What is a Cloud-native Database?

Before this series is complete, I plan on defining in some detail what the various levels of Cloud-nativeness might be to allow readers to classify products based on architecture, not marketing. In this post, I’ll lay out some general concepts. First, let’s be real about cloud-things that are not cloud-native.

Any database that runs on physical hardware can run on virtual machines and, therefore, can run on virtual machines in the cloud. Databases with no cloud capabilities other than the ability to run on a VM on a cloud-provider are not cloud-native. Worse, there are lots of anecdotal stories that suggest that there are no meaningful savings to be had from moving a database from an on-premise server or VM to a cloud VM with no other change to take advantage of cloud elasticity.

So here are two general definitions for your consideration:

1) A cloud-native database will have one or more features that utilize capabilities found only on a cloud-computing platform, and

2) A cloud-native database will demonstrate economic benefits derived from those cloud-specific features.

Note that the way you pay for services via capital expenses (CapEx) or as operating expenses (OpEx) does not provide economic benefit. If the monetary costs of a subscription are more-or-less equal to the financial costs of a license, then savings are tied to tax law, not to economics. Beware of cloudy subscriptions that change how you pay without clearly adding beneficial cloudy features. It is these subscriptions that often are the source of the no-savings anecdotes mentioned above.

This next point is about the separation of storage from compute. Companies have long ago disconnected their databases from just-a-bunch-of-disks (JBOD) to shared storage such as SAN or S3. Any database today can use shared storage. It is not useful to say that any database that can use shared storage has separated storage from compute. Using the idea that there must be features, not marketing, that allow compute to scale separately and more-or-less dynamically from storage as the definition, we will be able to move forward in this area.

So:

3) For storage to be appropriately separated from Compute, it must be possible to scale Compute up and down dynamically.

Next, when compute scales, it scales at different granularity. An application or database that automatically adds and subtracts virtual machines provides different economics than a database that scales using containers. Apps that add and subtract containers have different economics than applications that use so-called serverless containers to scale. In this dimension, we will try to characterize granularity to account for the associated cloud economics. This topic will be covered in more detail later, so I’ll save the rule for that post.

Note that it is possible for database vendors to develop a granular architecture and to use the associated economics to their advantage. They may charge you for the time when any part of your database is running but be billed by their provider for smaller chunks. This is not an issue unless their overall costs become uncompetitive.

Last, and in some ways least, different products may charge for time in smaller or larger chunks. You might be charged by the hour, by the minute, by the second, or in smaller increments. Think about the scaling economics I suggested in the first posts of this thread. If you are charged by the hour, then there is no financial incentive to scale up to finish jobs to the minute. You will be charged the same for ten minutes or fifty minutes when you are charged by the hour. The rule:

4) Cloud databases that charge in smaller time increments are more economical than those that charge in larger increments.

The rationale here is probably obvious, but I’ll cover it in-depth in a later post.

With these concepts in place, we can discuss how architectural changes affect each aspect of the economics of databases in the cloud.

Note that this last sentence was written assuming that a British computer scientist with an erudite accent would speak it when they create the PBS series from these posts. Not.

By the way, a few posts from now, I am going to go back to some ideas I shared five years ago around the relationship between database processing and the underlying hardware platform. I’ll update this thinking with cloud computing in mind. You can find this thinking here which originally came from Jeff Dean and Peter Norvig (displayed in lots of places but here is one).

A New Way of Thinking About EDW Federation

There is a new way to think about data warehouse architecture. The Gartner Group calls it a logical data warehouse and it uses database federation to dynamically integrate a universe of data warehouses, operational data stores, and data marts into a single, united, structure. This blog has suggested that there is a special case of the logical data warehouse that uses Hadoop to provide a modern data warehouse architecture with significant economic advantages (see here, here, and here).


This is the second post inspired by my chats with Bityota… and sort of, but not altogether, commercial in nature (the first post is here). That is, Bityota will use these posts in their collateral… but you won’t see foam about their products in the narrative below.

– Rob


The economics are driven by the ability, through database federation, to place tables on a less expensive database platform. In short, the aim is to place data on the least expensive platform that still provides enough performance to satisfy service level agreements (SLAs). In the case of the modern data warehouse architecture this means placing older, colder, data on Hadoop where the costs may be $1000/TB instead of having all of the data in a single data warehouse platform at a parallel RDBMS price point of $35,000/TB. Federation allows these two layers to seem as one to any program or end-user.

This approach may be thought of as a data life cycle infrastructure that has significantly more economic power that the hardware based life cycles suggested by database vendors to date. Let’s consider some of the trade-offs that define the hardware approach and the Hadoop-based approach.

The power of Hadoop federation comes from its ability to manage data placement at a macro level. Here, data is placed appropriately into a separate database management system running on differentiated hardware so that the economics of the entire infrastructure: hardware, software, and network can be optimized. It is even possible to add a third or fourth level to provide more fine-grained economic optimization. But this approach come at a cost. Each separate database optimizes queries at the database level. Despite advances in federation software technology this split optimization cannot optimize many queries. The optimization is not poor, but it is not optimal optimization. The global optimization provided by a single DBMS will almost always out-perform federated optimization.

The temperature-based optimization touted by some warehouse vendors provides good global optimization. To date a single DBMS must run on a homogeneous hardware platform with a single price point. Queries run optimally but the optimization can only twiddle around hardware details placing data in memory or on an SSD device or on the faster portion of a disk platter.

Figure 7. Federated Elastic Shared-nothing IaaS
Figure 7. Federated Elastic Shared-nothing IaaS

To eliminate this unfortunate trade-off: good optimization over minor hardware capabilities or fair optimization over the complete hardware eco-system we need a single DBMS that can run queries over a heterogeneous mix of hardware. We need a single database management system, with global query optimization, that can execute queries over multiple layers of hardware deployed in the cloud. We can easily imagine a multi-layered data warehouse with queries federated over several AWS offerings with hotter data on fast nodes that are always available, with warm data on less expensive nodes that are always available, and with cold historical data on inexpensive nodes that come online in processing windows so that you pay for the nodes only when you need them. Figure 7 shows a modern data warehouse deployed across an Amazon cloud.

This different way of thinking about a logical data warehouse is exciting… and a great example of how cloud computing may change everything in the database and data warehouse space.

How DBMS Vendors Admit to an Architectural Limitation: Part 1 – Oracle Exadata

Database vendors don’t usually admit to shortcomings… they protest that they have no shortcomings until the market suggests otherwise… then they make some sort of change that signals an admission. This post will explore three of these admissions: Oracle and the shared-nothing architecture, DB2 on the mainframe and the shared-nothing architecture, and Teradata and in-memory processing.

For years Oracle verbally thrashed Teradata in the market… proclaiming that the shared-nothing architecture was bunk. But in the data warehousing space Teradata acquired a large chunk of the market; and more importantly, they won more business as the size of the data warehouses grew. The reason for this is two-fold: the shared-nothing architecture lets you deliver more I/O bandwidth to the problem… and once you have read the disk it provides scalability to deliver more compute to process complex queries.

Finally Oracle had enough and they delivered Exadata, a storage engine attached to the conventional Oracle RAC that provided shared-nothing I/O bandwidth to the biggest part of the problem… the full file scan of big fact tables. This was an admission that they had been wrong all along.

Exadata was a tack-on… not a fundamental redevelopment of the Oracle database engine. They used the 80/20 rule to quickly get something to market and stem the trickle of Oracle customers who were out of gas on RAC and headed to shared nothing products: Teradata, Netezza, and Greenplum.

This was a very smart move and it worked. Even though the 80/20 approach meant that there were a significant number of queries, the complex queries that needed to process large working sets to execute joins, Exadata solved enough of the problem to keep devout Oracle shops in the church. Only the shops who felt that complex query performance was important enough to warrant the cost of a migration (for an existing DW that had grown up) or the lesser cost of introducing a new technology (for a new DW) would move.

So, while Exadata was a smart move… it is a clear admission that shared-nothing is the right architecture for data warehouses and marts. This admission makes it clear that it is silly to build a warehouse or mart on normal Oracle or on RAC unless you consider your database an inviolable part of a technological creed.

In my opinion selecting a database is an engineering process that does not require orthodoxy… we should be strong enough engineers to pick the better technology and learn it. Being an “Oracle shop” is lazy.

Note that the in-memory technologies provided in Oracle12c are significant… and for warehouses and marts that will fit on a single node, 12c as it matures, will be a fine choice for the orthodox Oracle shop and for others. For bigger data applications you will require Exadata and the limitations that come with it.

This provides a nice transition to the Part 2 post on Teradata and in-memory.

Related Posts

Database Fog Blog
Other References

Cloud DBMS < High Performance DBMS

English: Cloud
English: Cloud (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In my post here I suggested that database computing was becoming a special case of high-performance computing. This trend will bump up against the trend towards cloud computing and the bump will be noisy.

In the case of general commercial computing customers running cloudy virtualized servers paid a 5%-20% performance penalty… but the economics still worked for the cloud side.

For high-performance database computing it is unclear how much the penalty will be? If a virtualized, cloudy, database gives up performance because SIMD becomes problematic, priming the cache becomes hard, CPU stalls become more common, and there is a move from a shared nothing architecture to SANs or SAN-like shared data devices, then the penalty may be 300%-500% and the cloud databases will likely lose.

As I noted in the series starting here, there are lots of issues around high-performance database computing in the cloud. It will be interesting to see how the database vendors manage the bump and the noise. So keep an eye out. If your database of choice starts to look cloudy… if it becomes virtualized and it starts moving from a shared-nothing cluster to a SAN… then you will know which side of the bump they are betting on. And if they pick the cloudy side then you need to ask how they plan to architect the system to hold the penalty to under 20%…

I also mentioned in that series that in-memory databases had an advantage over peripheral-based databases as they did not have to pay a penalty for de-coupling the IO bandwidth that is part of a shared-nothing cluster. But even those vendors have to manage the fact that the database is abstracted… virtualized… away from the hardware.

If I were King I would develop a high-performance database that implemented the features of a cloud database: elasticity, easy provisioning, multi-tenancy; over bare metal. Then you might get the best of both worlds.

Teradata, HANA and NUMA

Teradata is circulating a document to customers that claims that the numbers SAP has published in its 100TB PoC white paper (here) demonstrates that HANA suffers from scaling issues associated with the NUMA-effect. The document is so annoyingly inaccurate that I have to respond.

NUMA stands for non-uniform-memory-access. This describes an architecture whereby each core in a multi-core system has some very fast local memory accessed directly through a memory bus… but has access to every other core’s local memory through a “remote” access hop over another fast bus. In the case of Intel Xeon servers the other fast bus is know as the QPI bus. “Non-uniform” means that all memory access are not equal… a remote access over the QPI bus is slower than access over the memory bus.

The first mistake in the Teradata document is where they refer to the problem as the “SMP Knee Curve”. SMP stands for symmetric multi-processing… an architecture where multiple cores share the same memory bus. The SMP Knee Curve describes the problem when too many cores are contending for the same bus. HANA is not certified to run on an SMP system. The 100TB PoC described above is not run on an SMP system. When describing issues you might expect Teradata to at least associate the issue with the correct hardware architecture.

The NUMA-effect describes problems scaling processors within a single NUMA node. Those issues can impact the ability to continuously add cores as memory locking issues across the QPI bus slow the system. There are ways to mitigate this problem, though (see here for some examples of how to code around the problem).

Of course HANA, which built an in-memory system with NUMA as a target from the start… has built in these NUMA mitigations. In fact, HANA is designed deeper still using special techniques to keep the processor caches filled and to invoke special-purpose SIMD instructions. HANA is built so close to the hardware that processor cycles that are unused due to cache misses but show up as processor busy are avoided (in other words, HANA will get more work done on a 100% CPU busy system than other software that will show 100% CPU busy). But Teradata chose to ignore this deep integration… or they were unaware of these techniques.

Worse still, the problem Teradata calls out… shouts out… is about scaling over 100 nodes in a shared-nothing configuration. The NUMA-effect has nothing at all to do with scale out across nodes. It is an issue within a single node. For Teradata to claim this is silliness at best. It is especially silly since the shared-nothing architecture upon which HANA is built is the same architecture Teradata uses.

The twists Teradata applies to the numbers are equally absurd… but I’ll stop here and hope that the lack of understanding they exhibit in throwing around terms like “SMP Knee Curve” and “NUMA-effect” will cast enough doubt that the rest of their marketing FUD will be suspect. Their document is surely not about architecture… it is weak marketing… you can see more here

SQLFire, Exalytics, TimesTen, and HANA… a quick comparison

Gemfire

As you may have noticed I’m looking at in-memory databases (IMDB) these days… Here are some quick architectural observations on VMWare‘s SQLFire, Oracle’s Exalytics and TimesTen offerings, and SAP HANA.

It is worth noting up front that I am looking to see how these products might be used to build a generalized data mart or a data warehouse… In other words I am not looking to compare them for special case applications. This is important because each of these products has some extremely cool features that allow them to be applied to application-specific purposes with a narrow scope of data and queries… maybe in a later blog I can try to look at some narrow use-cases.

Further, to make this quick blog tractable I am going to assume that the mart/dw problem to be solved requires more data than can fit on one server node… and I am going to ignore features that let queries access data that resides on disk… in-memory or bust.

Finally I will assume that the SQL dialect supported is sufficient and not drill into details there. I will look at architecture not SQL features…

Simply put I am going to look at a three characteristics:

  • Will the architecture support ad hoc queries?
  • Does the architecture support scale-out?
  • Can we say anything with regards to price/performance expectations?

Exalytics is a smart-aggregate store that sits over an Oracle database to offload aggregate query workload (see my previous post here or the Rittman Mead post here which declares: “Oracle Exalytics uses a specially enhanced version of Oracle TimesTen, Oracle’s in-memory database, to cache commonly used aggregates used in dashboards, analyses and other BI objects.” Exalytics does not support a scale-out shared-nothing architecture but it can scale up by adding nodes with new aggregate data. Queries access data within the aggregate structure and it is not possible to join to data off the Exalytics node… so ad hoc is out. Within these limits, which preclude Exalytics from being considered as a general platform for a mart or warehouse, Exalytics provides dictionary-based compression which should provide around 5X compression to reduce the amount of memory required and reduce the amount of hardware required.

TimesTen can do more. It is a general RDBMS. But it was designed for OLTP. I assume that the reason that Oracle has not rolled it out as a general-purpose data mart or data warehouse has to do with constraints that grow from those OLTP architectural roots. For example, BI queries run longer and require more data than a OLTP query… and even with data in-memory temporary storage is required for each query… and memory utilization is a product of the amount of data required and the amount of time the data has to inhabit memory… so BI queries put far more pressure on an in-memory DBMS. There are techniques to mitigate this… but you have to build the techniques in from the ground up.

I imagine that this is why TimesTen works for Exalytics, though. A OLAP query against a pre-aggregated cube does not graze an entire mart or warehouse. It is contained and “small data” (for my wacky take re: Exalytics and Exadata see here).

TimeTen is not sharded… so scalability is an issue. Oracle gets around this nicely by allowing you to partition data across instances and have the application route queries to the appropriate server. But this approach will not support joins across partitions so it severely limits scalability in a general-purpose mart or warehouse.

SQLFire is a very interesting new product built on top of Gemfire… and therefore mature from the start. SQLFire is more scalable than TimesTen/Exalytics. It supports sharded data in a cluster of servers. But SQLFire has the limitation that it cannot join data across shards (they call them partitions… see here) so it will be hard to support ad hoc queries… They provide the ability to replicate tables to support any sort of joins. If, for example, you replicate small dimension tables to coexist with sharded fact tables all joins are supported. This solution is problematic if you have multiple fact tables which must be joined… and replication of data uses more memory… but SQLFire has the foundation in place to become BI-capable over time.

Performance in an in-memory database comes first and foremost from eliminating disk I/O. All three IMDB product provide this capability. Then performance comes from the efficient use of compression. TimeTen incorporates Oracles dictionary-based “columnar” compression (I so hate this term… it is designed to make people think that Oracle products are sort-of columnar… but so far they are not). Then performance comes from columnar projection… the ability to avoid touching all data in a row to process a query. Neither TimesTen nor SQLFire are columnar databases. Then performance comes from parallel execution. Neither TimesTen nor SQLFire can involve all cores on a single query to my knowledge.

Price comes from compression as well. The more highly compressed the data is the less memory required to store it. Further, if data can be used without decompressing it, then less working memory is required. As noted, TimesTen has a compression capability. SQLFire does not appear to compress data. Neither can use compressed data. Note that 2X compression cuts the amout of memory/hardware required in half or more… 4X cuts it to a quarter… and so on. So this is significant.

Now for some transparency… I started the research for this blog, and composed a 1st draft, last Spring while I was at EMC Greenplum. I am now at SAP working with HANA. So… I will not go into HANA at great length… but I will point out that: HANA fully supports a shared-nothing architetcture… so it is fully scalable; HANA is fully parallel and able to use all cores for each query; HANA fully supports columnar tables so it provides deep compression and the ability to use the compressed data in execution. This is not remarkable as HANA was designed from the bottom up to support both BI and OLTP workloads while TimesTen and SQLFire started from a purely OLTP architectural foundation.

References:

vFabric SQLFire User’s Guide

Oracle Times Ten In-Memory Database Architectural Overview

NoCOUG Referral

I would like to point you to two articles in the latest Northern California Oracle Users Group (NoCOUG) Journal here.

The first is an interview of Kevin Closson here. The interview is long and will take some time to get through… so set aside 30 minutes… it will be worth it as Kevin discusses Exadata, shared-nothingness, and other topics related to database hardware architecture.

The second article I would like to suggest (by the way there are several other excellent articles) is by Dr. Bert Scalzo. He reminds us that our job as engineers is to build the most cost-effective solution… not to build the perfect solution. He suggests that hardware should be treated as a dynamic resource that can be provisioned easily to solve performance problems.

I have argued that in a shared-nothing, scalable, architecture it is often cheaper to add another $20,000 fat server than to spend $100,000 of staff time to tune around a performance problem. This is especially true when the tuning involves building indexes and materialized views or pre-aggregated tables that make your warehouse fragile and more difficult to tune the next time. See here

Back to Kevin’s interview and to tie the two articles together… Kevin suggests that as long as data flows into the CPUs fast enough then there is no reason to pick a shared-nothing architecture over a shared-everything architecture. He insists on symmetry and rightfully points out that a shared-everything system can be symmetrical. But it is more difficult to maintain symmetry as you scale up a shared-everything system… and easy scale is what is required to treat hardware as a dynamic resource. So… I remain convinced that shared-nothing is the way to go…