A not so fabulous new release
By Jean-Pierre Dijcks on Aug 03, 2009
According to recent blog entries, Netezza is claiming a 10x – 15x increase in price-performance. At first glance that sounds pretty impressive. According to the bloggers, the performance increase supposedly comes from a 3x cut in price per TB and a 3-5x performance improvement. Looking more closely, however, reveals that Netezza's improvements are far from impressive in a generally not so fabulous refresh.
Performance – better, good or not so good…?
Netezza's new system shows small performance improvements and is still slower than the Oracle Database Machine introduced nearly a year ago. Netezza’s new system has an I/O throughput of 10 GB/sec … notably underwhelming compared to the 14GB/sec delivered today by an HP Oracle Database Machine.
Netezza markets their new system as delivering 145 TB/hr … assuming a compression ratio of 4:1 [this one is interesting, more to come], so the net result is an IO rate of 10GB/sec. Bearing in mind that their former system was anecdotally discussed on blogs with 7.5 GB/sec IO throughput I only see a raw performance improvement of 33% at best. Hmm, not that it really matters, because aAn Oracle Database Machine is 40% faster today than Netezza's upcoming new product, not to mention that Netezza themselves see compression rates of 2 – 2.5 on their systems. The 4x compression is on the roadmap… so maybe you won’t even make it to that underwhelming performance number?
I guess there is no better “pad on the back” for Oracle’s Database Machine than the fact that it’s already faster than Netezza’s new system.
Lower Cost – really?
Cheaper sounds good though…? I think it does, and Netezza is claiming a large reduction in price as one of the biggest benefits of their new system. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be a price cut at all. The price of the new system seems to be about the same as the price of the old system. Huh? Didn’t you say price cut?
What Netezza is doing is simply upgrading their disk drives from 400GB to newer 1TB technology (the SATA version of the Oracle machine has 1TB drives for about a year now). Keeping the old price for the entire box yet sticking more storage into it creates the idea of a price reduction if you look at $$ per TB. Naturally as disk drive vendors introduce bigger disks, the price per TB decreases if you keep the overall price the same. That is not innovation, that same benefit applies to everyone in the industry, it's just a matter of WHEN a customer will benefit from it:.
Interestingly enough however, Netezza's TB-based pricing approach enables them to control when to pass on lower hardware costs to the customers... oh and the support is probably a percentage of the total price not of the so called lower price…
Netezza is saying that their new systems are based on open, industry-standard components – IBM blade technology – but this appears to be only half of the story.
Netezza's architecture is still using proprietary hardware components, through their usage of FPGAs (Field-Programmable Gate Arrays). These FPGAs are apparently running non-open Linux and Netezza's proprietary code.
Slowly switching to commodity hardware components however looks like Netezza's silent acknowledgment that Oracle's approach – using open standards – is advantageous. But they are not there yet, and it's going to be interesting to see what they are going to do with their FPGAs looking forward ...
Does Netezza catch up on the software front?
While the new release of Netezza helps to bring Netezza to a more modern, and slightly more open, hardware platform, this new release does not appear to address any of Netezza's major shortcomings in software:
Netezza continues to lack enterprise availability feature like active disaster recovery systems, or the ability to tolerate node failures without downtime
Netezza continues to lack enterprise security features like encryption and virtual private database
Netezza continues to lack robust application development features like rich SQL extensions and a procedural language
Netezza continues to lack fundamental database optimization techniques, such as indexes
Netezza continues to lack advanced business intelligence capabilities like built-in OLAP and data mining
Looking at the apparent weaknesses on the software side for Netezza and the better performance characteristics of the HP Oracle Database Machine the balance is still clearly in favor of the Database Machine.
No matter what angle you choose to look from:
* Oracle Database Machine SAS
** A storage processing unit consists of a CPU and an FPGA
This looks like a disappointing new release for Netezza, unless they have something else to say tomorrow .. something 'big', as promised on their web page. There are no major new features announced so far. It looks like the new release is purely a migration to new hardware with incremental gains due to newer hardware components. Meanwhile, the Oracle Database Machine continues to exceed Netezza's performance, and is poised to benefit from significant new enhancements upcoming in Oracle Database 11gR2 (more to come soon). Netezza is touting their lower prices rather than better performance. This is a clear shift in strategy – away from innovation and moving towards pure price competition. Is this the beginning of the end for Netezza?