Teradata’s HANA Mathematics

I recently pointed out some silliness published by Teradata to several SAP prospects. There is more nonsense that was sent and I’d like to take a moment to clear up these additional claims.

In their note to HANA prospects they used the following numbers from the paper SAP published here:

# of Query Streams


10 20


# of Queries per Hour (Throughput)


36,600 48,770


Teradata makes several claims from these numbers. First they claim that the numbers demonstrate a bottleneck that is tied to either the NUMA effect or to the SMP Knee Curve. This nonsense is the subject of a previous blog here.

For any database system as you increase the number of queries to the point where there is contention the throughput decreases. This is just common sense. If you have 10 cores and 10 threads and there is no contention then all threads run at the same speed as fast as possible. If you add an 11th thread then throughput falls off, as one thread has to wait for a core. As you add more threads the throughput falls further until the system is saturated and throughput flattens. Figure 1 is an example of the saturation curve you would expect from any system as the throughput flattens.

There are some funny twists to this, though. If you are an IMDB then each query can use 100% of a core. If you are multi-threaded IMDB then each query can use 100% of all cores.  If you are a disk-based system then you give up the CPU to another query while you wait for I/O… so throughput falls. I’ll address these twists in a separate blog… but you will see a hint at the issue here.

Teradata claims that these numbers reflect a scaling issue. This is a very strange claim. Teradata tests scaling by adding hardware, data, and queries in equal amounts to see if the query performance holds constant… or they add hardware and data to look for a correlation between the number of nodes and query performance… hoping that as the nodes increase the response time decreases.  In fact Teradata scales well… as does HANA… But the hardware is constant in the HANA benchmark so there is no view into scaling at all. Let me emphasis this… you cannot say anything about scaling from the numbers above.

Teradata claims that they can extrapolate the saturation point for the system… this represents very bad mathematics. They take the four data points in the table and create an S curve like the one in Figure 1… except they invert it to show how throughput decreases as you move towards the saturation point… Figure 2 shows the problem.

If you draw a straight line through the curve using any sort of math you miss the long tail at the end. This is an approximation of the picture Teradata drew… but even in their picture you can see a tail forming… which they ignore. It is also questionable math to extrapolate from only four observations. The bottom line is that you cannot extrapolate the saturation point from these four numbers… you just don’t know how far out the tail will run unless you measure it.

To prove this is nonsense you just have to look here. It turns out that SAP publicly published these benchmark results in two separate papers and this second one has numbers out to 60 streams. Unsurprisingly at 60 streams HANA processed 112,602 queries per hour while Teradata told their customers that it would saturate well short of that… at 49,601 queries (they predicted that HANA would thrash and the number of queries/hour would fall back… more FUD).

Teradata is sending propaganda to their prospects with scary extrapolations and pronouncements of architectural bottlenecks in HANA. The mathematics behind their numbers is weak and their incorrect use of deep architectural terms demonstrates ignorance of the concepts.  They are trying to create Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. Bad marketing… not architecture, methinks.

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

%d bloggers like this: