Memory Trends and HANA

If the Gartner estimates here are correct… then DRAM prices will fall 50% per year per year over the next several years… and then in 2015 non-volatile RAM (see the related articles below) will become generally available.

It has been suggested that memory prices will fall slower than data warehouses will grow (see here). That does not seem to be the case… and the combination of cheaper memory and then non-volatile memory will make in-memory databases like SAP HANA ever more compelling. In fact, as I predicted… and to their credit, Teradata is adding more memory (see here).

Related articles

Price/Performance of HANA, Exadata, Teradata, and Greenplum

Here is an attempt to build a Price/Performance model for several data warehouse databases.

Added on February 21, 2013: This attempt is very rough… very crude… and a little too ambitious. Please do not take it too literally. In the real world Greenplum and Teradata will match or exceed the price/performance of Exadata… and the fact that the model does not show this exposes the limitations of the approach… but hopefully it will get you thinking… – Rob

For price I used some $$/Terabyte numbers scattered around the internet. They are not perfect but they are close enough to make the model interesting. I used:





Exadata X3






Of these numbers the one that may be the furthest off is the HANA number. This is odd since I work for SAP… but I just could not find a good number so I picked a big number to see how the model came out. Please, for any of these numbers provide a comment and I’ll adjust.

For each product I used the high performance product rather than the product with large capacity disks…

I used latency as a stand-in for performance. This is not perfect either… but it is not too bad. I’ll try again some other time and add data transfer time to the model. Note that I did not try to account for advantages and disadvantages that come from the software… so the latency associated with I/O to spool/work  files is not counted… use of indexes and/or column store is not counted… compression is not counted. I’ll account for some of this when I add in transfer times.

I did try to account for cache hits when there is SSD cache in the configuration… but I did not give HANA credit for the work done to get most data from the processor caches instead of from DRAM.

For network latency I just assumed one round trip for each product…

For latencies I used the picture below:

The exception is that for products that use PCIe to access SSDs I cut the latency by 1/3 based on some input from a vendor. I could not find details on the latency for Teradata’s Bynet so I assumed that it is comparable with Infiniband and the newest 10GigE switches.

Here is what I came up with:


Total Latency(ns) Price/Performance





HANA (2 nodes)




Exadata X3












I suppose that if a model seems to reflect reality then it is useful?

HANA has the lowest latency because it is in-memory. When there are two nodes a penalty is paid for crossing the network… this makes sense.

Exadata does well because the X3 product has SSD cache and I assumed an 80% hit ratio.

Teradata does a little worse because I assumed a lower hit ratio (they have less SSD per TB of data).

Greenplum does worse as they do all I/O against disks.

Note the penalty paid whenever you have to go to disk.

Let me say again… this model ignores lots of software features that would affect performance… but it is pretty interesting as a start…

Exadata 3 as an In-Memory Database (IMDB)

English: Larry Ellison lecturing during Oracle...
English: Larry Ellison lecturing during Oracle OpenWorld, San Francisco 2010 עברית: לארי אליסון מרצה בכנס אורל בסאן פרנסיסקו (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wikipedia defines computer memory as:


In computing, memory refers to the physical devices used to store programs (sequences of instructions) or data (e.g. program state information) on a temporary or permanent basis for use in a computer or other digital electronic device. The term primary memory is used for the information in physical systems which are fast (i.e. RAM), as a distinction from secondary memory, which are physical devices for program and data storage which are slow to access but offer higher memory capacity. Primary memory stored on secondary memory is called “virtual memory“.


The term “storage” is often (but not always) used in separate computers of traditional secondary memory such as tape, magnetic disks and optical discs (CD-ROM and DVD-ROM). The term “memory” is often (but not always) associated with addressable semiconductor memory, i.e. integrated circuits consisting of silicon-based transistors, used for example as primary memory but also other purposes in computers and other digital electronic devices.


To a computer program like a DBMS, memory is a resource allocated using commands like malloc() and calloc(). Note that these commands allocate primary memory using the definition above. From this you should conclude that an in-memory DBMS (IMDB) is a system that puts all of its data into memory allocated by the database program.


In their announcements this week Oracle states (here) that Exadata 3 is an in-memory database machine and Larry Ellison said. “Everything is in memory. All of your databases are in-memory. You virtually never use your disk drives. Disk drives are becoming passe. They’re good at storing images and a lot of data we don’t access very often.”


But their definition of in-memory includes SSD devices that are not directly addressable by the DBMS. In fact they use 22TB of SSDs and 4TB of DRAM. The SSDs are a cache sitting between the DBMS and disk storage. They are storage according to Wikipedia.


Exadata 3 is not an in-memory database machine. It takes more than lots of hardware to make a DBMS an in-memory DBMS.


Oracle is spewing marketing, not architecture.