Analysis of software titan Oracle and its efforts in database management, analytics, and middleware. Related subjects include:
I used to spend most of my time — blogging and consulting alike — on data warehouse appliances and analytic DBMS. Now I’m barely involved with them. The most obvious reason is that there have been drastic changes in industry structure:
- Many of the independent vendors were swooped up by acquisition.
- None of those acquisitions was a big success.
- Microsoft did little with DATAllegro.
- Netezza struggled with R&D after being bought by IBM. An IBMer recently told me that their main analytic RDBMS engine was BLU.
- I hear about Vertica more as a technology to be replaced than as a significant ongoing market player.
- Pivotal open-sourced Greenplum. I have detected few people who care.
- Ditto for Actian’s offerings.
- Teradata claimed a few large Aster accounts, but I never hear of Aster as something to compete or partner with.
- Smaller vendors fizzled too. Hadapt and Kickfire went to Teradata as more-or-less acquihires. InfiniDB folded. Etc.
- Impala and other Hadoop-based alternatives are technology options.
- Oracle, Microsoft, IBM and to some extent SAP/Sybase are still pedaling along … but I rarely talk with companies that big.
Simply reciting all that, however, begs the question of whether one should still care about analytic RDBMS at all.
My answer, in a nutshell, is:
Analytic RDBMS — whether on premises in software, in the form of data warehouse appliances, or in the cloud – are still great for hard-core business intelligence, where “hard-core” can refer to ad-hoc query complexity, reporting/dashboard concurrency, or both. But they aren’t good for much else.
Vendor lock-in is an important subject. Everybody knows that. But few of us realize just how complicated the subject is, nor how riddled it is with paradoxes. Truth be told, I wasn’t fully aware either. But when I set out to write this post, I found that it just kept growing longer.
1. The most basic form of lock-in is:
- You do application development for a target set of platform technologies.
- Your applications can’t run without those platforms underneath.
- Hence, you’re locked into those platforms.
2. Enterprise vendor standardization is closely associated with lock-in. The core idea is that you have a mandate or strong bias toward having different apps run over the same platforms, because:
- That simplifies your environment, requiring less integration and interoperability.
- That simplifies your staffing; the same skill sets apply to multiple needs and projects.
- That simplifies your vendor support relationships; there’s “one throat to choke”.
- That simplifies your price negotiation.
3. That last point is double-edged; you have more power over suppliers to whom you give more business, but they also have more power over you. The upshot is often an ELA (Enterprise License Agreement), which commonly works:
- For a fixed period of time, the enterprise may use as much of a given product set as they want, with costs fixed in advance.
- A few years later, the price is renegotiated, based on then-current levels of usage.
|Categories: Amazon and its cloud, Buying processes, Cassandra, Exadata, Facebook, IBM and DB2, Microsoft and SQL*Server, MongoDB, Neo Technology and Neo4j, Open source, Oracle, SAP AG||8 Comments|
When I find myself making the same observation fairly frequently, that’s a good impetus to write a post based on it. And so this post is based on the thought that there are many analogies between:
- Oracle and the Oracle DBMS.
- IBM and the IBM mainframe.
And when you look at things that way, Oracle seems to be swimming against the tide.
Drilling down, there are basically three things that can seriously threaten Oracle’s market position:
- Growth in apps of the sort for which Oracle’s RDBMS is not well-suited. Much of “Big Data” fits that description.
- Outright, widespread replacement of Oracle’s application suites. This is the least of Oracle’s concerns at the moment, but could of course be a disaster in the long term.
- Transition to “the cloud”. This trend amplifies the other two.
Oracle’s decline, if any, will be slow — but I think it has begun.
There’s a clear market lead in the core product category. IBM was dominant in mainframe computing. While not as dominant, Oracle is definitely a strong leader in high-end OTLP/mixed-use (OnLine Transaction Processing) RDBMS.
That market lead is even greater than it looks, because some of the strongest competitors deserve asterisks. Many of IBM’s mainframe competitors were “national champions” — Fujitsu and Hitachi in Japan, Bull in France and so on. Those were probably stronger competitors to IBM than the classic BUNCH companies (Burroughs, Univac, NCR, Control Data, Honeywell).
Similarly, Oracle’s strongest direct competitors are IBM DB2 and Microsoft SQL Server, each of which is sold primarily to customers loyal to the respective vendors’ full stacks. SAP is now trying to play a similar game.
The core product is stable, secure, richly featured, and generally very mature. Duh.
The core product is complicated to administer — which provides great job security for administrators. IBM had JCL (Job Control Language). Oracle has a whole lot of manual work overseeing indexes. In each case, there are many further examples of the point. Edit: A Twitter discussion suggests the specific issue with indexes has been long fixed.
Niche products can actually be more reliable than the big, super-complicated leader. Tandem Nonstop computers were super-reliable. Simple, “embeddable” RDBMS — e.g. Progress or SQL Anywhere — in many cases just work. Still, if you want one system to run most of your workload 24×7, it’s natural to choose the category leader. Read more
|Categories: Cloud computing, Database diversity, Exadata, IBM and DB2, Market share and customer counts, Microsoft and SQL*Server, NoSQL, Oracle, Software as a Service (SaaS)||25 Comments|
Mike Stonebraker and Larry Ellison have numerous things in common. If nothing else:
- They’re both titanic figures in the database industry.
- They both gave me testimonials on the home page of my business website.
- They both have been known to use the present tense when the future tense would be more accurate.
I mention the latter because there’s a new edition of Readings in Database Systems, aka the Red Book, available online, courtesy of Mike, Joe Hellerstein and Peter Bailis. Besides the recommended-reading academic papers themselves, there are 12 survey articles by the editors, and an occasional response where, for example, editors disagree. Whether or not one chooses to tackle the papers themselves — and I in fact have not dived into them — the commentary is of great interest.
But I would not take every word as the gospel truth, especially when academics describe what they see as commercial market realities. In particular, as per my quip in the first paragraph, the data warehouse market has not yet gone to the extremes that Mike suggests,* if indeed it ever will. And while Joe is close to correct when he says that the company Essbase was acquired by Oracle, what actually happened is that Arbor Software, which made Essbase, merged with Hyperion Software, and the latter was eventually indeed bought by the giant of Redwood Shores.**
*When it comes to data warehouse market assessment, Mike seems to often be ahead of the trend.
**Let me interrupt my tweaking of very smart people to confess that my own commentary on the Oracle/Hyperion deal was not, in retrospect, especially prescient.
Mike pretty much opened the discussion with a blistering attack against hierarchical data models such as JSON or XML. To a first approximation, his views might be summarized as: Read more
There’s a lot of talk these days about transitioning to the cloud, by IT customers and vendors alike. Of course, I have thoughts on the subject, some of which are below.
1. The economies of scale of not running your own data centers are real. That’s the kind of non-core activity almost all enterprises should outsource. Of course, those considerations taken alone argue equally for true cloud, co-location or SaaS (Software as a Service).
2. When the (Amazon) cloud was newer, I used to hear that certain kinds of workloads didn’t map well to the architecture Amazon had chosen. In particular, shared-nothing analytic query processing was necessarily inefficient. But I’m not hearing nearly as much about that any more.
3. Notwithstanding the foregoing, not everybody loves Amazon pricing.
4. Infrastructure vendors such as Oracle would like to also offer their infrastructure to you in the cloud. As per the above, that could work. However:
- Is all your computing on Oracle’s infrastructure? Probably not.
- Do you want to move the Oracle part and the non-Oracle part to different clouds? Ideally, no.
- Do you like the idea of being even more locked in to Oracle than you are now? [Insert BDSM joke here.]
- Will Oracle do so much better of a job hosting its own infrastructure that you use its cloud anyway? Well, that’s an interesting question.
Actually, if we replace “Oracle” by “Microsoft”, the whole idea sounds better. While Microsoft doesn’t have a proprietary server hardware story like Oracle’s, many folks are content in the Microsoft walled garden. IBM has fiercely loyal customers as well, and so may a couple of Japanese computer manufacturers.
5. Even when running stuff in the cloud is otherwise a bad idea, there’s still: Read more
|Categories: Amazon and its cloud, Cloud computing, Emulation, transparency, portability, IBM and DB2, Microsoft and SQL*Server, Oracle, Pricing||6 Comments|
1. I think the next decade or so will see much more change in enterprise applications than the last one. Why? Because the unresolved issues are piling up, and something has to give. I intend this post to be a starting point for a lot of interesting discussions ahead.
2. The more technical issues I’m thinking of include:
- How will app vendors handle analytics?
- How will app vendors handle machine-generated data?
- How will app vendors handle dynamic schemas?
- How far will app vendors get with social features?
- What kind of underlying technology stacks will app vendors drag along?
We also always have the usual set of enterprise app business issues, including:
- Will the current leaders — SAP, Oracle and whoever else you want to include — continue to dominate the large-enterprise application market?
- Will the leaders in the large-enterprise market succeed in selling to smaller markets?
- Which new categories of application will be important?
- Which kinds of vendors and distribution channels will succeed in serving small enterprises?
And perhaps the biggest issue of all, intertwined with most of the others, is:
- How will the move to SaaS (Software as a Service) play out?
I last wrote about Couchbase in November, 2012, around the time of Couchbase 2.0. One of the many new features I mentioned then was secondary indexing. Ravi Mayuram just checked in to tell me about Couchbase 4.0. One of the important new features he mentioned was what I think he said was Couchbase’s “first version” of secondary indexing. Obviously, I’m confused.
Now that you’re duly warned, let me remind you of aspects of Couchbase timeline.
- 2 corporate name changes ago, Couchbase was organized to commercialize memcached. memcached, of course, was internet companies’ default way to scale out short-request processing before the rise of NoSQL, typically backed by manually sharded MySQL.
- Couchbase’s original value proposition, under the name Membase, was to provide persistence and of course support for memcached. This later grew into a caching-oriented pitch even to customers who weren’t already memcached users.
- A merger with the makers of CouchDB ensued, with the intention of replacing Membase’s SQLite back end with CouchDB at the same time as JSON support was introduced. This went badly.
- By now, however, Couchbase sells for more than distributed cache use cases. Ravi rattled off a variety of big-name customer examples for system-of-record kinds of use cases, especially in session logging (duh) and also in travel reservations.
- Couchbase 4.0 has been in beta for a few months.
Technical notes on Couchbase 4.0 — and related riffs — start: Read more
|Categories: Cache, Clustering, Couchbase, Data models and architecture, Databricks, Spark and BDAS, Exadata, Hadoop, MarkLogic, MongoDB, MySQL, NoSQL, Open source, Schema on need, Structured documents, Web analytics||1 Comment|
1. There are multiple ways in which analytics is inherently modular. For example:
- Business intelligence tools can reasonably be viewed as application development tools. But the “applications” may be developed one report at a time.
- The point of a predictive modeling exercise may be to develop a single scoring function that is then integrated into a pre-existing operational application.
- Conversely, a recommendation-driven website may be developed a few pages — and hence also a few recommendations — at a time.
Also, analytics is inherently iterative.
- Everything I just called “modular” can reasonably be called “iterative” as well.
- So can any work process of the nature “OK, we got an insight. Let’s pursue it and get more accuracy.”
If I’m right that analytics is or at least should be modular and iterative, it’s easy to see why people hate multi-year data warehouse creation projects. Perhaps it’s also easy to see why I like the idea of schema-on-need.
2. In 2011, I wrote, in the context of agile predictive analytics, that
… the “business analyst” role should be expanded beyond BI and planning to include lightweight predictive analytics as well.
I gather that a similar point is at the heart of Gartner’s new term citizen data scientist. I am told that the term resonates with at least some enterprises. Read more
|Categories: Business intelligence, Data warehousing, Datameer, Hadoop, Log analysis, Oracle, Platfora, Predictive modeling and advanced analytics, SAS Institute, Software as a Service (SaaS), Tableau Software, Web analytics||2 Comments|
I’m taking a few weeks defocused from work, as a kind of grandpaternity leave. That said, the venue for my Dances of Infant Calming is a small-but-nice apartment in San Francisco, so a certain amount of thinking about tech industries is inevitable. I even found time last Tuesday to meet or speak with my clients at WibiData, MemSQL, Cloudera, Citus Data, and MongoDB. And thus:
1. I’ve been sloppy in my terminology around “geo-distribution”, in that I don’t always make it easy to distinguish between:
- Storing different parts of a database in different geographies, often for reasons of data privacy regulatory compliance.
- Replicating an entire database into different geographies, often for reasons of latency and/or availability/ disaster recovery,
The latter case can be subdivided further depending on whether multiple copies of the data can accept first writes (aka active-active, multi-master, or multi-active), or whether there’s a clear single master for each part of the database.
What made me think of this was a phone call with MongoDB in which I learned that the limit on number of replicas had been raised from 12 to 50, to support the full-replication/latency-reduction use case.
2. Three years ago I posted about agile (predictive) analytics. One of the points was:
… if you change your offers, prices, ad placement, ad text, ad appearance, call center scripts, or anything else, you immediately gain new information that isn’t well-reflected in your previous models.
Subsequently I’ve been hearing more about predictive experimentation such as bandit testing. WibiData, whose views are influenced by a couple of Very Famous Department Store clients (one of which is Macy’s), thinks experimentation is quite important. And it could be argued that experimentation is one of the simplest and most direct ways to increase the value of your data.
3. I’d further say that a number of developments, trends or possibilities I’m seeing are or could be connected. These include agile and experimental predictive analytics in general, as noted in the previous point, along with: Read more
I’ve talked with many companies recently that believe they are:
- Focused on building a great data management and analytic stack for log management …
- … unlike all the other companies that might be saying the same thing …
- … and certainly unlike expensive, poorly-scalable Splunk …
- … and also unlike less-focused vendors of analytic RDBMS (which are also expensive) and/or Hadoop distributions.
At best, I think such competitive claims are overwrought. Still, it’s a genuinely important subject and opportunity, so let’s consider what a great log management and analysis system might look like.
Much of this discussion could apply to machine-generated data in general. But right now I think more players are doing product management with an explicit conception either of log management or event-series analytics, so for this post I’ll share that focus too.
A short answer might be “Splunk, but with more analytic functionality and more scalable performance, at lower cost, plus numerous coupons for free pizza.” A more constructive and bottoms-up approach might start with: Read more