Since my last post about Aster, the analytic DBMS (ADBMS) vendor has added another arrow to its quiver. Its new MapReduce Data Warehouse Appliance Express Edition starts at $50,000, and includes Aster nCluster on Dell hardware and a copy of MicroStrategy BI software for up to 1 Tb of user data, which Aster clearly sees as a sweet spot. (MicroStrategy has been doing a lot of seeding with the ADBMSs lately; it also has an introductory bundling deal with Sybase IQ.) Delivering a ‘compute rich’ appliance on commodity hardware, with reduced operating costs, certainly hits all the right notes. But is 1 Tb the sweet spot for MapReduce? I think not – although it makes a great starting point, and that may be Aster’s real opportunity – give ’em a taste of what SQL plus MapReduce can do, and watch them demand more and more. And sell it to them. Dell and MicroStrategy should love this strategy – if it works.
Even for those smaller data warehouses, speeds will be clearly improved. Lower first costs, ease of setup and administration – lowering both capital and operating expense – will lower the barriers to entry. $50K is a far cry from the half-million it can cost to get into other appliances from the “big boys.” Once the value is proved, stepping into Aster’s Enterprise Edition, which it claims will scale to the petabyte range, may be easier to take. There are certainly some questions:
- What’s the difference between a “data mart” and the “smaller data warehouse?”Aster quotes Gartner’s Donald Feinberg about the latter in its press release. Perhaps Aster is choosing to ignore the data mart moniker – although it’s also possible that they are saying the improved generalized analytics of SQL plus MapReduce make it less necessary to restrict subjects and dimensions and follow specific architectural models the way many data marts typically do. If so, that will prove to be an interesting debate.
- Are fault-tolerance and availability now “table stakes” for appliances? Aster is claiming “99.99% uptime, with reduced troubleshooting costs.” ParAccel has touted its relationship with EMC for enterprise-class “-abilities.” Other ADBMS vendors will need to keep up their features – and their rhetoric – here.
- Is “SQL plus MapReduce” better enough to be a difference maker?Aster says that its “integrated SQL/MapReduce framework for analytics and BI increases query performance by 9x or more when compared with other SQL-only data warehouse appliances in the market.” Aster has not offered specific comparisons that show how the leverage of the two results in generalized improvements for particular use cases. It may be credible, but it certainly has not been shown yet – specific comparisons will hopefully be forthcoming.
Still, kudos to Aster for upping the heat, if not the light, in the emerging ADBMS wars. Aster opened a big door when it made MapReduce available to .NET, and no doubt some intriguing work will emerge from that community. Aster has a nice war chest to work with from its recent $17M Q1 financing round, and is putting it to work. So far the rhetoric has been aimed at Oracle, DB2, Teradata and Netezza. Easy targets. What about Greenplum, Infobright, Kickfire, ParAccel, Sybase IQ, Vertica…? It’s going to be fun watching the smackdown ahead.