Amazon and its cloud
Analysis of Amazon’s role in database and analytic technology, especially via the S3/EC2 cloud computing initiative. Also covered are SimpleDB and Amazon’s role as a technology user. Related subjects include:
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
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
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||17 Comments|
Generalizing about SaaS (Software as a Service) is hard. To prune some of the confusion, let’s start by noting:
- SaaS has been around for over half a century, and at times has been the dominant mode of application delivery.
- The term multi-tenancy is being used in several different ways.
- Multi-tenancy, in the purest sense, is inessential to SaaS. It’s simply an implementation choice that has certain benefits for the SaaS provider. And by the way, …
- … salesforce.com, the chief proponent of the theory that true multi-tenancy is the hallmark of true SaaS, abandoned that position this week.
- Internet-based services are commonly, if you squint a little, SaaS. Examples include but are hardly limited to Google, Twitter, Dropbox, Intuit, Amazon Web Services, and the company that hosts this blog (KnownHost).
- Some of the core arguments for SaaS’ rise, namely the various efficiencies of data center outsourcing and scale, apply equally to the public cloud, to SaaS, and to AEaaS (Anything Else as a Service).
- These benefits are particularly strong for inherently networked use cases. For example, you really don’t want to be hosting your website yourself. And salesforce.com got its start supporting salespeople who worked out of remote offices.
- In theory and occasionally in practice, certain SaaS benefits, namely the outsourcing of software maintenance and updates, could be enjoyed on-premises as well. Whether I think that could be a bigger deal going forward will be explored in future posts.
For smaller enterprises, the core outsourcing argument is compelling. How small? Well:
- What’s the minimum level of IT operations headcount needed for mission-critical systems? Let’s just say “several”.
- What does that cost? Fully burdened, somewhere in the six figures.
- What fraction of the IT budget should such headcount be? As low a double digit percentage as possible.
- What fraction of revenues should be spent on IT? Some single-digit percentage.
So except for special cases, an enterprise with less than $100 million or so in revenue may have trouble affording on-site data processing, at least at a mission-critical level of robustness. It may well be better to use NetSuite or something like that, assuming needed features are available in SaaS form.*
|Categories: Amazon and its cloud, Buying processes, Cloud computing, Data mart outsourcing, Data warehouse appliances, Data warehousing, Infobright, Netezza, Pricing, salesforce.com, Software as a Service (SaaS), Workday||4 Comments|
- Has been a best-selling, award-winning novelist.
- Is superbly connected in the writing world. (Two terms as a director of the Author’s Guild, past president of Novelists, Inc., etc.)
- Taught college courses on both English and neurobiology.
- Was a top-two independent expert on search engines (her only peer was Danny Sullivan).
- Wrote better SQL than I did.
In other words, she’s no dummy.
I emphasize that because she’s my source about some screw-ups at Amazon.com and other online booksellers that at first seem a little hard to believe. In no particular order: Read more
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.)
I’m not having a productive week, part of the reason being a hard drive crash that took out early drafts of what were to be last weekend’s blog posts. Now I’m operating from a laptop, rather than my preferred dual-monitor set-up. So please pardon me if I’m concise even by comparison to my usual standards.
- My recent posts based on surveillance news have been partly superseded by – well, by more news. Some of that news, along with some good discussion, may be found in the comment threads.
- The same goes for my recent Hadoop posts.
- The replay for my recent webinar on real-time analytics is now available. My part ran <25 minutes.
- One of my numerous clients using or considering a “real-time analytics” positioning is Sqrrl, the company behind the NoSQL DBMS Accumulo. Last month, Derrick Harris reported on a remarkable Accumulo success story – multiple US intelligence instances managing 10s of petabytes each, and supporting a variety of analytic (I think mainly query/visualization) approaches.
- Several sources have told me that MemSQL’s Zynga sale is (in part) for Membase replacement. This is noteworthy because Zynga was the original pay-for-some-of-the-development Membase customer.
- More generally, the buzz out of Couchbase is distressing. Ex-employees berate the place; job-seekers check around and then decide not to go there; rivals tell me of resumes coming out in droves. Yes, there’s always some of that, even at obviously prospering companies, but this feels like more than the inevitable low-level buzz one hears anywhere.
- I think the predictive modeling state of the art has become:
- Cluster in some way.
- Model separately on each cluster.
- And if you still want to do something that looks like a regression – linear or otherwise – then you might want to use a tool that lets you shovel training data in WITHOUT a whole lot of preparation* and receive a model back out. Even if you don’t accept that as your final model, it can at least be a great guide to feature selection (in the statistical sense of the phrase) and the like.
- Champion/challenger model testing is also a good idea, at least if you’re in some kind of personalization/recommendation space, and have enough traffic to test like that.**
- Most companies have significant turnover after being acquired, perhaps after a “golden handcuff” period. Vertica is no longer an exception.
- Speaking of my clients at HP Vertica – they’ve done a questionable job of communicating that they’re willing to price their product quite reasonably. (But at least they allowed me to write about $2K/terabyte for hardware/software combined.)
- I’m hearing a little more Amazon Redshift buzz than I expected to. Just a little.
- StreamBase was bought by TIBCO. The rumor says $40 million.
*Basic and unavoidable ETL (Extract/Transform/Load) of course excepted.
**I could call that ABC (Always Be Comparing) or ABT (Always Be Testing), but they each sound like – well, like The Glove and the Lions.
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:
- You have to store or retrieve the JSON in whole documents at a time.
- If you are spectacularly careless, you could write JOINs with odd results.
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 salesforce.com are all in that business in some form, and other big companies have dipped toes in as well. Read more
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 did a deal with ParAccel that amounted to:
- Amazon got a very cheap license to a limited subset of ParAccel’s product …
- … so that it could launch a service called Amazon Redshift.
- Amazon also invested in ParAccel.
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
|Categories: Actian and Ingres, Amazon and its cloud, Columnar database management, HP and Neoview, Market share and customer counts, ParAccel, Sybase, VectorWise, Vertica Systems||7 Comments|
1. It boggles my mind that some database technology companies still don’t view compression as a major issue. Compression directly affects storage and bandwidth usage alike — for all kinds of storage (potentially including RAM) and for all kinds of bandwidth (network, I/O, and potentially on-server).
Trading off less-than-maximal compression so as to minimize CPU impact can make sense. Having no compression at all, however, is an admission of defeat.
2. People tend to misjudge Hadoop’s development pace in either of two directions. An overly expansive view is to note that some people working on Hadoop are trying to make it be all things for all people, and to somehow imagine those goals will soon be achieved. An overly narrow view is to note an important missing feature in Hadoop, and think there’s a big business to be made out of offering it alone.
At this point, I’d guess that Cloudera and Hortonworks have 500ish employees combined, many of whom are engineers. That allows for a low double-digit number of 5+ person engineering teams, along with a number of smaller projects. The most urgently needed features are indeed being built. On the other hand, a complete monument to computing will not soon emerge.
3. Schooner’s acquisition by SanDisk has led to the discontinuation of Schooner’s SQL DBMS SchoonerSQL. Schooner’s flash-optimized key-value store Membrain continues. I don’t have details, but the Membrain web page suggests both data store and cache use cases.
4. There’s considerable personnel movement at Boston-area database technology companies right now. Please ping me directly if you care.