Analysis of issues in data warehousing, with extensive coverage of database management systems and data warehouse appliances that are optimized to query large volumes of data. Related subjects include:
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|
After visiting California recently, I made a flurry of posts, several of which generated considerable discussion.
- My claim that Spark will replace Hadoop MapReduce got much Twitter attention — including some high-profile endorsements — and also some responses here.
- My MemSQL post led to a vigorous comparison of MemSQL vs. VoltDB.
- My post on hardware and storage spawned a lively discussion of Hadoop hardware pricing; even Cloudera wound up disagreeing with what I reported Cloudera as having said. Sadly, there was less response to the part about the partial (!) end of Moore’s Law.
- My Cloudera/SQL/Impala/Hive apparently was well-balanced, in that it got attacked from multiple sides via Twitter & email. Apparently, I was too hard on Impala, I was too hard on Hive, and I was too hard on boxes full of cardboard file cards as well.
- My post on the Intel/Cloudera deal garnered a comment reminding us Dell had pushed the Intel distro.
- My CitusDB post picked up a few clarifying comments.
Here is a catch-all post to complete the set. Read more
One of my lesser-known clients is Citus Data, a largely Turkish company that is however headquartered in San Francisco. They make CitusDB, which puts a scale-out layer over a collection of fully-functional PostgreSQL nodes, much like Greenplum and Aster Data before it. However, in contrast to those and other Postgres-based analytic MPP (Massively Parallel Processing) DBMS:
- CitusDB does not permanently fork PostgreSQL; Citus Data has committed to always working with the latest PostgreSQL release, or at least with one that’s less than a year old.
- Citus Data never made the “fat head” mistake — if a join can’t be executed directly on the CitusDB data-storing nodes, it can’t be executed in CitusDB at all.
- CitusDB follows the modern best-practice of having many virtual nodes on each physical node. Default size of a virtual node is one gigabyte. Each virtual node is technically its own PostgreSQL table.*
- Citus Data has already introduced an open source column-store option for PostgreSQL, which CitusDB of course exploits.
*One benefit to this strategy, besides the usual elasticity and recovery stuff, is that while PostgreSQL may be single-core for any given query, a CitusDB query can use multiple cores by virtue of hitting multiple PostgreSQL tables on each node.
Citus has thrown a few things against the wall; for example, there are two versions of its product, one which involves HDFS (Hadoop Distributed File System) and one of which doesn’t. But I think Citus’ focus will be scale-out PostgreSQL for at least the medium-term future. Citus does have actual customers, and they weren’t all PostgreSQL users previously. Still, the main hope — at least until the product is more built-out — is that existing PostgreSQL users will find CitusDB easy to adopt, in technology and price alike.
|Categories: Aster Data, Citus Data, Columnar database management, Data warehousing, Database compression, Greenplum, Hadoop, Parallelization, PostgreSQL, SQL/Hadoop integration, Transparent sharding, Workload management||6 Comments|
I stopped by MemSQL last week, and got a range of new or clarified information. For starters:
- Even though MemSQL (the product) was originally designed for OLTP (OnLine Transaction Processing), MemSQL (the company) is now focused on analytic use cases …
- … which was the point of introducing MemSQL’s flash-based columnar option.
- One MemSQL customer has a 100 TB “data warehouse” installation on Amazon.
- Another has “dozens” of terabytes of data spread across 500 machines, which aggregate 36 TB of RAM.
- At customer Shutterstock, 1000s of non-MemSQL nodes are monitored by 4 MemSQL machines.
- A couple of MemSQL’s top references are also Vertica flagship customers; one of course is Zynga.
- MemSQL reports encountering Clustrix and VoltDB in a few competitive situations, but not NuoDB. MemSQL believes that VoltDB is still hampered by its traditional issues — Java, reliance on stored procedures, etc.
On the more technical side: Read more
|Categories: Clustering, Clustrix, Columnar database management, Data warehousing, Database compression, In-memory DBMS, MemSQL, NewSQL, NuoDB, Specific users, Vertica Systems, VoltDB and H-Store, Workload management, Zynga||18 Comments|
There’s much confusion about Cloudera’s SQL plans and beliefs, and the company has mainly itself to blame. That said, here’s what I think is going on.
- Hive is good at some tasks and terrible at others.
- Hive is good at batch data transformation.
- Hive is bad at ad-hoc query, unless you really, really need Hive’s scale and low license cost. One example, per Eli Collins: Facebook has a 500 petabyte Hive warehouse, but jokes that on a good day an analyst can run 6 queries against it.
- Impala is meant to be good at what Hive is bad at – i.e., fast-response query. (Cloudera mentioned reliable 100 millisecond response times for at least one user.)
- Impala is also meant to be good at what Hive is good at, and will someday from Cloudera’s standpoint completely supersede Hive, but Cloudera is in no hurry for that day to arrive. Hive is more mature. Hive still has more SQL coverage than Impala. There’s a lot of legacy investment in Hive. Cloudera gets little business advantage if a customer sunsets Hive.
- Impala is already decent at some tasks analytic RDBMS are commonly used for. Cloudera insists that some queries run very quickly on Impala. I believe them.
- Impala is terrible at others, including some of the ones most closely associated with the concept of “data warehousing”. Data modeling is a big zero right now. Impala’s workload management, concurrency and all that are very immature.
- There are some use cases for which SQL-on-Hadoop blows away analytic RDBMS, for example ones involving data transformations – perhaps on multi-structured data – that are impractical in RDBMS.
And of course, as vendors so often do, Cloudera generally overrates both the relative maturity of Impala and the relative importance of the use cases in which its offerings – Impala or otherwise – shine.
- A survey of SQL/Hadoop integration (February, 2014)
- The cardinal rules of DBMS development (March, 2013)
|Categories: Cloudera, Data warehousing, Facebook, Hadoop, SQL/Hadoop integration, Workload management||4 Comments|
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.
|Categories: Benchmarks and POCs, Business intelligence, Cloud computing, Clustering, Data models and architecture, Data warehousing, NoSQL, Software as a Service (SaaS), Vertica Systems||3 Comments|
The Spark buzz keeps increasing; almost everybody I talk with expects Spark to win big, probably across several use cases.
Disclosure: I’ll soon be in a substantial client relationship with Databricks, hoping to improve their stealth-mode marketing.
The “real-time analytics” gold rush I called out last year continues. A large fraction of the vendors I talk with have some variant of “real-time analytics” as a central message.
Hadapt laid off its sales and marketing folks, and perhaps some engineers as well. In a nutshell, Hadapt’s approach to SQL-on-Hadoop wasn’t selling vs. the many alternatives, and Hadapt is doubling down on poly-structured data*/schema-on-need.
*While Hadapt doesn’t to my knowledge use the term “poly-structured data”, some other vendors do. And so I may start using it more myself, at least when the poly-structured/multi-structured distinction actually seems significant.
WibiData is partnering with DataStax, WibiData is of course pleased to get access to Cassandra’s user base, which gave me the opportunity to ask why they thought Cassandra had beaten HBase in those accounts. The answer was performance and availability, while Cassandra’s traditional lead in geo-distribution wasn’t mentioned at all.
Disclosure: My fingerprints are all over that deal.
In other news, WibiData has had some executive departures as well, but seems to be staying the course on its strategy. I continue to think that WibiData has a really interesting vision about how to do large-data-volume interactive computing, and anybody in that space would do well to talk with them or at least look into the open source projects WibiData sponsors.
I encountered another apparently-popular machine-learning term — bandit model. It seems to be glorified A/B testing, and it seems to be popular. I think the point is that it tries to optimize for just how much you invest in testing unproven (for good or bad) alternatives.
I had an awkward set of interactions with Gooddata, including my longest conversations with them since 2009. Gooddata is in the early days of trying to offer an all-things-to-all-people analytic stack via SaaS (Software as a Service). I gather that Hadoop, Vertica, PostgreSQL (a cheaper Vertica alternative), Spark, Shark (as a faster version of Hive) and Cassandra (under the covers) are all in the mix — but please don’t hold me to those details.
I continue to think that computing is moving to a combination of appliances, clusters, and clouds. That said, I recently bought a new gaming-class computer, and spent many hours gaming on it just yesterday.* I.e., there’s room for general-purpose workstations as well. But otherwise, I’m not hearing anything that contradicts my core point.
*The last beta weekend for The Elder Scrolls Online; I loved Morrowind.
For quite some time, one of the most frequent marketing pitches I’ve heard is “Analytics made easy for everybody!”, where by “quite some time” I mean “over 30 years”. “Uniquely easy analytics” is a claim that I meet with the greatest of skepticism.* Further confusing matters, these claims are usually about what amounts to business intelligence tools, but vendors increasingly say “Our stuff is better than the BI that came before, so we don’t want you to call it ‘BI’ as well.”
*That’s even if your slide deck doesn’t contain a picture of a pyramid of user kinds; if there actually is such a drawing, then the chance that I believe you is effectively nil.
All those caveats notwithstanding, there are indeed at least three forms of widespread analytics:
- Fairly standalone, eas(ier) to use business intelligence tools, sometimes marketed as focusing on “data exploration” or “data discovery”.
- Charts and graphs integrated or at least well-embedded into production applications. This technology is on a long-term rise. But in some sense, integrated reporting has been around since the invention of accounting.
- Predictive analytics built into automated systems, for example ad selection. This is not what is usually meant by the “easy analytics” claim, and I’ll say no more about it in this post.
It would be nice to say that the first two bullet points represent a fairly clean operational/investigative BI split, but that would be wrong; human real-time dashboards can at once be standalone and operational.
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.