Columnar database management

Analysis of products and issues in column-oriented database management systems. Related subjects include:

May 1, 2014

MemSQL update

I stopped by MemSQL last week, and got a range of new or clarified information. For starters:

On the more technical side: Read more

March 28, 2014

NoSQL vs. NewSQL vs. traditional RDBMS

I frequently am asked questions that boil down to:

The details vary with context — e.g. sometimes MySQL is a traditional RDBMS and sometimes it is a new kid — but the general class of questions keeps coming. And that’s just for short-request use cases; similar questions for analytic systems arise even more often.

My general answers start:

In particular, migration away from legacy DBMS raises many issues:  Read more

February 10, 2014

MemSQL 3.0

Memory-centric data management is confusing. And so I’m going to clarify a couple of things about MemSQL 3.0 even though I don’t yet have a lot of details.* They are:

*MemSQL’s first columnar offering sounds pretty basic; for example, there’s no columnar compression yet. (Edit: Oops, that’s not accurate. See comment below.) But at least they actually have one, which puts them ahead of many other row-based RDBMS vendors that come to mind.

And to hammer home the contrast:

September 23, 2013

Thoughts on in-memory columnar add-ons

Oracle announced its in-memory columnar option Sunday. As usual, I wasn’t briefed; still, I have some observations. For starters:

I’d also add that Larry Ellison’s pitch “build columns to avoid all that index messiness” sounds like 80% bunk. The physical overhead should be at least as bad, and the main saving in administrative overhead should be that, in effect, you’re indexing ALL columns rather than picking and choosing.

Anyhow, this technology should be viewed as applying to traditional business transaction data, much more than to — for example — web interaction logs, or other machine-generated data. My thoughts around that distinction start:

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

August 6, 2013

Hortonworks, Hadoop, Stinger and Hive

I chatted yesterday with the Hortonworks gang. The main subject was Hortonworks’ approach to SQL-on-Hadoop — commonly called Stinger —  but at my request we cycled through a bunch of other topics as well. Company-specific notes include:

Our deployment and use case discussions were a little confused, because a key part of Hortonworks’ strategy is to support and encourage the idea of combining use cases and workloads on a single cluster. But I did hear:

*By the way — Teradata seems serious about pushing the UDA as a core message.

Ecosystem notes, in Hortonworks’ perception, included:

I also asked specifically about OpenStack. Hortonworks is a member of the OpenStack project, contributes nontrivially to Swift and other subprojects, and sees Rackspace as an important partner. But despite all that, I think strong Hadoop/OpenStack integration is something for the indefinite future.

Hortonworks’ views about Hadoop 2.0 start from the premise that its goal is to support running a multitude of workloads on a single cluster. (See, for example, what I previously posted about Tez and YARN.) Timing notes for Hadoop 2.0 include:

Frankly, I think Cloudera’s earlier and necessarily incremental Hadoop 2 rollout was a better choice than Hortonworks’ later big bang, even though the core-mission aspect of Hadoop 2.0 is what was least ready. HDFS (Hadoop Distributed File System) performance, NameNode failover and so on were well worth having, and it’s more than a year between Cloudera starting supporting them and when Hortonworks is offering Hadoop 2.0.

Hortonworks’ approach to doing SQL-on-Hadoop can be summarized simply as “Make Hive into as good an analytic RDBMS as possible, all in open source”. Key elements include:  Read more

June 23, 2013

Impala and Parquet

I visited Cloudera Friday for, among other things, a chat about Impala with Marcel Kornacker and colleagues. Highlights included:

Data gets into Parquet via batch jobs only — one reason it’s important that Impala run against multiple file formats — but background format conversion is another roadmap item. A single table can be split across multiple formats — e.g., the freshest data could be in HBase, with the rest is in Parquet.

Read more

May 27, 2013


I had a good chat with IBM about IBM BLU, aka BLU Accelerator or Acceleration. BLU basics start:

And yes — that means Oracle is now the only major relational DBMS vendor left without a true columnar story.

BLU’s maturity and scalability basics start:

BLU technical highlights include: Read more

May 20, 2013

Some stuff I’m working on

1. I have some posts up on Strategic Messaging. The most recent are overviews of messaging, pricing, and positioning.

2. Numerous vendors are blending SQL and JSON management in their short-request DBMS. It will take some more work for me to have a strong opinion about the merits/demerits of various alternatives.

The default implementation — one example would be Clustrix’s — is to stick the JSON into something like a BLOB/CLOB field (Binary/Character Large Object), index on individual values, and treat those indexes just like any others for the purpose of SQL statements. Drawbacks include:

IBM DB2 is one recent arrival to the JSON party. Unfortunately, I forgot to ask whether IBM’s JSON implementation was based on IBM DB2 pureXML when I had the chance, and IBM hasn’t gotten around to answering my followup query.

3. Nor has IBM gotten around to answering my followup queries on the subject of BLU, an interesting-sounding columnar option for DB2.

4. Numerous clients have asked me whether they should be active in DBaaS (DataBase as a Service). After all, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Rackspace and are all in that business in some form, and other big companies have dipped toes in as well. Read more

April 29, 2013

More on Actian/ParAccel/VectorWise/Versant/etc.

My quick reaction to the Actian/ParAccel deal was negative. A few challenges to my views then emerged. They didn’t really change my mind.

Amazon Redshift

Amazon did a deal with ParAccel that amounted to:

Some argue that this is great for ParAccel’s future prospects. I’m not convinced.

No doubt there are and will be Redshift users, evidently including Infor. But so far as I can tell, Redshift uses very standard SQL, so it doesn’t seed a ParAccel market in terms of developer habits. The administration/operation story is similar. So outside of general validation/bragging rights, Redshift is not a big deal for ParAccel.

OEMs and bragging rights

It’s not just Amazon and Infor; there’s also a MicroStrategy deal to OEM ParAccel — I think it’s the real ParAccel software in that case — for a particular service, MicroStrategy Wisdom. But unless I’m terribly mistaken, HP Vertica, Sybase IQ and even Infobright each have a lot more OEMs than ParAccel, just as they have a lot more customers than ParAccel overall.

This OEM success is a great validation for the idea of columnar analytic RDBMS in general, but I don’t see where it’s an advantage for ParAccel vs. the columnar leaders. Read more

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