In the post here I listed the units of parallelism (UoP) applied by various products on a single node. Those findings are summarized in the table below.



Cores per Node

UoP per Node


Teradata EDW 6700H



Uses hyper-threads.
Greenplum DCA UAP Edition



Recommends 1 Segment for each 2 cores. Maybe some multi-threading per query so it could be greater than 8 on the average… and could be 16 with hyper-threads… but not more than 32 for sure.
Exadata X3



Maybe only 12… cannot find if they use hyper-threads.
Netezza Striper



May use hyper-threads but limited by 16 FPGAs.
HANA Any Xeon E7-4800



Uses hyper-threads.

A UoP is defined as the maximum number of  instructions that can execute in parallel on a single node for a single query. Note that in the comments there was a lively debate where some readers wanted to count threads or processes or slices that were “active” but in a wait state. Since any program can start threads that wait I do not count these as UoP (later we might devise a new measure named units of waiting that would gauge the inefficiency in any given design by measuring the amount of waiting around required to keep the CPUs fed… maybe the measure would be valuable in measuring the inefficiency of the queue at your doctor’s office or at any government agency).

On some CPUs vendors such as Intel allow two threads to execute instructions in-parallel in a core. This is called hyper-threading and, if implemented, it allows for two UoP on a single core. Rather than constantly qualify the statements for the rest of this blog when I refer to cores I mean to imply hyper-threads.

The lively comments in the blog included some discussion of the sort of techniques used by vendors to try and keep the cores in the CPU on each node fed. It is these techniques that lead to more active I/O streams than cores and more threads than cores.

For several years now Intel and the other CPU manufacturers have been building ever more cores into their products. This has allowed them to continue the trend known as Moore’s Law. Multi-core is now a fact of life and even phones, tablets, and personal computers have multi-core chips.

But if you look at the table  you can see that the database products above, even the newly announced products from Teradata and Netezza, are using CPUs with relatively few cores. The high-end Intel processors have 40 cores and the databases, with the exception of HANA, use Intel products with at most 16 cores. Further, Intel will deliver Ivy Bridge processors to the market this year with 120 cores. These vendors know this… yet they have chosen to deliver appliances with the previous generation CPUs. You might ask why?

I believe that there is an architectural reason for this (also a marketing reason covered here).

It is very hard to keep 80 cores fed with data when you have to perform block I/O. It will be nearly impossible to keep the 240 cores coming with Ivy Bridge fed. One solution is to deploy more nodes in a shared-nothing configuration with fewer cores per node… but this will be expensive requiring more power, floorspace, administration, etc. This is the solution taken by most of the vendors above. Another solution is to solve the problem without I/O with an in-memory database (IMDB) architecture. This is the solution taken by SAP with HANA.

Intel, IBM, and the rest will continue to build out using the multi-core approach for the foreseeable future. IMDB products will be able to fully utilize this product. Other products will struggle to take full advantage as we can see already… they will adapt and adjust and do what they can… but ultimately IMDB will win, I think… because there is just no other way to keep up as Moore’s Law continues to drive technology… no other way to feed the CPU engines with data fast enough.

If I am right then you will see more IMDB offerings from more vendors, including from the major vendors in the near future (note that this does not include the announcements of “database in memory” from Oracle which is not by any measure an in-memory database).

This is the underlying reason why Donald Feinberg (and Timo Elliott) are right on here. Every organization will be running in-memory… and soon.