Business as Usual in the Fractious DW Appliance Segment

Netezza and DATAllegro announce appliance enhancements, even as IDC confirms that the DW appliance market has indeed arrived.

Fresh on the heels of research that says the data warehouse appliance market has become a veritable phenomenon unto itself, appliance kingpin Netezza Corp. announced an expansion of its Netezza Performance Server (NPS) 10000 appliance series. Meanwhile, appliance upstart—and Netezza rival—DATAllegro Inc. recently announced a refresh of its own data warehousing systems, leveraging Intel Corp.’s new quad-core Xeon chips.

A recent report from International Data Corp. (IDC) projected that the data warehouse appliance market—which today amounts to between $50 and $75 million—could become a $500 million juggernaut over the next five years.

"[D]ata warehouse appliances are an important and fast-growing segment of the [data warehousing tools] market that is likely to have a lasting impact on the competitive landscape," wrote IDC analyst Dan Vesset, in a recent report.

Netezza Scaling On Up

Netezza’s revamped NPS systems can scale from a few hundred gigabytes on up to 100 terabytes, officials say.

The improvements which Netezza touted last week are largely enabled by a new version of its proprietary appliance software, which introduces a raft of performance and functionality improvements.

Netezza is a seminal force in the data warehousing appliance space. NCR Corp. subsidiary Teradata, arguably kick-started the market entire, but Netezza was instrumental in establishing the plug-and-play data warehouse appliance as a viable product category. Since then, a host of other vendors—including IBM Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc., as well as upstart appliance specialist DATAllegro—have entered the data warehousing appliance space.

It’s a fractious segment. ( DATAllegro and Netezza, in particular, have engaged in an arms race of sorts, expanding the scale and capacity of their appliances to address ever bigger—and arguably more niche-like—data warehousing requirements.

Shortly after DATAllegro announced its first data warehousing appliance in early 2005, for example, Netezza announced plans to double the capacity of its NPS systems. Shortly thereafter, DATAllegro followed suit, announcing that its larger appliances (27 TB, or about the same size as Netezza’s former high-end models) would be available immediately. (

Netezza’s latest revamping is enabled in part by Release 3 of its proprietary appliance software, which officials say delivers increased performance and improved functionality. NPS appliances can now scale from half-rack to eight-rack systems, and are better equipped to address demand for growing multi-user and mixed workload environments, Netezza officials claim.

Key enhancements include guaranteed resource allocation, which helps ensure optimal distribution of resources among users; prioritized query execution, which lets data warehouse administrators schedule queries and processing power based on user-assigned priorities; short query bias, which ensures that users performing short queries are not impacted by users executing lengthy and complex multi-terabyte queries; and materialized views, which increase query performance—especially for short queries— by reducing the amount of data transferred from the disk during scans

Elsewhere, Netezza also tweaked its pricing. Thanks to its expanded modular pricing program, customers can purchase the full performance of a Netezza appliance and only pay for the capacity they need, officials say. As data or demand grow, customers can scale up in single terabyte increments, purchasing additional capacity at a fixed price per terabyte.

It’s in the pricing arena, especially, where data warehouse appliance vendors might have an irresistible story to tell, says Mike Schiff, a principal with BI and data warehousing consultancy MAS Strategies. "Netezza and DATAllegro are competing at much lower price points as they continue to increase the storage capacity of their appliances," Schiff writes. "When comparing their products to data warehouse implementations that utilize traditional vendors … the appliance folks generally speak about orders of magnitude in performance improvements at greatly reduced costs."

DATAllegro: Bigger, Better, Faster, More

Late last month, DATAllegro announced support for Intel Corp.’s new quad-core Xeon chips, which Intel says deliver twice the performance of rival x86 chips—along with twice the performance of its existing Xeon processor. DATAllegro first announced plans to move from single-core to dual-core Xeon technology in June; the move to quad-core ups the ante even further, officials say. "By taking advantage of Intel’s multi-core technology, our customers are able to benefit from continuing improvements to their DATAllegro data warehouse performance with a simple upgrade" said Stuart Frost, CEO of DATAllegro, in a statement.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.