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Colin White

I like the various blogs associated with my many hobbies and even those to do with work. I find them very useful and I was excited when the Business Intelligence Network invited me to write my very own blog. At last I now have somewhere to park all the various tidbits that I know are useful, but I am not sure what to do with. I am interested in a wide range of information technologies and so you might find my thoughts will bounce around a bit. I hope these thoughts will provoke some interesting discussions.

About the author >

Colin White is the founder of BI Research and president of DataBase Associates Inc. As an analyst, educator and writer, he is well known for his in-depth knowledge of data management, information integration, and business intelligence technologies and how they can be used for building the smart and agile business. With many years of IT experience, he has consulted for dozens of companies throughout the world and is a frequent speaker at leading IT events. Colin has written numerous articles and papers on deploying new and evolving information technologies for business benefit and is a regular contributor to several leading print- and web-based industry journals. For ten years he was the conference chair of the Shared Insights Portals, Content Management, and Collaboration conference. He was also the conference director of the DB/EXPO trade show and conference.

Editor's Note: More articles and resources are available in Colin's BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel. Be sure to visit today!

June 2009 Archives

I commented in a my previous blog entry that the controversy over ParAccel's TPC-H benchmark has become quite heated. This is especially true on Curt Monash's blog where at one point he made some personal comments about Kim Stanick, ParAccel's VP of Marketing. See this link for details.

This is the second blog this month that I have read where an analyst makes an attack, not only on the vendor, but also one of its employees. The other blog (and an associated article) was by Stephen Few entitled "Business is Personal - Let's Stop Pretending It Isn't." See this link for details.

The good thing about social computing is that it provides a fast way of sharing and collaborating about industry developments. However, these technologies have the same problems as e-mail and instant messaging, they enable people to react immediately to something that upsets or annoys them. With blogging, unlike email and instant messaging, everyone gets to see the results!

As analysts our job is to write balanced reviews of industry developments that provide useful information to the reader. My concern is that some analysts are behaving as though they are on cable television or writing for the tabloids. I believe we can critique a product without attacking a company, its products or its employees. Personal attacks by analysts are unprofessional, even if the company fights back against a review they take exception to. What do you think?

Posted June 25, 2009 1:52 PM
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ParAccel, one of the new analytic DBMS vendors, recently announced some impressive TPC-H benchmark results. A good review of these results can be found on Merv Adrian's blog at this link.

Not everyone agreed with Merv's balanced review. Curt Monash commented that "The TPC-H benchmark is a blight upon the industry." See his blog entry at this link.

This blog entry resulted in some 41 (somewhat heated) responses. At one point Curt made some negative comments about ParAccel's VP of Marketing, Kim Stanick, which in turn led to accusations that his blog entry was influenced by personal feelings.

I have two comments to make about this controversy. The first concerns the TPC-H benchmark and the second is about an increasing lack of social networking etiquette by analysts.

TPC benchmarks have always been controversial. People often argue that that do not represent real life workloads. What this really means is that you mileage may vary. These benchmarks are expensive to run and vendors throw every piece of technology at the benchmark in order to get good results. Some vendors are rumored to have even added special features to their products to improve the results. The upside of the benchmarks is that they are audited and reasonably well documented.

The use of TPC benchmarks has slowed over recent years. This is not only because they are expensive to run, but also because they have less marketing impact than in the past. In general, they have been of more use to hardware vendors because they demonstrate hardware scalability and provide hardware price/performance numbers. Oracle was perhaps an exception here because they liked to run full-page advertisements saying they were the fastest database system in existence.

TPC benchmarks do have some value to both the vendor and the customer. The benefits to the vendor are are increased visibility and credibility. Merv Adrian described this as a "rite of passage." It helps the vendor get on the short list. For the customer these benchmarks show the solution to be credible and scalable. All products work well in PowerPoint, but the TPC benchmarks demonstrate that the solution is more than just vaporware.

I think most customers are knowledgeable enough to realize that the benchmark may not match their own workloads or scale as well in their own environments. This is where the proof of concept (POC) benchmark comes in. The POC enables the customer to evaluate the product using their own workloads.

TPC benchmarks are not perfect, but they do provide some helpful information in the decision making process.

I will address the issue of blog etiquette in a separate blog entry.  

Posted June 25, 2009 1:43 PM
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My post a couple of days ago about data warehousing in the cloud led to requests for more information about this topic and related SaaS BI solutions.  

Claudia Imhoff and I recently published a research report on the BeyeNETWORK entitled "Pay as You Go: Software-as-a-Service Business Intelligence and Data Management." The report was sponsored by Blinklogic, Host Analytics, PivotLink and SAP BusinessObjects who offer SaaS BI solutions. It was also sponsored by Kognitio who (like Aster, GreenPlum and Vertica mentioned in my previous blog) have a data warehousing in the cloud offering. The report discusses SaaS BI and data warehousing and reviews the pros and cons of using this type of deployment model.

The report can be found on beyeresearch.com.

Posted June 11, 2009 4:58 PM
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The use of cloud computing for data warehousing is getting a lot of attention from vendors. Following hot on the heels of Vertica's Analytic Database v3.0 for the Cloud announcement on June 1 was yesterday's Greenplum announcement of its Enterprise Data Cloud™ platform and today's announcement by Aster of .NET MapReduce support for its nCluster Cloud Edition.

I have interviewed all three vendors over the past week and while there are some common characteristics in the approaches being taken by the three vendors to cloud computing, there are also some differences.

Common characteristics include:
  • Software only analytic DBMS solutions running on commodity hardware
  • Massively parallel processing
  • Focus on elastic scaling, high availability through software, and easy administration
  • Acceptance of alternative database models such as MapReduce
  • Very large databases supporting near-real-time user-facing applications, scientific applications, and new types of business solution
The emphasis of Greenplum is on a platform that enables organizations to create and manage data warehouses and data marts using a common pool of physical, virtual or public cloud infrastructure resources. The concept here is that multiple data warehouses and data marts are a fact life and the best approach is to put these multiple data stores onto a common and flexible analytical processing platform that provides easy administration and fast deployment using good enough data. Greenplum sees this approach being used initially on private clouds, but the use of public clouds growing over time.

Aster's emphasis is on extending analytical processing to the large audience of Java, C++ and C# programmers who don't know SQL. They see these developers creating custom analytical MapReduce functions for use by BI developers and analysts who can use these functions in SQL statements without any programming involved.

Although MapReduce has typically been used by Java programmers, there is also a large audience of Microsoft .NET developers who potentially could use MapReduce. A recent report by Forrester, for example, shows 64% of organizations use Java and 43% use C#. The objective of Aster is to extend the use of MapReduce from web-centric organizations into large enterprises by improving its programming, availability and administration capabilities over and above open source MapReduce solutions such as HADOOP.

Vertica see its data warehouse cloud computing environment being used for proof of concept projects, spill over capacity for enterprise projects and for software-as-service (SaaS) applications. Like Greenplum it supports virtualization. Its Analytic Database v3.0 for the Cloud adds support for more cloud platforms including Amazon Machine Images and early support for the Sun Compute Cloud. It also adds several cloud-friendly administration features based on open source solutions such as Webmin and Ganglia.

It is important for organizations to understand where cloud computing and new approaches such as MapReduce fit into the enterprise data warehousing environment. Over the course of the next few months my monthly newsletter on the BeyeNETWORK will look at these topics in more detail and review the pros and cons of these new approaches.

Posted June 9, 2009 12:00 AM
Permalink | 3 Comments |