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Independence accelerates innovation

A discussion with Teradata visionaries Stephen Brobst and Scott Gnau.

By Anne Wainscott-Sargent

On Oct. 1, Teradata marked its first anniversary as an independent company. It's been a year of major technology and partnership milestones. Recently, Teradata Magazine sat down with Stephen Brobst, chief technology officer, and Scott Gnau, chief development officer, to explore key innovation highlights from the past year and what Teradata customers can expect in the upcoming year.

Q: What have been the key technology innovation milestones since Teradata was spun off from NCR?

Brobst: Since the spinoff, we delivered a major release of the Teradata Database—Teradata 12.0 at the end of last year, which had significant performance gains from optimizer enhancements. And Teradata 13.0 was announced this year with significant new features, especially in the area of storage virtualization. I consider this accomplishment a demonstration of the acceleration of our innovation. In addition, we now have a multi-product family that ranges from departmental data marts using SMP [shared-memory parallelism] technology all the way up to active enterprise data warehousing appliances at the high end of the business intelligence [BI] spectrum. Previously, we covered this range of requirements with a single product line using a single form factor. Now, we have many form factors to deliver at a variety of price-performance and functionality points.

Gnau: We certainly have developed two of our most feature-rich releases ever, and we've done it back to back. This has required a lot of innovation in areas that are not traditionally sexy areas for software developers, like the process we use for code integration, code and unit test, and all the back-office operations that have allowed our developers to be more productive and get more innovative content into the release.

With Teradata 12.0, we reinvented ourselves in terms of query optimization; we took something that is widely regarded as the leader in the industry and made it better. When I say "better," I mean the combination of cool technology targeted at a sweet spot for our customers in terms of query optimization. These innovations help not only sophisticated users of Teradata but also dramatically improve integration with tools and applications and allow Teradata analytics to scale even better for the masses.

A big breakthrough in innovation with Teradata 13.0 is storage virtualization and the enhancement of our multi-temperature offer. We also are setting the stage for more heterogeneous storage subsystems—and being able to tailor service level and performance with market requirements. What's innovative is how we have integrated this capability into the product and how it will be automatic, easy to manage and will provide not only better performance but also enhanced flexibility for customers. These are hallmarks of Teradata technology.

Adding Linux as an operating system to our lineup provides great benefit to our customers in terms of overall performance improvement and robustness of feature and function. This is a whole new paradigm for us—leveraging a quality, open-source operating system—to benefit not only our customers but also the larger Linux user community.

Q: What is Teradata's position as an appliance market player?

Brobst: Speaking historically, we were the first company to offer an appliance—Teradata has always delivered a purpose-built solution. We've now broadened the appliance spectrum with additional family members. The Teradata Data Warehouse Appliance 2550 is a new version of our entry-level data warehouse/data mart appliance, and it has even better price performance than the 2500. Not only did we introduce the family, but we also introduced new technology into the family at a much faster rate than any of our competitors.

Gnau: The Teradata Data Warehouse Appliance 2550 includes key technology to optimize for this space to make Teradata a premier player at the entry level, while also providing our Teradata Data Warehouse Appliance customers with options to grow into a full-scale EDW [enterprise data warehouse] over time. It is a great entry point based on core technology but also provides a roadmap into the best-integrated, real-time platform in the industry.

Q: What are the key new performance features in the new release?

Brobst: Essentially, we increased I/O performance and workload management capabilities as well as what we call "cliquing" capability for extra-high availability. The analytical capability of data warehouses is becoming more and more mission-critical within organizations. It's no longer acceptable to have "optional availability" from the data warehouse. People expect the data warehouse to be open for business at all times—more and more, data warehousing is a 24x7 endeavor.

Q: What other innovations do you want to highlight?

Brobst: In addition to these new releases, one of the biggest innovations of the past year is our joint partnership with SAS for in-database processing of advanced analytics. Historically, the advanced analytics had to be performed using a proprietary file system with a lot of data movement and duplication from a data warehouse to disparate file systems. Now, the advanced analytics are executing directly inside the database. That means a much quicker turnaround time on advanced analytics and a much lower cost, because you don't have to have shadow copies of all the data files.

We're working with SAS to build extensions to the Teradata Database to encapsulate these advanced analytics inside the parallel execution engine. This has not previously been possible in relational database technology. Teradata is the only relational database that has these capabilities with SAS.

Q: Open-source technology is definitely coming into its own within the industry. Can you tell us more about Teradata's new Viewpoint portal?

Brobst: Teradata Viewpoint is a portal framework that leverages open-source technology to allow customers and third-party integrators to build their own portals. Teradata Viewpoint has portals to measure performance, monitor systems health and keep track of system events such as when the next backup is scheduled.

We are in the process of setting up a "developer's zone" that will allow software engineers to share software written within the Teradata Viewpoint framework. Our goal is to leverage the open-source framework to accelerate the delivery of functionality through the contribution of our many smart customers, partners and professional services consultants.

Gnau: The developer's zone will launch in 2009. It is an extension of our whole passion around the accessibility of our solution. In areas where it makes sense, we want to provide toolkits and allow innovation to grow from anywhere it can, so partners and customers can take advantage of the framework we built. In the spirit of the whole open-source community approach to innovation, we're looking to provide a place where they can share ideas, learn from each other and reuse assets. Ultimately, we think that will turn into an advantage for Teradata, making it easier to integrate and making the surrounding tool ecosystem much better and much more effective than if we just tried to go it alone.

Q: Do you feel Teradata is a more interesting place for programmers these days with all this diversity happening in the product family?

Gnau: Absolutely. It's not just the new platform family, but it's all the extensions to the functionality and accessibility of the database, making our programmers think more holistically about very complicated systems. That creates an optimal environment for intellectually capable people. And this is the key to really deploying valuable solutions, not just reporting what happened but allowing our customers to drive change in their own industries by knowing the details and predicting disruption.

What's most exciting for me is seeing ideas being formulated and working in that creative process where people are just flat out inventing and thinking of things that haven't been thought of before. It becomes even more exciting when this innovation turns into a product that we bring to market, like our new appliances this year. All contain significant amounts of innovation, they target a new kind of audience and they actually contain software content and inventions that were created here.

Q: What can customers look forward to in the area of innovation at Teradata?

Brobst: Going forward, our customers should expect to see more additions to the Teradata platform family. We'll use a variety of form factors to deliver different price-performance points to meet the analytics requirements within an enterprise. We will also be expanding our delivery of advanced data types and enhancing the virtualization of Teradata's data warehousing capability. A lot of cool stuff is coming in the workload management arena as well.

Gnau: We continue to be motivated by a healthy paranoia, and we are supported by some tremendous breakthroughs in the generic computing environment, like multi-core growth within the microprocessors, like solid state disk devices and like blindingly fast bandwidth in interconnects. If you take a motivated group of really smart people who have a little paranoia and you give them tools like that from the industry, they're going to be able to think of things that even a year or two years ago would have been impossible. Certainly, new products, offers and partnerships like Teradata Viewpoint and the SAS integration demonstrate how we are expanding our scope in ways that would have been considered non-traditional for Teradata just a year or two ago. T

Anne Wainscott-Sargent is a writer/editor and PR consultant based in Atlanta, specializing in the health, government, data warehousing and wireless/satellite communications markets.

Teradata Magazine-December 2008

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