Since my blogs tend to be in response to some stimulus they may not reflect a holistic view on any particular product. The “My 2 Cents” series will try to provide a broader view…

Teradata Storage Rack
Teradata Storage Rack (Photo credit: pchow98)


Despite my criticisms of some of their market positions (here, here, here, and here) Teradata provides the single best data warehouse platform in the market, hands-down. As an EDW, or data mart it is the best. It will be very competitive as an analytics mart and/or as an operational data store. It has a very complete eco-system of utilities and offers a robust set of Reliability, Availability, Serviceability, and Recoverability (RASR) features to make the eco-system solid. Performance is very good… Teradata should win more POCs than they lose… and they have become more competitive on price… so their price/performance is good if not great.

I recommend a POC for most customers in most cases… you can often save 20%-30% in a competitive situation.. but if you don’t have any special requirements… if you are building a standard BI/DW eco-system then Teradata would be the only vendor I would trust without a POC.

Where They Win

Now that they support columnar tables and columnar projection Teradata should win way more POCs than they lose (before columnar support they could lose to the column stores or to hybrids like Greenplum). The Teradata optimizer is very robust. It efficiently solves for a broad array of queries, and for a mixed workload that cuts across the data is many ways. This makes Teradata well-suited as the platform for an EDW.

Every RDBMS has a sweet spot where they win… so Teradata will not win every POC. But if you POC for an EDW and you prove with a full contingent of data, with queries that cut across the data in several ways, with a fair emulation of data loading, querying, loading , and querying… with a full workload… Teradata is tough to beat.

Where They Lose

The shared-nothing architecture is an imperfect fit on a single node… so other players can win smaller data warehouses that can fit on 1-2 nodes. In addition, they can be beat for very large configurations (1PB and above…) by Hadoop.

Teradata can be beat when the workload consists of very complex queries and/or where the problem to be solved requires fantastic response on a small number of CPU-intensive queries… this is a side-effect of spooling the intermediate results to a block device.

Teradata can be beat when data is trickled in at a high, continuous, rate.

Teradata can be beat when a query set goes through the data in a narrow way, using a single index or the equivalent, as might be the case for a data mart.

Teradata can be beat on price.

In the Market

For the reasons above, Teradata is the leader in the DW platform market. Recent competition from Exadata, Netezza, Greenplum, Vertica… and now HANA… has cut margins but not impacted business growth too much. Competitors have projected Teradata’s demise for 20 years now… but the product continues to set the standard.

As noted here, I believe that Hadoop will squeeze Teradata at the 1PB level and above…

My Guess at the Future

Teradata has three architectural challenges to address… and I suspect they will manage all three more-or-less.

First, the old architecture which was designed for very small DRAM configurations forces unnecessary I/O in violation of Gray and Putzolu’s Five Minute Rule (see here). This will be mitigated in the short-term by writing spool to SSD devices… and in the medium term by writing spool to NVRAM. If these mitigations are not sufficient then Teradata may have to consider re-engineering in a data flow scheme… but this will be tough.

Next, there are several advances in network technology coming in the next 2-3 years… and software defined networks will impact the space as well. ByNet may have served its purpose… providing Teradata with a significant edge for 20+ years… but Teradata may consider moving to an off-the-shelf network (see here).

Finally, a truly active data warehouse requires support for simultaneous OLTP and BI workloads… I would expect Teradata to build in the sort of hybrid OLTP/BI table capability now supported by both Vertica and HANA… and quasi-supported by Gemfire/Greenplum.

Teradata has some interesting business challenges as their margins shrink… and one of those challenges is that their expensive 3-person relationship/technical/industry sales team approach will face some pressure. But it is these sales teams that also provide Teradata an edge. They are the only databases vendor who can field team after team of veterans who understand both the technology and the vertical space.

If I were King of Teradata I might try to push downstream and build a configuration optimized for the low end. This would not be a high-margin hardware business but it would sell services and increase market share.