Teradata's Hardware Strategy and Tactics - InformationWeek
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10/27/2009
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Curt Monash
Curt Monash
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Teradata's Hardware Strategy and Tactics

The most important takeaways about Teradata's hardware strategy from the Partners conference last week are: 1. Teradata's future lies in solid-state memory. 2. The solid-state future is imminent. 3. Teradata will increase the number of appliances it sells. 4. Teradata will mix and match parts (especially storage) in a modular product line.

In my opinion, the most important takeaways about Teradata's hardware strategy from the Teradata Partners conference last week are:

  • Teradata's future lies in solid-state memory. That's in line with what Carson Schmidt told me six months ago.
  • To Teradata's surprise, the solid-state future is imminent. Teradata is 6-9 months further along with solid-state drives (SSD) than it thought a year ago it would be at this point.
  • Short-term, Teradata is going to increase the number of appliance kinds it sells. I didn't actually get details on anything but the new SSD-based Blurr, but it seems there will be others as well.
  • Teradata's eventual future is to mix and match parts (especially different kinds of storage) in a more modular product line. Teradata Virtual Storage is of pretty limited value otherwise. I believe Teradata will go modular more emphatically than Teradata itself does, because I think doing so will meet users needs more effectively than if Teradata relies strictly on fixed appliance configurations.
In addition, some non-SSD componentry tidbits from Carson Schmidt include:
  • Teradata really likes Intel's Nehalem CPUs, with special reference to multi-threading, QuickPath interconnect, and integrated memory controller. Obviously, Nehalem-based Teradata boxes should be expected in the not too distant future.
  • Teradata really likes Nehalem's successor Westmere too, and expects to be pretty fast to market with it (faster than with Nehalem) because Nehalem and Westmere are plug-compatible in motherboards.
  • Teradata will go to 10-gigabit Ethernet for external connectivity on all its equipment, which should improve load performance.
  • Teradata will also go to 10-gigabit Ethernet to play the Bynet role on appliances. Tests are indicating this improves query performance.
  • What's more, Teradata believes there will be no practical scale-out limitations with 10-gigabit Ethernet.
  • Teradata hasn't decided yet what to do about 2.5" SFF (Small Form Factor) disk drives, but is leaning favorably. Benefits would include lower power consumption and smaller cabinets.
  • Also on Carson's list of "exciting" future technologies is SAS 2.0, which at 6 gigabits/second doubles the I/O bandwidth of SAS 1.0.
  • Carson is even excited about removing universal power supplies from the cabinets, increasing space for other components.
  • Teradata picked Intel's Host Bus Adapters for 10-gigabit Ethernet. The switch supplier hasn't been determined yet.

Let's get back now to SSDs, because over the next few years they're the potential game-changer. The big news on SSDs is that after last year's Teradata Partners conference, a stealth supplier* introduced itself and convinced Teradata it offers really great SSD technology. For example, not a single SSD it has provided Teradata has ever failed. (In hardware, that is. There have of course been firmware bugs, suitably squashed.) I think SSD performance is also exceeding Teradata's expectations. This supplier is where the 6-9 month time-to-market gain comes from. *Based on how often the concept of "stealth" and "name is NDAed" came up, I do not believe this is the SSD company another vendor told me about that is going around claiming it has a Teradata relationship.

Teradata SSD highlights include:

  • I/O speeds on "random medium blocks" are 520 megabytes/second, vs. 15 MB/second on their fastest conventional disks. And that's limited by SAS 1.0, load-balanced across two devices, not the hardware itself. (2 x 300+ MB/sec turns out to be 520 MB/sec in this case.) No wonder Carson is excited about SAS 2.0.
  • Teradata is using SAS interfaces for its SSDs, and believes that's unusual, in that other companies are using SATA or Fibre Channel.
  • Never having had a part fail, Teradata has no real basis to make MTTF (Mean Time To Failure) estimates for its SSDs.
  • Teradata's SSD appliance design includes no array controllers. The biggest reason is that right now array controllers can't keep up with the SSDs' speed.
  • In its SSD appliance, Teradata has abandoned RAID, doing mirroring instead via a DBMS feature called Fallback that's been around since Teradata's earliest days. (However, unlike Oracle in Exadata, Teradata continues to use RAID for disks.)
  • Useful life for Teradata's SSDs is estimated at 5-7 years.
  • Teradata's SSDs are SLC (Single-Level Cell), as opposed to MLC (Multi-Level Cell).
The most important takeaways about Teradata's hardware strategy from the Partners conference last week are: 1. Teradata's future lies in solid-state memory. 2. The solid-state future is imminent. 3. Teradata will increase the number of appliances it sells. 4. Teradata will mix and match parts (especially storage) in a modular product line.

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