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9/30/2009
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Kickfire Offers Data Warehouse Appliance for the Masses

MySQL-based offering targets 500-gigabyte to 5-terabyte range. Upgrades bolster enterprise performance and scalability.

While most data warehousing vendors are now talking up petabyte-league scalability, Kickfire is zigging while the other guys are zagging. Founded in 2006 and in the market with a product for little more than six months, Kickfire offers a low-cost appliance aimed at the heart of the data warehousing market, meaning the two thirds of organizations that research firm IDC says have less than 5 terabytes of data. With upgrades announced this week, the company is reinforcing that target with performance improvements and scalability head room.

The Kickfire appliance runs on the MySQL Enterprise database, upon which the vendor adds its column-store engine (the same basic scheme used by Sybase (IQ) and Vertica, among other players). The vendor's box takes up just three or four rack spaces, and true to the word "appliance," that includes on-board, preintegrated storage. Aimed at organizations with minimal IT resources, the appliance starts at $32,000 and Kickfire says you can get it up and running in one day.

Rather than relying on lots of commodity hardware running in parallel, Kickfire gets it performance from a proprietary SQL-programmed chip on a coprocessor board that can run queries on compressed data processed in memory. Between the coprocessor board and the column-oriented database engine, Kickfire says its appliance far outperforms conventional relational database deployments.

"We can plug into a MySQL environment and get a 100-X to 1,000-X performance improvement, but increasingly we're talking to customers who are running Oracle or Microsoft SQL Server," says Bruce Armstrong, Kickfire's CEO and a Sybase and Teradata veteran.

Though Kickfire caters to what it calls "midrange" data warehousing needs -- meaning 500 gigabytes to 5 terabytes -- that doesn't mean customers don't have enterprise-class needs. With this in mind, the vendor announced on September 29 a new hardware series as well as software upgrades aimed at industrial-grade performance. The company's new 1.5 software release moves more query activity into the hardware's memory for faster performance. New support for multiple nodes ensures higher availability as well as fast, simultaneous querying and loading. Kickfire's data Migration Wizard and Bulk Loader software are said to be both faster and easier to use with the 1.5 upgrade.

On the hardware side Kickfire has added a larger 3000 Series appliance alongside its existing 2000 Series offering. The 3000 is essentially a nod to scalability and performance demands, giving certain customers assurance that they won't outgrow the technology. The 3000 series ships with up to 14.4 terabytes of on-board disk space, plus there's an option for external RAID storage.

"We're still focused on the 500-gigabyte to 5-terabyte range, but there are customers who want headroom for growth or who need to support multi-tenant environments running multiple databases on a single box," Armstrong explains.

As part of this week's upgrade announcements, Kickfire announced two new customers: Mindspark Interactive Network, a division Barry Diller's InterActiveCorp, and LiveRail, a video ad server company. In a press release, Mark Trefagne, CEO of LiveRail, offered enthusiastic comments about Kickfire's approach.

"The Kickfire appliance brings the power of commercial high-end data warehousing systems into the MySQL mainstream market," Trefagne stated. "The plug and play nature of Kickfire enabled us to get the system up and running in a matter of days with significant performance improvement over our existing systems."

Other than prepacked hardware configurations for conventional Microsoft SQL Server or Oracle deployments, Kickfire's primary competitor is InfoBright. Like Kickfire, InforBright offers a column-oriented implementation of MySQL, but it's a software-only database management system designed to run on industry-standard hardware.

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