Greenplum looking mighty sweet

Big data is Big Business these days. IDC predicts that between 2012 and 2020, the spending on big data solution will account for 80% of IT spending and growing at 18% per annum. EMC predicts that the big data is worth USD$70 billion! That’s a very huge market.

We generate data, and plenty of it. In the IDC Digital Universe Report for 2011 (sponsored by EMC), approximately 1.8 zettabytes of data will be created and replicated in 2011. How much is 1 zettabyte, you say? Look at the conversion below:

                    1 zettabyte = 1 billion terabytes

That’s right, folks. 1 billion terabytes!

And this “mountain” of data and information is a Goldmine of goldmines, and companies around the world are scrambling to tap on this treasure chest. According to Wikibon, big data has the following characteristics:

  • Very large, distributed aggregations of loosely structured data – often incomplete and inaccessible
  • Petabytes/exabytes of data
  • Millions/billions of people
  • Billions/trillions of records
  • Loosely-structured and often distributed data
  • Flat schemas with few complex interrelationships
  • Often involving time-stamped events
  • Often made up of incomplete data
  • Often including connections between data elements that must be probabilistically inferred

But what is relevant is not the definition of big data, but rather what you get from the mountain of information generated.  The ability to “mine” the information from big data, now popularly known as Big Data Analytics, has sparked a new field within the data storage and data management industry. This is called Data Science. And companies and enterprises that are able to effectively use the new data from Big Data will win big in the next decade. Activities such as

  • Business decision making
  • Gain competitive advantage
  • Drive productivity growth in relevant industry segments
  • Understanding consumer and business behavioural patterns
  • Knowing buying decisions and business cycles
  • Yielding new innovation
  • Reveal customer insights
  • much, much more

will drive a whole new paradigm that shall be known as Data Science.

And EMC, having purchased Greenplum more than a year ago, has started their Data Computing Products Division immediately after the Greenplum acquisition. And in October of 2010, EMC announced their Greenplum Data Computing Appliance with some impressive numbers. Using 2 configurations of their appliance, noted below:


Below are 2 tables of the Greenplum performance benchmarks:



That’s what these big data appliance is able. The ability to load billions of either structured or unstructured files or objects in mere minutes is what drives the massive adoption of Big Data.

And a few days, EMC announced their Greenplum Unified Analytics Platform (UAP) which comprises of 3 Greenplum components:

  • A relational database for structured data
  • An enterprise Hadoop engine for the analysis and processing of unstructured data
  • Chorus 2.0, which is a social media collaboration tool for data scientists

The diagram below summarizes the UAP solution:

Greenplum is certainly ahead of the curve. Competitors like IBM Netezza, Teradata and Oracle Exalogic are racing to be ahead but Greenplum is one of the early adopters of a single platform for big data. Having a consolidation platform will not only reduce costs (integration of all big data components usually incurs high professional services’ fees) but will also reduce the barrier to entry to big data, thus further accelerating the adoption of big data.

Big Data is still very much at its infancy and EMC is pushing to establish its footprint in this space. EMC Education has already announce the general availability of courses related to big data last week and also the EMC Data Science Architect (EMC DSA) certification. Greenplum is enjoying the early sweetness of the Big Data game and there will be more to come. I am certainly looking forward to share more on this plum (pun intended ;-)) of the data storage and data management excitement.

What should be a Cloud Storage?

For us filesystem guys, NAS is the way to go. We are used to store files into network file systems via NFS and CIFS protocols and treating the NAS storage array like a refrigerator – taking stuff out and putting stuff back it. All that is fine and well as long as the data is what I would term as corporate data.

Corporate data is generated by employees, applications and users of the company and for a long time, the power of data creation lies in the hands of the enterprise. That is why storage solutions are designed to address the needs of the enterprise where the data is structured and well defined. How the data is stored; the data is formatted; and how is being accessed are the “boundary” of how the data is being used. Typically a database is used to “restrict” the data created so that the information can be retrieved and modified quickly. And of course, SAN guys will tell you to put these structured data of the data base into their SAN.

For the unstructured data in the enterprise, NAS file systems hold that responsibility. Files such as documents and presentations have a more loosely defined “boundaries”, and hence filesystems are a better natural fit for unstructured data. Filesystems are like a free-for-all container, and able to store and provide access to any files in the enterprise.

But today, as the Web 2.0 applications are already taking over the enterprise, the power of data creation does not necessary lie in the hands of the enterprise applications and users. In fact, it is estimated that the percentage of enterprise data now has exceeded 50% of the enterprise’s total data capacity. With the proliferation of personal devices such as tablets, Blackberries, smart phones, PDAs and so on, individual contributors are generating plenty of data. This situation has been made more acute with Web 2.0 applications, such as Facebook, blogs, social networking, Twitter, Google Search and so on.

Unfortunately, file systems in the NAS category still pretty much the traditional file systems, while the needs of a new type of file system could not be met by the traditional file systems. The paradigm is definitely shifting.  The new unstructured data world needs a new storage concept. I would term this type of storage as “Cloud Storage” because it breaks down the traditional concepts of NAS.

So what basically defined a Cloud Storage? I already mentioned that the type of unstructured data has changed. And the new requirements for unstructured data type  are:

  • The unstructured data type is capable of globally distributed.
  • There will be billions and billions of unstructured data objects created but each object, be it a Twitter tweet, or a uploaded mobile video, or even the clandestine data collected by CarrierIQ, can be accessed easily via a single namespace
  • The storage file system foundation for these new unstructured data type is easily provisioned and management. Look at Facebook. It is easy to setup, get going and the user (and probably the data administrator) can easily manage the user interface and the platform
  • For the service provider of Cloud Storage, the file system must be secure and support multi-tenancy and virtualization of storage resources
  • There should be some form of policy-driven content management. That is why development platforms such as Joomla!, Drupal, WordPress are slowing become enterprise driven to address these unstructured data types.
  • Highly searchable and have a high degree of search optimization. A Google search do have a strong degree of intelligence and relevance to the data being search as well as generating tons of by-product data that feeds the need to understand the consumers or the users better. Hail Big Data!

So when I compare traditional NAS storage solutions such as Netapp or EMC VNX or BlueArc, I ask the question of whether their NAS solutions has these capabilities to meet the requirements of these new unstructured data type.

Most of them, no matter how they package it, is still relying on files as the granular object of storage. And today, most files may have some form of metadata such as file name, owner, size etc, DO NOT, possess the capability of content-aware. Here’s an example when I want to show you:


The file properties (part of the file metadata) tell you about the file but little about the content of the file. Today, it requires more than that and the new unstructured data type should look more like this:

If you look at the diagram below, the object on the right (which is the new unstructured data type), display much more information than a typical file in a NAS file system. There additional information becomes the fodder to other applications such as search engines, RSS feeds, robots and spiders and of course, big data analytics.

Here’s another example of what I mean about these extended metadata, and a Cloud Storage storage array is required to work with these new set of parameters and a new set of requirement.


There’s a new unstructured data type in town. Traditional NAS systems may not have the right features to work with this new paradigm.

Don’t be white washed by the fancy talk of storage vendors in town. Learn the facts, and find out what is really a Cloud Storage.

It’s time to think differently. It’s time to think of what should be a Cloud Storage.