Wednesday, October 24, 2012

My perspective on the Teradata Aster Big Analytics Appliance

Aster Big Analytics Appliance 3H

By now, no doubt you have heard the announcement of our new Teradata Aster Big Analytics Appliance. In the interests of full disclosure, I work for Teradata within the Aster CoE in Europe. Prior to joining Teradata,  I was responsible for a large complex Aster environment which was built on commodity servers in excess of 30 TB of usable data with a 24 x 7 style operational environment. So my perspective in this post is from that standpoint and also recalling the time when we went under a hardware refresh and software upgrade.

OK, First of all you procure 30 servers and at least two network switches (for redundancy). When you receive them, it up to your data centre team to rack them and cable them up. Next,  check the firmware on each system is the same, surprise, surprise they aren't, so a round of upgrades later, then you configure the raid controllers. In this case we went for Raid 0 which maximises space, more on that choice later...

Then it is over to the network team, to configure the switches and the VLAN we are going to use. We then put on a basic Linux image on the servers so we can carry out some burn in tests, to make sure all the servers have a similar performance profile. Useful tests, as we found two servers whose raid controllers were not configured correctly. It was the result of human error, I guess manually doing 30 servers can get boring. This burns through a week, before we can install Aster, configure the cluster and bring all the nodes online to start the data migration process. Agreed, this is a one off cost, but in this environment, we are responsible for all hardware issues, network issues, Linux issues, with the Vendor just supporting Aster. Many customers never count that cost or possible outages that might be avoided because of these one off configurations.

We had some basic system management as these are commodity servers but nothing as sophisticated as Teradata Server Management and the Teradata Vital Infrastructure. I like that with the Server management software it allows me to manage 3 clusters within the Rack logically (e.g. Test, Production, Backup). I also like the proactive monitoring, as it is likely they will identify issues prior to them becoming an outage for us, or an issue found with one customer can be checked against all customers. If you build and manage your own environment, you don't get that benefit.

Your next consideration should be when looking at an appliance, is it leading edge and how much thought has gone into the configuration? The Appliance 3H is a major step forward from Appliance 2. From a CPU perspective, it has the very latest processors from Intel, dual 8 core Sandy Bridge @ 2.6GHz. Memory has increased to 256GB. Connectivity between nodes is now provided by Infiniband at 40Gb/s. Disk drives are the newer 2.5 size, enabling more capacity per node. Worker nodes using 900GB, while backup and the Hadoop nodes leveraging larger 3TB drives. RAID 5 for Aster and RAID 6 for the backup and Hadoop nodes. Also with the larger cabinet size, enables better data centre utilisation with the higher density that is possible.

I also like the idea of providing integrated Backup nodes as well, previously Aster just had the parallel backup software only, you had to procure your own hardware and manage it. We also know that all of these components have been tested together, so I am benefiting from their extensive testing, rather than building and testing reference configurations myself.

What this tells me, is that Teradata, can brings advances in hardware quickly to the marketplace. Infiniband will make make an important difference. For example, for very large dimension tables, that I have decided against replicating, joins will run much faster. Also I expect positive impact on Backups. In my previous environment, it took us about 8 hours for a full backup of 30 TB or so. Certainly the parallel nature of their backup software could soak-up all the bandwidth on a 10GB connection, so we had to throttle it back.  On the RAID choices, I absolutely concur with the RAID 5 choice. If I was building my own 30 node cluster again I wouldn't have it any other way. While the replication capabilities in Aster protects me against at least any single node failure, a disk failure, will bring that node out of the cluster, until the disk is replaced and the node is rebuilt and brought back online. When you have 30+ servers each with 8 drives (240+ disk drives) the most common failure will be the disk drive. With RAID 5, you can replace the drive, without any impact on the cluster at all, and you still have the replication capabilities to protect yourself from multiple failures.

I also like the option of being able to have an Hadoop cluster tightly integrated as part of my configuration. For example if I have to store a lot of 'grey data' e.g. log/audit files etc for compliance reasons,  I can leverage a lower cost of storage and still do batch transformations and analysis as required. Bring a working set of data (last year for example) for deeper analytics. With the transparent capabilities of SQL-H, I can extend those analytics into my Hadoop environment as required.

Of course purchasing an appliance, is a more expensive route than procuring it, building and configuring it all yourself. However, most enterprise are not hobbyists, and building this sort of infrastructure, is not their core competence nor is is bringing value to their business. They should be focused on the Time to Value and with the Teradata Aster Big Analytics appliance the time to value will be quick, as everything, is prebuilt, configured, tested and ready to go, to accept data and start performing analytics on it.  As I talk to customers across Europe this message is being well received when you talk through the details.

I'll leave you with this thought, one aspect of big data that I don't hear enough of is Value. To me, the dimension of Volume, Variety, Velocity and Complexity are not very interesting if you are not providing value by means of actionable insights. I believe every enterprise customer needs a discovery platform capable of executing the analytics that can provide them an important competitive edge over their competition. This platform should have the capability to handle structured as well as multi-structured data. It should provide a choice of analytics, whether they be SQL based, MapReduce or statistical functions. It should provide a host of prebuilt functions to enable rapid progress. It should be a platform that can appeal to power users in the business, by having a SQL interface and that will work with their existing visualisation tools to our most sophisticated data scientists, by providing them a rich environment to develop their own custom functions as necessary, while enabling them to benefit both from the power of SQL and Map Reduce to build out these new capabilities. In summary that is why I am so excited to be talking with customers and prospects about Teradata Aster Big Analytics Appliance.


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Are you aware of any other websites on this subject.

Isaac E Wright Wright said...

This post is probably where I got the most useful information for my research. Thanks for posting, maybe we can see more on this.
Are you aware of any other websites on this subject.

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