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Barry Devlin

As one of the founders of data warehousing back in the mid-1980s, a question I increasingly ask myself over 25 years later is: Are our prior architectural and design decisions still relevant in the light of today's business needs and technological advances? I'll pose this and related questions in this blog as I see industry announcements and changes in way businesses make decisions. I'd love to hear your answers and, indeed, questions in the same vein.

About the author >

Dr. Barry Devlin is among the foremost authorities in the world on business insight and data warehousing. He was responsible for the definition of IBM's data warehouse architecture in the mid '80s and authored the first paper on the topic in the IBM Systems Journal in 1988. He is a widely respected consultant and lecturer on this and related topics, and author of the comprehensive book Data Warehouse: From Architecture to Implementation.

Barry's interest today covers the wider field of a fully integrated business, covering informational, operational and collaborative environments and, in particular, how to present the end user with an holistic experience of the business through IT. These aims, and a growing conviction that the original data warehouse architecture struggles to meet modern business needs for near real-time business intelligence (BI) and support for big data, drove Barry’s latest book, Business unIntelligence: Insight and Innovation Beyond Analytics, now available in print and eBook editions.

Barry has worked in the IT industry for more than 30 years, mainly as a Distinguished Engineer for IBM in Dublin, Ireland. He is now founder and principal of 9sight Consulting, specializing in the human, organizational and IT implications and design of deep business insight solutions.

Editor's Note: Find more articles and resources in Barry's BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel and blog. Be sure to visit today!

Columnar databases, especially those with an MPP approach, have been notching up impressive query performance figures, showing gains of 100X and more on the traditional players.  Such figures make great press releases, but they do place the emphasis on using these databases as data marts rather than the enterprise data warehouse (EDW) component of the data warehouse architecture.  Focusing on data marts and very specific business intelligence applications makes a lot of sense for new market entrants and smaller players in the DW space, allowing quick wins and easily understood sales messages.

But, I have been convinced for some time now of the much greater potential such performance unleashes in the broader and more complex EDW environment.  And the vendors have been fairly quiet about this part of the market so far, maybe preferring to leave such more technically and politically complex projects to the big guys.  So, it was good to see Vertica's 4.0 announcement last week beginning to address the EDW market with its emphasis on "enterprise ready" and a number of interesting new features and expansions of old functions.

Robust workload and resource management for mixed workloads is a prerequisite for an EDW.  Vertica's introduction of administrator-defined resource pools with memory-usage, priority and concurrency settings and the assignment of users to these pools is a big step in this direction.  A rework of the optimizer in support of this and other features suggests that Vertica are serious about this support.

Also introduced in V4.0 is a newly optimized single record lookup on primary keys.  While aimed at a particular financial analysis use case, this function shows that the database can do more than just crunch columns.  Added to the FlexStore feature introduced in V3.5 where newly loaded data is kept in row format in memory for some period of time, I believe we're seeing the database's growing ability to handle the sort of record-level processing often needed in EDWs.  The new time-series support in V4.0 also plays directly in EDW needs.

Time and customer experience will, of course, prove if I'm correct, but it seems to me that Vertica is beginning to test my assertion that columnar, MPP databases can be applied to EDWs.  And further that their performance characteristics offer the possibility of re-architecting the EDW / data mart divide.

Posted March 3, 2010 11:17 AM
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