Oracle: Oracle claims their Exadata solution is a one-size-fits-all Data Warehouse appliance (source: Oracle Exata)
IBM: We don’t believe anyone can combine every function in the same box for optimal performance. An appliance is by its nature single-purpose.
Smarter Question: Is Oracle Exadata REALLY a Data Warehouse Appliance??
Well lets start with how we define data warehouse appliances. From the all knowing source of Wikipedia…..
In computing, a data warehouse appliance consists of an integrated set of servers, storage, operating system(s), DBMS and software specifically pre-installed and pre-optimized for data warehousing (DW). Alternatively, the term can also apply to similar software-only systems — purportedly very easy to install on specific recommended hardware configurations or preconfigured as a complete system – a true appliance.
DW appliances provide solutions for the mid-to-large volume data warehouse market, offering low-cost performance most commonly on data volumes in the terabyte to petabyte range.
Netezza shakes up data warehousing
Ok so let’s get real, those of us who go back to the “dark ages” of data warehousing never used the word “appliance” until this little company called Netezza came along one day and shook up the market place with the first data warehouse appliance. Netezza’s had the ability to provide the fastest time to value and were nimble enough to do Proof Of Concepts at the drop of a pin. In fact, Netezza still offers the ability to “test drive” the solution, without all the hassle- just go to Test Drive TwinFin if you want to know more. Customers loved this, not only could they evaluate things faster but the whole idea of not having to do all that pesky integration work was really inviting. In response to this disruption in the market, many vendors like ourselves at IBM realized that we had to do things differently. We had to make our data warehouse solutions more “consumable” and it just so happened we had hardware, software and services- how totally convenient.
IBM brings out its first DW appliance
In 2004 IBM introduced the first generation of data warehouse appliance called the “BCU”. Today the Smart Analytics is the 5th generation of IBM heritage hardware and we were recently lucky enough to add the “original DW appliance” to the family- Netezza. Other vendors at the time like Oracle, Microsoft and even HP- well they were not as lucky to have all the parts and pieces they needed and found themselves quickly looking for a “serious commitment”.
Oracle finds appliance love… again.
HP and Oracle’s marriage only lasted a year, we are not sure what happened but we are pretty sure the marriage was annulled because neither one will talk about it. Oracle decided to marry Sun and put a few billion behind that commitment. Microsoft married a small firm called DataAllegro and has recently been cheating on the side with HP as well. Teradata felt the whole team “appliance” was below them for years. That is until recently when they saw their market share being chipped away and suddenly they are in the appliance business with a new line of solutions. All of these unions are all really in the quest to become an “appliance” because as you can see from the above definition you need a complete integrated system.
Exadata is not a data warehouse appliance
Ok let’s get back to the question. Is Oracle Exadata really a data warehouse appliance? So I am going to just come right out and say no. Why? Well first of all, Oracle claims Exadata will do everything from data warehousing to OLTP. Hmmm hey now, we were talking about an appliance here, something built and optimized for a single purpose. Everybody in the market has a focused and optimized solution for data warehousing BUT Oracle. When I buy a toaster, I don’t really expect it to also provide other services but it should be easy to use, toast well and work when I press the lever. If my toaster also does other things like say deep fry – well can I really still call it a toaster? Similarly, if Exadata claims they can do it all, then it isn’t really an appliance. One last point, don’t ask Oracle to take a test drive of their “appliance” at your company’s site. I hear this makes them very crabby
Appliances should be easily supported
The other important part of being an appliance is how the solution is supported. The customer should only have to make one call to get help. Administration and manageability should be easy and the total cost of ownership should be low. So rumor has it that there have been some bumps in the road with Exadata on things like software updates. At Oracle Openworld, David Moore from BioWare stated that it’s both very important to keep up with patches and that they occur frequently. Hmmmm. There are numerous public references to patches causing all sorts of challenges for customers, in particular 4 & 5. This doesn’t sound easy to manage.
The road less traveled
It sure seems like Oracle looked at the crowd gathering around data warehouse appliances and they chose the road less traveled. Question I have is why are they the only ones going down that road?
Join the conversation at SmarterQuestions.org
Learn more about IBM’s Data Warehouse Appliances