IBM excels at game technology, most famously in Deep Blue (chess) and Watson (Jeopardy!). But except at the chip level — PowerPC — IBM hasn’t accomplished much at game/real world crossover. And so I suspect the Watson hype is far overblown.
I believe that for two main reasons. First, whenever IBM talks about big initiatives like Watson, it winds up bundling a bunch of dissimilar things together and claiming they’re a seamless whole. Second, some core Watson claims are eerily similar to artificial intelligence (AI) over-hype three or more decades past. For example, the leukemia treatment advisor that is being hopefully built in Watson now sounds a lot like MYCIN from the early 1970s, and the idea of collecting a lot of tidbits of information sounds a lot like the Cyc project. And by the way:
- MYCIN led to E-MYCIN, which led to the company Teknowledge, which raised a lot of money* but now has almost faded from memory.
- Cyc is connected to the computer science community’s standard unit of bogosity.
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||12 Comments|
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||8 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.
I think that most sufficiently large enterprise SaaS vendors should offer an appliance option, as an alternative to the core multi-tenant service. In particular:
- SaaS appliances address customer fears about security, privacy, compliance, performance isolation, and lock-in.
- Some of these benefits occur even if the appliance runs in the same data centers that host the vendor’s standard multi-tenant SaaS. Most of the rest occur if the customer can choose a co-location facility in which to place the appliance.
- Whether many customers should or will use the SaaS appliance option is somewhat secondary; it’s a check-mark item. I.e., many customers and prospects will be pleased that the option at least exists.
How I reached them
Core reasons for selling or using SaaS (Software as a Service) as opposed to licensed software start:
- The SaaS vendor handles all software upgrades, and makes them promptly. In principle, this benefit could also be achieved on a dedicated system on customer premises (or at the customer’s choice of co-location facility).
- In addition, the SaaS vendor handles all the platform and operational stuff — hardware, operating system, computer room, etc. This benefit is antithetical to direct customer control.
- The SaaS vendor only has to develop for and operate on a tightly restricted platform stack that it knows very well. This benefit is also enjoyed in the case of customer-premises appliances.
Conceptually, then, customer-premises SaaS is not impossible, even though one of the standard Big Three SaaS benefits is lost. Indeed:
- Microsoft Windows and many other client software packages already offer to let their updates be automagically handled by the vendor.
- In that vein, consumer devices such as game consoles already are a kind of SaaS appliance.
- Complex devices of any kind, including computers, will see ever more in the way of “phone-home” features or optional services, often including routine maintenance and upgrades.
But from an enterprise standpoint, that’s all (relatively) simple stuff. So we’re left with a more challenging question — does customer-premises SaaS make sense in the case of enterprise applications or other server software?
|Categories: Data warehouse appliances, HP and Neoview, salesforce.com, Software as a Service (SaaS), Surveillance and privacy||5 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||3 Comments|
I talked tonight with Lee Edlefsen, Chief Scientist of Revolution Analytics, and now think I understand Revolution’s parallel R much better than I did before.
There are four primary ways that people try to parallelize predictive modeling:
- They can run the same algorithm on different parts of a dataset on different nodes, then return all the results, and claim they’ve parallelized. This is trivial and not really a solution. It is also the last-ditch fallback position for those who parallelize more seriously.
- They can generate intermediate results from different parts of a dataset on different nodes, then generate and return a single final result. This is what Revolution does.
- They can parallelize the linear algebra that underlies so many algorithms. Netezza and Greenplum tried this, but I don’t think it worked out very well in either case. Lee cited a saying in statistical computing “If you’re using matrices, you’re doing it wrong”; he thinks shortcuts and workarounds are almost always the better way to go.
- They can jack up the speed of inter-node communication, perhaps via MPI (Messaging Passing Interface), so that full parallelization isn’t needed. That’s SAS’ main approach.
One confusing aspect of this discussion is that it could reference several heavily-overlapping but not identical categories of algorithms, including:
- External memory algorithms, which operates on datasets too big to fit in main memory, by — for starters — reading in and working on a part of the data at a time. Lee observes that these are almost always parallelizable.
- What Revolution markets as External Memory Algorithms, which are those external memory algorithms it has gotten around to implementing so far. These are all parallelized. They are also all in the category of …
- … algorithms that can be parallelized by:
- Operating on data in parts.
- Getting intermediate results.
- Combining them in some way for a final result.
- Algorithms of the previous category, where the way of combining them specifically is in the form of summation, such as those discussed in the famous paper Map-Reduce for Machine Learning on Multicore. Not all of Revolution’s current parallel algorithms fall into this group.
To be clear, all Revolution’s parallel algorithms are in Category #2 by definition and Category #3 in practice. However, they aren’t all in Category #4.
|Categories: Greenplum, Hadoop, MapReduce, Netezza, Parallelization, Predictive modeling and advanced analytics, Revolution Analytics, Teradata||Leave a Comment|
Before the advent of cheap computing power, statistics was a rather dismal subject. David Lax scared me off from studying much of it by saying that 90% of statistics was done on sets of measure 0.
The following cautionary tale also dates to that era. Other light verse below. Read more
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.
The 2013 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Operational Database Management Systems is out. “Operational” seems to be Gartner’s term for what I call short-request, in each case the point being that OLTP (OnLine Transaction Processing) is a dubious term when systems omit strict consistency, and when even strictly consistent systems may lack full transactional semantics. As is usually the case with Gartner Magic Quadrants:
- I admire the raw research.
- The opinions contained are generally reasonable (especially since Merv Adrian joined the Gartner team).
- Some of the details are questionable.
- There’s generally an excessive focus on Gartner’s perception of vendors’ business skills, and on vendors’ willingness to parrot all the buzzphrases Gartner wants to hear.
- The trends Gartner highlights are similar to those I see, although our emphasis may be different, and they may leave some important ones out. (Big omission — support for lightweight analytics integrated into operational applications, one of the more genuine forms of real-time analytics.)
Anyhow: Read more