Teradata Boosts Data Warehousing Performance With SSDs

Blending hard drives and solid-state memory, Teradata's 6680 promises four times faster performance than the vendor's latest hard-disk-only platform.
8 Big Data Deployments In Detail
(click image for larger view)
Slideshow: 8 Big Data Deployments In Detail
You may be used to thinking about hybrids as underpowered energy savers, but the Teradata 6680 data warehousing platform announced this week is more like a hybrid Porsche.

By combining conventional hard drives, solid-state disks, and cache memory with a storage virtualization layer that automatically passes frequently accessed and not-so-frequently accessed data to the right storage option, the 6680 is said to deliver up to four times the performance of the 6650. The latter is the vendor's just-released, hard-drive-only update of the previous-generation 5650.

Those interested in economy (and ecology) will appreciate that the 6680 requires 75% less floor space and 75% lower energy cost to deliver the equivalent processing power of the 5650. But you wouldn't buy the 6680 unless you were interested in going well beyond equivalent performance.

The promise of the 6680 is to be able to take advantage of all your data (Teradata's long-standing enterprise data warehouse scalability) while also putting the hot data on fast SSDs and memory to maximize query performance (the added hybrid advantage).

So what's the big hurry? Network providers and security watchdogs need fastest-possible performance to detect and thwart cyber attacks. Distributors and retailers need up-to-the-minute analysis to spot trends and make timely inventory, supply chain, and pricing decisions that optimize revenues and margins. With faster analysis, manufacturers can make sense of high volumes of fast-moving sensor data to make yield- and profit-driving production decisions.

Just as a hybrid car doesn't require the driver to switch from electric to gas and back again, the 6680 storage virtualization layer automatically determines when data is hot and when it's not. It moves the information that's in demand (typically the freshest stuff) onto SSDs and memory and then moves it back to less-expensive, hard-drive storage when it's no longer the subject of intensive analysis.

The storage software does its work automatically. Teradata supplies a monitoring tool that shows administrators just how much data tends to be hot, so they can configure the system with an appropriate number of SSDs.

Scott Gnau, Teradata's chief development officer, took pains to explain why the 6680 has advantages over rival products that also feature solid-state memory. Oracle Exadata, for example, uses solid-state devices as a [read-only] memory cache, he said, "so it's a good thing for speeding OLTP [application acceleration], but in data warehousing, it makes things run slower."

In contrast to Teradata's read-write SSDs and automated storage migration, the assignment of data to Exadata's flash memory is a manual, "high-people-overhead operation" in data warehousing, Gnau asserted.

And as for the vendors who expect you to put everything into memory (read SAP HANA), again Gnau said it's a good application accelerator, "but it's an incremental expense because it doesn't replace any of the other infrastructure."

(It's true that HANA is an add-on appliance at the moment, but it's expected to become a database option for the SAP Business Warehouse by year end--thus replacing that infrastructure. What's more, SAP's long-term vision is for the in-memory platform to serve both transactional and analytic needs, but that will likely take years to transpire.)

For customers with more routine needs--if any deployments in this league can be called routine--Teradata also offers the 6650. It shares the same cabinet, drives, controllers, CPUs and cooling as the 6680, so it has a smaller footprint and reduced power consumption. What it lacks is the SSDs and storage virtualization capabilities.

Both products are now in general release. Teradata declined to detail pricing, but it said that both the 6650 and 6680 cost less, on a price-for-performance basis, than the old 5650. That's the kind of line you're also likely to hear at a Porsche dealership.