that:
- Clusters will have node hiccups more often than single nodes will. (Duh.)
- Networks are relatively slow even when uncongested, and furthermore congest unpredictably.
- In many applications, it’s OK to sacrifice even basic-seeming database functionality.
And so there’s been innovation in numerous cluster-related subjects, two of which are:
- Distributed query and update. When a database is distributed among many modes, how does a request access multiple nodes at once?
- Fault-tolerance in long-running jobs.When a job is expected to run on many nodes for a long time, how can it deal with failures or slowdowns, other than through the distressing alternatives:
- Start over from the beginning?
- Keep (a lot of) the whole cluster’s resources tied up, waiting for things to be set right?
Distributed database consistency
When a distributed database lives up to the same consistency standards as a single-node one, distributed query is straightforward. Performance may be an issue, however, which is why we have seen a lot of:
- Analytic RDBMS innovation.
- Short-request applications designed to avoid distributed joins.
- Short-request clustered RDBMS that don’t allow fully-general distributed joins in the first place.
But in workloads with low-latency writes, living up to those standards is hard. The 1980s approach to distributed writing was two-phase commit (2PC), which may be summarized as: Read more
|Categories: Clustering, CouchDB, Data warehousing, Databricks, Spark and BDAS, Facebook, Hadoop, MapReduce, Sybase, Theory and architecture, VoltDB and H-Store||1 Comment|