Magic 8 Ball
Magic 8 Ball (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you missed the tweet… 2+ years ago I predicted here that Teradata would go away from ByNet… and lo and behold they did (see here).

In the same post I predicted that Netezza would go away from FPGAs. This has not come to pass. But I wonder if it might… or if there is a bigger change possible?

With the recent announcements of DB2 BLU and column store I suspect that DB2 will outperform Netezza when the query mix does not fall directly in Netezza’s sweet spot.

I also have a suspicion that the Netezza architecture, with its execution engine split across two different processors, is just hard to engineer. I cannot think of another reason features come so slowly there. Why, for example, is there no columnar support? Greenplum built it on the same Postgres base with less than a handful of engineers in a year. Teradata now offers columnar tables as well.

These concerns… combined with some previous notes on Netezza add up as follows:

  1. FPGAs no longer provide a performance advantage (per my link above)
  2. FPGAs limit the ability of the DBMS to use more cores (see here)
  3. FPGAs limit the ability of the DBMS to manage workload (see here… and especially the comments)
  4. FPGAs and having a 2-phase split execution environment limits the ability to extend and enhance the code base (a new conjecture)
  5. Zone Maps and CBTs provide a limited ability to solve for a wide range of queries… they are just an index (see here)
  6. DB2 Column Store provides a performance boost equal to or greater than zone maps and CBTs (a new conjecture)
  7. DB2 BLU provides a performance boost well in excess of what Netezza can provide (see here)

The Netezza architecture with FPGAs provided a distinct advantage in 2000 when CPU was the scarce commodity. But multi-core systems and the advance of Moore’s Law soon made processing abundant… and the advantage of FPGA co-processing diminished. Without a distinct advantage the split execution architecture became a disadvantage… and the complexity of that design kept Netezza from developing the advances on top of the Postgres base that were very easy to develop by others.

Architecture counts… and DB2 is a strong product. If, as I suspect, DB2 is now a more capable product than Netezza… I wonder what path IBM may take?