MPP, IMDB and Moore’s Law

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.

Product

Version/HW

Cores per Node

UoP per Node

Notes

Teradata EDW 6700H

16

32

Uses hyper-threads.
Greenplum DCA UAP Edition

16

8

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

12

12-24

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

16

16

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

40

80

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.

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

Co-processing and Exadata

In my first blog (here) I discussed the implications of using co-processors to offload CPU. The point was that with multi-core processors it made more sense to add generalized processing hardware that could be applied to all parts of the query process than to add specialized processors that dealt with only part of the problem.

Kevin Closson has produced two videos that critically evaluate the architecture of Exadata and I strongly suggest that you view them here before you go on with this post… They are enlightening, irreverent, and make the long post I’ve been drafting on Exadata lightweight and unnecessary.

If you have seen Kevin’s post you understand that Exadata is asymmetric and unbalanced. But his post extends and generalizes my discussion of co-processing in a nice way. Co-processing is asymmetric by definition. The co-processor is not busy after it has executed on its part of the problem.

In fact, Oracle has approximately mirrored the Netezza architecture with Exadata but used commercial processors instead of FPGAs to offload I/O and predicate processing. The result is the same in both cases… underutilized processing capability. The difference is that Netezza wastes some power on relatively inexpensive FPGA processors while Exadata wastes general and expensive CPU resources that might actually be applied usefully elsewhere. And Netezza splits the processing within a shared-nothing architecture while Exadata mixes architectures adding to the inefficiency.