If the makers of MMO RPGs (Massive Multi-Player Online Role-Playing Games) aren’t quite the worst database application developers in the world, they’re at least on the short list for consideration. The makers of Guild Wars didn’t even try to have decent database functionality. A decade later, when they introduced Guild Wars 2, the database-oriented functionality (auction house, real-money store, etc.) would crash for days at a time. Lord of the Rings Online evidently had multiple issues with database functionality. Now I’m playing Elder Scrolls Online, which on the whole is a great game, but which may have the most database screw-ups of all.
ESO has been live for less than 3 weeks, and in that time:
2. Guild functionality has at times been taken down while the rest of the game functioned.
3. Those problems aside, bank and guild bank functionality are broken, via what might be considered performance bugs. Problems I repeatedly encounter include:
- If you deposit a few items, the bank soon goes into a wait state where you can’t use it for a minute or more.
- Similarly, when you try to access a guild — i.e. group — bank, you often find it in an unresponsive state.
- If you make a series of updates a second apart, the game tells you you’re doing things too quickly, and insists that you slow down a lot.
- Items that are supposed to “stack” appear in 2 or more stacks; i.e., a very simple kind of aggregation is failing. There are also several other related recurring errors, which I conjecture have the same underlying cause.
In general, it seems like that what should be a collection of database records is really just a list, parsed each time an update occurs, periodically flushed in its entirety to disk, with all the performance problems you’d expect from that kind of choice.
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||16 Comments|
The name of this blog comes from an August, 2005 column. 8 1/2 years later, that analysis holds up pretty well. Indeed, I’d keep the first two precepts exactly as I proposed back then:
- Task-appropriate data managers. Much of this blog is about task-appropriate data stores, so I won’t say more about them in this post.
- Drastic limitations on relational schema complexity. I think I’ve been vindicated on that one by, for example:
- NoSQL and dynamic schemas.
- Schema-on-read, and its smarter younger brother schema-on-need.
- Limitations on the performance and/or allowed functionality of joins in scale-out short-request RDBMS, and the relative lack of complaints about same.
- Funky database design from major Software as a Service (SaaS) vendors such as Workday and Salesforce.com.
- A whole lot of logs.
I’d also keep the general sense of the third precept, namely appropriately-capable data integration, but for that one the specifics do need some serious rework.
For starters, let me say: Read more
|Categories: About this blog, Business intelligence, Database diversity, EAI, EII, ETL, ELT, ETLT, Investment research and trading, NoSQL, Schema on need||2 Comments|
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|
In my latest post, I noted that
The “real-time analytics” gold rush I called out last year continues.
I also recently mocked the slogan
Analytics for everybody!
So when I saw today an email subject line
[Vendor X] to announce real-time analytics for everyone …
I laughed. Indeed, I snorted so loudly that Linda — who was on a different floor of our house — called to check that I was OK.
As the day progressed, I had a consulting call with a client, and what did I see on the first substantive slide? There were references to:
real-time data analysis
The trends — real or imaginary — are melting into each other!
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|
For quite some time, one of the most frequent marketing pitches I’ve heard is “Analytics made easy for everybody!”, where by “quite some time” I mean “over 30 years”. “Uniquely easy analytics” is a claim that I meet with the greatest of skepticism.* Further confusing matters, these claims are usually about what amounts to business intelligence tools, but vendors increasingly say “Our stuff is better than the BI that came before, so we don’t want you to call it ‘BI’ as well.”
*That’s even if your slide deck doesn’t contain a picture of a pyramid of user kinds; if there actually is such a drawing, then the chance that I believe you is effectively nil.
All those caveats notwithstanding, there are indeed at least three forms of widespread analytics:
- Fairly standalone, eas(ier) to use business intelligence tools, sometimes marketed as focusing on “data exploration” or “data discovery”.
- Charts and graphs integrated or at least well-embedded into production applications. This technology is on a long-term rise. But in some sense, integrated reporting has been around since the invention of accounting.
- Predictive analytics built into automated systems, for example ad selection. This is not what is usually meant by the “easy analytics” claim, and I’ll say no more about it in this post.
It would be nice to say that the first two bullet points represent a fairly clean operational/investigative BI split, but that would be wrong; human real-time dashboards can at once be standalone and operational.
|Categories: Business intelligence, Data integration and middleware, Data warehousing||Leave a Comment|
A couple of points that arise frequently in conversation, but that I don’t seem to have made clearly online.
“Metadata” is generally defined as “data about data”. That’s basically correct, but it’s easy to forget how many different kinds of metadata there are. My list of metadata kinds starts with:
- Data about data structure. This is the classical sense of the term. But please note:
- In a relational database, structural metadata is rather separate from the data itself.
- In a document database, each document might carry structure information with it.
- Other inputs to core data management functions. Two major examples are:
- Column statistics that inform RDBMS optimizers.
- Value ranges that inform partition pruning or, more generally, data skipping.
- Inputs to ancillary data management functions — for example, security privileges.
- Support for human decisions about data — for example, information about authorship or lineage.
What’s worse, the past year’s most famous example of “metadata”, telephone call metadata, is misnamed. This so-called metadata, much loved by the NSA (National Security Agency), is just data, e.g. in the format of a CDR (Call Detail Record). Calling it metadata implies that it describes other data — the actual contents of the phone calls — that the NSA strenuously asserts don’t actually exist.
And finally, the first bullet point above has a counter-intuitive consequence — all common terminology notwithstanding, relational data is less structured than document data. Reasons include:
- Relational databases usually just hold strings — or maybe numbers — with structural information being held elsewhere.
- Some document databases store structural metadata right with the document data itself.
- Some document databases store data in the form of (name, value) pairs. In some cases additional structure is imposed by naming conventions.
- Actual text documents carry the structure imposed by grammar and syntax.
- A lengthy survey of metadata kinds, biased to Hadoop (August, 2012)
- Metadata as derived data (May, 2011)
- Dataset management (May, 2013)
- Structured/unstructured … multi-structured/poly-structured (May, 2011)
|Categories: Data models and architecture, Hadoop, Structured documents, Surveillance and privacy, Telecommunications||4 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|