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8/10/2009
07:32 AM
Curt Monash
Curt Monash
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Sorting out Netezza and Oracle Exadata Data Warehouse Appliance Pricing

Netezza's clearest stated list price for the TwinFin is "a little under $20,000 per terabyte of user data," which immediately became the new industry reference point for discussing prices in the data warehouse appliance category. Vigorous discussion ensued...

Netezza recently announced a new generation of data warehouse appliance called TwinFin. TwinFin's clearest stated list price is "a little under $20,000 per terabyte of user data," which in my opinion immediately became the new industry reference point for discussing prices in the data warehouse appliance category. Vigorous discussion ensued, especially in the comment thread to the first of the two posts linked above. Here's some followup.

Netezza should not have claimed a "10-15X price/performance improvement," based on a 3-5X performance improvement and a 3X decrease in price/terabyte, and I should have grilled Netezza harder when it first made the claim. In fact, there is no unit of performance that you can, in a reasonable blended average, get 10-15X more of per dollar in TwinFin than you can in the predecessor NPS series.

To look at it another way, multiplying 3-5X by 3X would only make sense if 3-5X were a measure of something like "terabytes/unit of performance." But in fact the 3-5X is a blended average of something more like "units of performance/unit of time"; i.e., you can do 3-5X more calculations or queries in a unit of time over the same database (of the same size*) on the new machine as you can on the old.*Since Netezza is so table-scan-oriented, processing time can be expected to be pretty sensitive to the size of the database. Specifically, to a first approximation it could be linear.

Netezza is regrettably declining to officially disclose TwinFin list prices. (Note: "Regrettably" is a euphemism.) However, if you do the math in the obvious way you indeed get to something close to the (technically NDAed) Netezza TwinFin list price. Ditto if you do the math starting with $60K/terabyte -- and the same 2.25X compression figure as Netezza uses to discuss TwinFin -- for the predecessor Netezza NPS series.

Note: GSA schedule prices are discounted from commercial prices.

Bence Arato estimates that the Oracle Exadata price is right around $4 million for 46 uncompressed terabytes of user data. I found Bence's estimates excellent when he helped me work out then-current Exadata pricing last September. That's a little under $100K/terabyte uncompressed, vs. Netezza's figure of a little under $45K uncompressed. I would guess Oracle's compression is a little better than Netezza's, but only a little. I hope those Oracle figures take indexes into account (Netezza has no indexes, and the zone maps it substitutes for indexes take little space), but even if they do, there's a considerable price difference now between Exadata and Netezza. Also, Netezza TwinFin seems to offer more processing power per terabyte of data than Oracle Exadata does -- specifically via its FPGAs -- giving hope it does more work as well.

Oracle's claim of a more benign long-term pricing model than Netezza's is (largely) specious. The Oracle argument goes "Much of Exadata's upfront cost is for software licenses, and those are perpetual licenses you can reuse even after your hardware is obsolete." But there are two flaws in that argument:

  • Chargeable upgrades -- Oracle likes to charge for a new major release every few years
  • Moore's Law improvements being instantiated via core count -- CPU clock rates have stabilized, and so almost all processing power improvements now come through core count. Oracle commonly charges on a per-core basis.

Obviously, if you have an "all you can eat" long-term enterprise Oracle license, covering licenses and maintenance alike, that's a different matter. But I don't think there are very many of those.Netezza's clearest stated list price for the TwinFin is "a little under $20,000 per terabyte of user data," which immediately became the new industry reference point for discussing prices in the data warehouse appliance category. Vigorous discussion ensued...

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