Discussion of NoSQL concepts, products, and vendors.
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.
Some technical background about Splunk
In an October, 2009 technical introduction to Splunk, I wrote (emphasis added):
Splunk software both reads logs and indexes them. The same code runs both on the nodes that do the indexing and on machines that simply emit logs.
It turns out that the bolded part was changed several years ago. However, I don’t have further details, so let’s move on to Splunk’s DBMS-like aspects.
I also wrote:
The fundamental thing that Splunk looks at is an increment to a log – i.e., whatever has been added to the log since Splunk last looked at it.
That remains true. Confusingly, Splunk refers to these log increments as “rows”, even though they’re really structured and queried more like documents.
I further wrote:
Splunk has a simple ILM (Information Lifecycle management) story based on time. I didn’t probe for details.
Splunk’s ILM story turns out to be simple indeed.
- As data streams in, Splunk adds it to the most recent — “hot” — bucket. Once a bucket is full, it becomes immutable — “warm” — and a new hot bucket is opened to receive data.
- Splunk executes queries against whichever of these time-slice buckets make sense, then unions results together as needed.
Finally, I wrote:
I get the impression that most Splunk entity extraction is done at search time, not at indexing time. Splunk says that, if a <name, value> pair is clearly marked, its software does a good job of recognizing same. Beyond that, fields seem to be specified by users when they define searches.
I have trouble understanding how Splunk could provide flexible and robust reporting unless it tokenized and indexed specific fields more aggressively than I think it now does.
The point of what I in October, 2013 called
a high(er)-performance data store into which you can selectively copy columns of data
and which Splunk enthusiastically calls its “High Performance Analytic Store” is to meet that latter need.
Inverted list technology is confusing for several reasons, which start: Read more
|Categories: Data models and architecture, NoSQL, SAP AG, Splunk, Structured documents, Text||1 Comment|
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||9 Comments|
It took me a bit of time, and an extra call with Vertica’s long-time R&D chief Shilpa Lawande, but I think I have a decent handle now on Vertica 7, code-named Crane. The two aspects of Vertica 7 I find most interesting are:
- Flex Zone, a schema-on-need technology very much like Hadapt’s (but of course with access to Vertica performance).
- What sounds like an alternate query execution capability for short-request queries, the big point of which is that it saves them from being broadcast across the whole cluster, hence improving scalability. (Adding nodes of course doesn’t buy you much for the portion of a workload that’s broadcast.)
Other Vertica 7 enhancements include:
- A lot of Bottleneck Whack-A-Mole.
- “Significant” improvements to the Vertica management console.
- Security enhancements (Kerberos), Hadoop integration enhancements (HCatalog), and enhanced integration with Hadoop security (Kerberos again).
- Some availability hardening. (“Fault groups”, which for example let you ensure that data is replicated not just to 2+ nodes, but also that the nodes aren’t all on the same rack.)
- Java as an option to do in-database analytics. (Who knew that feature was still missing?)
- Some analytic functionality. (Approximate COUNT DISTINCT, but not yet Approximate MEDIAN.)
Overall, two recurring themes in our discussion were:
- Load and ETL (Extract/Transform/Load) performance, and/or obviating ETL.
- Short-request performance, in the form of more scalable short-request concurrency.
Relational DBMS used to be fairly straightforward product suites, which boiled down to:
- A big SQL interpreter.
- A bunch of administrative and operational tools.
- Some very optional add-ons, often including an application development tool.
Now, however, most RDBMS are sold as part of something bigger.
- Oracle has hugely thickened its stack, as part of an Innovator’s Solution strategy — hardware, middleware, applications, business intelligence, and more.
- IBM has moved aggressively to a bundled “appliance” strategy. Even before that, IBM DB2 long sold much better to committed IBM accounts than as a software-only offering.
- Microsoft SQL Server is part of a stack, starting with the Windows operating system.
- Sybase was an exception to this rule, with thin(ner) stacks for both Adaptive Server Enterprise and Sybase IQ. But Sybase is now owned by SAP, and increasingly integrated as a business with …
- … SAP HANA, which is closely associated with SAP’s applications.
- Teradata has always been a hardware/software vendor. The most successful of its analytic DBMS rivals, in some order, are:
- Netezza, a pure appliance vendor, now part of IBM.
- Greenplum, an appliance-mainly vendor for most (not all) of its existence, and in particular now as a part of EMC Pivotal.
- Vertica, more of a software-only vendor than the others, but now owned by and increasingly mainstreamed into hardware vendor HP.
- MySQL’s glory years were as part of the “LAMP” stack.
- Various thin-stack RDBMS that once were or could have been important market players … aren’t. Examples include Progress OpenEdge, IBM Informix, and the various strays adopted by Actian.
There’s a growing trend for DBMS to beef up their support for multiple data manipulation languages (DMLs) or APIs — and there’s a special boom in JSON support, MongoDB-compatible or otherwise. So I talked earlier tonight with IBM’s Bobbie Cochrane about how JSON is managed in DB2.
For starters, let’s note that there are at least four strategies IBM could have used.
- Store JSON in a BLOB (Binary Large OBject) or similar existing datatype. That’s what IBM actually chose.
- Store JSON in a custom datatype, using the datatype extensibility features DB2 has had since the 1990s. IBM is not doing this, and doesn’t see a need to at this time.
- Use DB2 pureXML, along with some kind of JSON/XML translator. DB2 managed JSON this way in the past, via UDFs (User-Defined Functions), but that implementation is superseded by the new BLOB-based approach, which offers better performance in ingest and query alike.
- Shred — to use a term from XML days — JSON into a bunch of relational columns. IBM experimented with this approach, but ultimately rejected it. In dismissing shredding, Bobbie also disdained any immediate support for schema-on-need.
IBM’s technology choices are of course influenced by its use case focus. It’s reasonable to divide MongoDB use cases into two large buckets:
- Hardcore internet and/or machine-generated data, for example from a website.
- Enterprise data aggregation, for example a “360-degree customer view.”
IBM’s DB2 JSON features are targeted at the latter bucket. Also, I suspect that IBM is generally looking for a way to please users who enjoy working on and with their MongoDB skills. Read more
|Categories: Data models and architecture, IBM and DB2, MongoDB and 10gen, NoSQL, pureXML, Structured documents||2 Comments|
Two subjects in one post, because they were too hard to separate from each other
Any sufficiently complex software is developed in modules and subsystems. DBMS are no exception; the core trinity of parser, optimizer/planner, and execution engine merely starts the discussion. But increasingly, database technology is layered in a more fundamental way as well, to the extent that different parts of what would seem to be an integrated DBMS can sometimes be developed by separate vendors.
Major examples of this trend — where by “major” I mean “spanning a lot of different vendors or projects” — include:
- The object/relational, aka universal, extensibility features developed in the 1990s for Oracle, DB2, Informix, Illustra, and Postgres. The most successful extensions probably have been:
- Geospatial indexing via ESRI.
- Full-text indexing, notwithstanding questionable features and performance.
- MySQL storage engines.
- MPP (Massively Parallel Processing) analytic RDBMS relying on single-node PostgreSQL, Ingres, and/or Microsoft SQL Server — e.g. Greenplum (especially early on), Aster (ditto), DATAllegro, DATAllegro’s offspring Microsoft PDW (Parallel Data Warehouse), or Hadapt.
- Splits in which a DBMS has serious processing both in a “database” layer and in a predicate-pushdown “storage” layer — most famously Oracle Exadata, but also MarkLogic, InfiniDB, and others.
- SQL-on-HDFS — Hive, Impala, Stinger, Shark and so on (including Hadapt).
Other examples on my mind include:
- Data manipulation APIs being added to key-value stores such as Couchbase and Aerospike.
- TokuMX, the Tokutek/MongoDB hybrid I just blogged about.
- NuoDB’s willing reliance on third-party key-value stores (or HDFS in the role of one).
- FoundationDB’s strategy, and specifically its acquisition of Akiban.
And there are several others I hope to blog about soon, e.g. current-day PostgreSQL.
In an overlapping trend, DBMS increasingly have multiple data manipulation APIs. Examples include: Read more
My clients at Aerospike are coming out with their Version 3, and as several of my clients do, have encouraged me to front-run what otherwise would be the Monday embargo.
I encourage such behavior with arguments including:
- “Nobody else is going to write in such technical detail anyway, so they won’t mind.”
- “I’ve done this before. Other writers haven’t complained.”
- “In fact, some other writers like having me go first, so that they can learn from and/or point to what I say.”
- “Hey, I don’t ask for much in the way of exclusives, but I’d be pleased if you threw me this bone.”
Aerospike 2’s value proposition, let us recall, was:
… performance, consistent performance, and uninterrupted operations …
- Aerospike’s consistent performance claims are along the lines of sub-millisecond latency, with 99.9% of responses being within 5 milliseconds, and even a node outage only borking performance for some 10s of milliseconds.
- Uninterrupted operation is a core Aerospike design goal, and the company says that to date, no Aerospike production cluster has ever gone down.
The major support for such claims is Aerospike’s success in selling to the digital advertising market, which is probably second only to high-frequency trading in its low-latency demands. For example, Aerospike’s CMO Monica Pal sent along a link to what apparently is:
- a video by a customer named Brightroll …
- … who enjoy SLAs (Service Level Agreements) such as those cited above (they actually mentioned five 9s)* …
- … at peak loads of 10-12 million requests/minute.
|Categories: Aerospike, Market share and customer counts, Memory-centric data management, NoSQL, Pricing, Web analytics||2 Comments|
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 is a collection of disparate things, most particularly data storage and application execution systems.
- The transition from Hadoop 1 to Hadoop 2 will be drastic.
- For key aspects of Hadoop — especially file format and execution engine — there are or will be widely varied options.
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.)