Evaluating analytic appliances

With the amount of data in the world increasing asymmetrically if not hyperbolically, the market for big, purpose-built machines for high-speed data analytics is now being contested by some major players.

The first company to bring out an analytical appliance (hardware and software, highly tuned and bundled together to provide something that will run out the box ) back in the 1990s was Teradata, and they had the market for such appliances for a number of years. Later came Netezza, now part of IBM. But neither of these seem to have generated the amount of press that two recent entries have done – SAP with HANA, and Oracle with Exadata.

It was during the mid-1990s when I worked in Silicon Valley with Redbrick, the data warehouse product and company started by Ralph Kimball, that I first experienced the database competition ‘war’ – then it was mainly against Oracle and Informix.

So I was interested to read a comparison of HANA and Exadata, and I see that the the same competitive arguments are still much the same as they were 15 years ago; the claims and counter-claims sound strangely familiar as well.

As I see it, the challenge of anyone trying to evaluate an appliance is to cut through the hot air and hype generated by SAP and Oracle and find the real information they need to make a selection. So the article about HANA and Exadata should help to clear up some points.

Not every company is going to go for an analytic appliance, certainly not the average mid-size company that I am mostly familiar with. The price tags of HANA and Exadata are in the millions, and require a level of IT sophistication and support that only very large organisations, and governments, can achieve.

I think it would be interesting to see a comparison of the appliances from the four vendors I mentioned, not just two. If anyone has seen it, please let me know


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