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Appliances are easy to use

Sr. Technical Marketing Analyst, IBM

In this post, I will explore the most important of the golden rules of appliances - appliances are easy to use. For my discussions of the first two rules, see my previous posts Appliances are Plug and Play and Appliances are purpose-built.

Probably the single most important differentiating factor for an appliance versus an appliance imposter is ease-of-use. True appliances take things that were previously difficult and make them easy.  Case in point, IBM Netezza's Zone Map functionality, which renders the table partitioning and indexes required by most other solutions unnecessary by automatically telling the appliance where not to look for data.  Features like compression are built in - and due to the field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) inherent in Netezza's technology -- performance enhancers.

In keeping with the simplicity message, there are not dozens or hundreds of things that must be tweaked to ensure good performance. Rather, following 6-12 general best practice guidelines ensures excellent performance nearly all the time.

Oracle Exadata still has all of the complexity associated with Oracle RAC and the constant tuning and optimization that requires small armies of DBAs to keep an Oracle environment running smoothly. When there are hundreds of knobs and buttons required to tune an environment for optimal performance it doesn't feel very appliance-like.

Teradata is also notorious for requiring lots of resources or expensive professional services to keep their environments up and running. One large insurance company I have worked with runs Netezza solutions side by side with Teradata as a shared service. Guess which one costs them more to run for equivalent performance? Guess which environment routinely delivers 99.5% of the well over a million queries that are run each month in less than 60 seconds?

As to the smaller players, take a look at the EMC Greenplum admin guide. It is readily available for download with a bit of Google time and well over a 1000 pages long -- nearly twice a large as IBM Netezza's admin guide. Manual configuration of high availability, storage configuration and management of each host segment adds significant complexity to this solution. And compression is not something to be undertaken lightly as it is a clear performance detractor for Greenplum.

HP Vertica is largely unproven for real world environments and while columnar databases are the darlings of the analyst world right now, the IBM Netezza FPGA technology provides all of the benefits of columnar databases without any of the drawbacks. Vertica environments are complex to get up and running and provide a steep learning curve for DBAs.

ParAccel is probably the closest to a true appliance in the ease-of-use category, but still requires significantly more administrative overhead than what we would like to see in a true appliance. Indeed, ParAccel recommends that customers bolt on SAN storage for optimal performance, thus adding to the overall management complexity of the environment.

Let's check in with our appliance scorecard:

Vendor

Plug and Play

Purpose Built

Easy to use

Score

IBM Netezza

X

X

X

3

Teradata

X

X

 

2

Oracle Exadata

X

 

 

1

ParAccel

 

X

 

1

EMC Greenplum

 

X

 

1

HP Vertica

 

X

 

1

Over the past few posts, I have explored each of the three golden rules of appliances, and evaluated a number of vendors to see how they stack up.

Clearly only one vendor truly understands the implications of building a true appliance.

Engineered from the ground up for one purpose, with hardware, software and storage all built to work together, the analytic appliance market that was defined by Netezza in the early 21st century continues to be led by IBM Netezza today.

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