Memory-centric data management
Analysis of technologies that manage data entirely or primarily in random-access memory (RAM). 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
Writing data management or analysis software is hard. This post and its sequel are about some of the reasons why.
When systems work as intended, writing and reading data is easy. Much of what’s hard about data management is dealing with the possibility — really the inevitability — of failure. So it might be interesting to survey some of the many ways that considerations of failure come into play. Some have been major parts of IT for decades; others, if not new, are at least newly popular in this cluster-oriented, RAM-crazy era. In this post I’ll focus on topics that apply to single-node systems; in the sequel I’ll emphasize topics that are clustering-specific.
Major areas of failure-aware design — and these overlap greatly — include:
- Backup and restore. In its simplest form, this is very basic stuff. That said — any decent database management system should let backups be made without blocking ongoing database operation, with the least performance impact possible.
- Logging, rollback and replay. Logs are essential to DBMS. And since they’re both ubiquitous and high-performance, logs are being used in ever more ways.
- Locking, latching, transactions and consistency. Database consistency used to be enforced in stern and pessimistic ways. That’s changing, big-time, in large part because of the requirements of …
- … distributed database operations. Increasingly, modern distributed database systems are taking the approach of getting work done first, then cleaning up messes when they occur.
- Redundancy and replication. Parallel computing creates both a need and an opportunity to maintain multiple replicas of data at once, in very different ways than the redundancy and replication of the past.
- Fault-tolerant execution. When one node is inoperative, inaccessible, overloaded or just slow, you may not want a whole long multi-node job to start over. A variety of techniques address this need.
In a single-server, disk-based configuration, techniques for database fault-tolerance start: Read more
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
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|
My California trip last week focused mainly on software — duh! — but I had some interesting hardware/storage/architecture discussions as well, especially in the areas of:
- Rack- or data-center-scale systems.
- The real or imagined demise of Moore’s Law.
I also got updated as to typical Hadoop hardware.
If systems are designed at the whole-rack level or higher, then there can be much more flexibility and efficiency in terms of mixing and connecting CPU, RAM and storage. The Google/Facebook/Amazon cool kids are widely understood to be following this approach, so others are naturally considering it as well. My most interesting of several mentions of that point was when I got the chance to talk with Berkeley computer architecture guru Dave Patterson, who’s working on plans for 100-petabyte/terabit-networking kinds of systems, for usage after 2020 or so. (If you’re interested, you might want to contact him; I’m sure he’d love more commercial sponsorship.)
One of Dave’s design assumptions is that Moore’s Law really will end soon (or at least greatly slow down), if by Moore’s Law you mean that every 18 months or so one can get twice as many transistors onto a chip of the same area and cost than one could before. However, while he thinks that applies to CPU and RAM, Dave thinks flash is an exception. I gathered that he thinks the power/heat reasons for Moore’s Law to end will be much harder to defeat than the other ones; note that flash, because of what it’s used for, has vastly less power running through it than CPU or RAM do.
|Categories: Amazon and its cloud, Buying processes, Cloudera, Facebook, Google, Intel, Memory-centric data management, Pricing, Solid-state memory||18 Comments|
Spark is on the rise, to an even greater degree than I thought last month.
- Numerous clients and other companies I talk with have adopted Spark, plan to adopt Spark, or at least think it’s likely they will. In particular:
- A number of analytic-stack companies are joining ClearStory in using Spark. Most of the specifics are confidential, but I hope some will be announced soon.
- MapR has joined Cloudera in supporting Spark, and indeed — unlike Cloudera — is supporting the full Spark stack.
- Mike Olson of Cloudera is on record as predicting that Spark will be the replacement for Hadoop MapReduce. Just about everybody seems to agree, except perhaps for Hortonworks folks betting on the more limited and less mature Tez. Spark’s biggest technical advantages as a general data processing engine are probably:
- The Directed Acyclic Graph processing model. (Any serious MapReduce-replacement contender will probably echo that aspect.)
- A rich set of programming primitives in connection with that model.
- Support also for highly-iterative processing, of the kind found in machine learning.
- Flexible in-memory data structures, namely the RDDs (Resilient Distributed Datasets).
- A clever approach to fault-tolerance.
- Spark is a major contender in streaming.
- There’s some cool machine-learning innovation using Spark.
- Spark 1.0 will drop by mid-May, Apache voters willin’ an’ the creek don’ rise. Publicity will likely ensue, with strong evidence of industry support.*
*Yes, my fingerprints are showing again.
The most official description of what Spark now contains is probably the “Spark ecosystem” diagram from Databricks. However, at the time of this writing it is slightly out of date, as per some email from Databricks CEO Ion Stoica (quoted with permission):
… but if I were to redraw it, SparkSQL will replace Shark, and Shark will eventually become a thin layer above SparkSQL and below BlinkDB.
With this change, all the modules on top of Spark (i.e., SparkStreaming, SparkSQL, GraphX, and MLlib) are part of the Spark distribution. You can think of these modules as libraries that come with Spark.
|Categories: Cloudera, Complex event processing (CEP), Databricks, Spark and BDAS, Hadoop, Hortonworks, MapR, MapReduce, Predictive modeling and advanced analytics, SQL/Hadoop integration, Yahoo||14 Comments|
I frequently am asked questions that boil down to:
- When should one use NoSQL?
- When should one use a new SQL product (NewSQL or otherwise)?
- When should one use a traditional RDBMS (most likely Oracle, DB2, or SQL Server)?
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:
- Sometimes something isn’t broken, and doesn’t need fixing.
- Sometimes something is broken, and still doesn’t need fixing. Legacy decisions that you now regret may not be worth the trouble to change.
- Sometimes — especially but not only at smaller enterprises — choices are made for you. If you operate on SaaS, plus perhaps some generic web hosting technology, the whole DBMS discussion may be moot.
In particular, migration away from legacy DBMS raises many issues: Read more
|Categories: Columnar database management, Couchbase, HBase, In-memory DBMS, Microsoft and SQL*Server, NewSQL, NoSQL, OLTP, Oracle, Parallelization, SAP AG||17 Comments|
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 has historically been an in-memory row store, which as of last year scales out.
- It turns out that the MemSQL row store actually has two table types. One is scaled out. The other — called “reference” — is replicated on every node.
- MemSQL has now added a third table type, which is columnar and which resides in flash memory.
- If you want to keep data in, for example, both the scale-out row store and the column store, you’d have to copy/replicate it within MemSQL. And if you wanted to access data from both versions at once (e.g. because different copies cover different time periods), you’d likely have to do a UNION or something like that.
*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:
- IBM, Oracle and Microsoft, which all sell row-based DBMS meant to run on disk or other persistent storage, have added or will add columnar options that run in RAM.
- MemSQL, which sells a row-based DBMS that runs in RAM, has added a columnar option that runs in persistent solid-state storage.
|Categories: Columnar database management, Database compression, In-memory DBMS, MemSQL, Solid-state memory||12 Comments|
I’ve heard a lot of buzz recently around Spark. So I caught up with Ion Stoica and Mike Franklin for a call. Let me start by acknowledging some sources of confusion.
- Spark is very new. All Spark adoption is recent.
- Databricks was founded to commercialize Spark. It is very much in stealth mode …
- … except insofar as Databricks folks are going out and trying to drum up Spark adoption.
- Ion Stoica is running Databricks, but you couldn’t tell that from his UC Berkeley bio page. Edit: After I posted this, Ion’s bio was quickly updated.
- Spark creator and Databricks CTO Matei Zaharia is an MIT professor, but actually went on leave there before he ever showed up.
- Cloudera is perhaps Spark’s most visible supporter. But Cloudera’s views of Spark’s role in the world is different from the Spark team’s.
The “What is Spark?” question may soon be just as difficult as the ever-popular “What is Hadoop?” That said — and referring back to my original technical post about Spark and also to a discussion of prominent Spark user ClearStory — my try at “What is Spark?” goes something like this:
- Spark is a distributed execution engine for analytic processes …
- … which works well with Hadoop.
- Spark is distinguished by a flexible in-memory data model …
- … and farms out persistence to HDFS (Hadoop Distributed File System) or other existing data stores.
- Intended analytic use cases for Spark include:
- SQL data manipulation.
- ETL-like data manipulation.
- Streaming-like data manipulation.
- Machine learning.
- Graph analytics.
I first wrote about in-memory data management a decade ago. But I long declined to use that term — because there’s almost always a persistence story outside of RAM — and coined “memory-centric” as an alternative. Then I relented 1 1/2 years ago, and defined in-memory DBMS as
DBMS designed under the assumption that substantially all database operations will be performed in RAM (Random Access Memory)
By way of contrast:
Hybrid memory-centric DBMS is our term for a DBMS that has two modes:
- Querying and updating (or loading into) persistent storage.
These definitions, while a bit rough, seem to fit most cases. One awkward exception is Aerospike, which assumes semiconductor memory, but is happy to persist onto flash (just not spinning disk). Another is Kognitio, which is definitely lying when it claims its product was in-memory all along, but may or may not have redesigned its technology over the decades to have become more purely in-memory. (But if they have, what happened to all the previous disk-based users??)
Two other sources of confusion are:
- The broad variety of memory-centric data management approaches.
- The over-enthusiastic marketing of SAP HANA.
With all that said, here’s a little update on in-memory data management and related subjects.
- I maintain my opinion that traditional databases will eventually wind up in RAM.
- At conventional large enterprises — as opposed to for example pure internet companies — production deployments of HANA are probably comparable in number and investment to production deployments of Hadoop. (I’m sorry, but much of my supporting information for that is confidential.)
- Cloudera is emphatically backing Spark. And a key aspect of Spark is that, unlike most of Hadoop, it’s memory-centric.
- It has become common for disk-based DBMS to persist data through a “log-structured” architecture. That’s a whole lot like what you do for persistence in a fundamentally in-memory system.
- I’m also sensing increasing comfort with the strategy of committing writes as soon as they’ve been acknowledged by two or more nodes in RAM.
- I’ve never heard a story about an in-memory DBMS actually losing data. It’s surely happened, but evidently not often.
|Categories: Aerospike, Cloudera, Clustering, Databricks, Spark and BDAS, Hadoop, In-memory DBMS, Kognitio, Market share and customer counts, Memory-centric data management, SAP AG, Theory and architecture||13 Comments|