Data Warehouse Appliances – Demystifying the Myth

Originally published August 2, 2007

In the past five years, a new wave of technology has arrived on the data warehouse front, providing promises of unbridled speed and unthinkable cost savings. As with anything new, the first years have been turbulent for this fledgling technology. This technology is known today as the data warehouse appliance.

What is a data warehouse appliance? Is it similar to a dishwasher or a microwave, or is it a true platform that needs to be installed, configured and maintained? This is the most fundamental question, and it has been discussed many times over in the industry. To sum it all up, the data warehouse appliance, as its name suggests, is a preconfigured stack of hardware that includes an operating system, a dedicated storage platform, a relational database and a parallel processing engine.

Based on this description, the next question that you can ask is “Is this a proprietary piece of hardware/configuration?” The answer is no. The majority of the vendors are building the appliance based on commodity hardware platforms, storage solutions and network solutions along with open source relational database management systems (RDBMSs) and operating systems (OSs). Before you jump to a conclusion that this stack of technologies with a database is not your cup of tea, you should know that there is more to the appliance.

Early appliances from Netezza to the most recent entrant, Dataupia, are each built and configured in a unique way. They all have a proprietary piece of intelligence, which you can expect from any vendor selling RDBMS technologies, be it Oracle, Teradata, Microsoft or IBM. When it executes, this proprietary piece of intelligence is what propels the appliance to deliver on the promise of performance and scalability.

What are the benefits of the data warehouse appliance approach? Many authors have addressed this subject as has every vendor in this market segment. A summary the most important benefits that you will gain are:

  • Lower total cost of ownership (TCO)

  • Superior performance

  • Scalability

Early adopters of this solution for data warehousing included Amazon.com. Based on the studies in the marketplace and research from the Business Intelligence Network (BeyeNETWORK.com) and The Data Warehousing Institute (TDWI), the initial adopters have seen the maturation of the appliance in their organizations and have probably started realizing the benefits as this article is being written.

When looking at the real benefits and the initial investment into this new “bleeding-edge” technology, there are a number of questions that need to be answered including:

  • How and where does this solution fit in our organization?

  • When is it time to move to a platform like this?

  • Is it safe and reliable as advertised?

  • Will it perform as advertised?

  • How long does it take to implement a data warehouse appliance solution?

  • Will this technology replace our current database vendor (e.g., Oracle, Teradata, IBM, etc.)?

  • Should we consider open source?

In the coming months, my articles will focus on data warehouse appliances, addressing these questions and providing solid information to help you determine how your organization can benefit from the data warehouse appliance approach.

 

  • Krish KrishnanKrish Krishnan
    Krish Krishnan is a worldwide-recognized expert in the strategy, architecture, and implementation of high-performance data warehousing solutions and big data. He is a visionary data warehouse thought leader and is ranked as one of the top data warehouse consultants in the world. As an independent analyst, Krish regularly speaks at leading industry conferences and user groups. He has written prolifically in trade publications and eBooks, contributing over 150 articles, viewpoints, and case studies on big data, business intelligence, data warehousing, data warehouse appliances, and high-performance architectures. He co-authored Building the Unstructured Data Warehouse with Bill Inmon in 2011, and Morgan Kaufmann will publish his first independent writing project, Data Warehousing in the Age of Big Data, in August 2013.

    With over 21 years of professional experience, Krish has solved complex solution architecture problems for global Fortune 1000 clients, and has designed and tuned some of the world’s largest data warehouses and business intelligence platforms. He is currently promoting the next generation of data warehousing, focusing on big data, semantic technologies, crowdsourcing, analytics, and platform engineering.

    Krish is the president of Sixth Sense Advisors Inc., a Chicago-based company providing independent analyst, management consulting, strategy and innovation advisory and technology consulting services in big data, data warehousing, and business intelligence. He serves as a technology advisor to several companies, and is actively sought after by investors to assess startup companies in data management and associated emerging technology areas. He publishes with the BeyeNETWORK.com where he leads the Data Warehouse Appliances and Architecture Expert Channel.

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

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