This week marks the 1-year anniversary for the release of the Informix Warehouse Accelerator (IWA). This blog entry takes a look at what we have accomplished and what we look forward to.
First of all, for those not yet familiar with the IWA product, it is an Accelerator designed specifically for data warehousing or analytics queries, that runs transparently behind an Informix Dynamic Server. Users submit their queries either through SQL directly or via their favorite BI tool, such as Cognos, Microstrategy or Pentaho. IDS then routes the query to the accelerator based on a defined data mart schema and returns the answer to the user as if the query was answered directly by IDS. The only difference is that the performance of such queries may be 10 times to 100 times faster than before. Queries that used to run in many minutes or even hours can be returned in mere seconds. This is all done without special tuning, adding of indexes or data cubes. It is ideally suited for Informix customers who may have standard OLTP transactions on IDS, while also needing to run analytic queries either on the same system or different systems. The Accelerator runs on commodity Intel hardware that has hundreds of gigs of DRAM at a very affordable price (e.g. less than $100K).
As the primary measure of “success” with any product, especially a new product within IBM/Information Management/Informix, the revenue received has been more than respectable, certainly measured in terms of millions. (I am not at liberty to reveal the exact numbers). We have a number of customers across different geographies and across different industries, including retail, insurance, hospitality, public sector and Energy & Utilities. More importantly, we have partners that have built their own offerings on top of the IWA product and have successfully closed business on their own. Informix has always been a partner-centric and partner-friendly product, and IWA is no different, especially for SMB customers where low cost is of utmost importance. Through a number of workshops and bootcamps around the world, we have pursued an aggressive schedule in enabling our partners and this will continue throughout 2012.
Everyone in the market these days seems to claim that they can do analytics fast. If you include Columnar database offerings, you have upwards of 10 to 20 products competing in this space. One that has received most publicity is HANA from SAP, which shares many of the features and characteristics of IWA. This is a good thing for us. By raising awareness of the capabilities of an in-memory database specifically designed for data warehousing in the industry, customers will further investigate the differences between IWA and HANA.
We already have competitive numbers (based on real customer PoC’s) against other vendors including Teradata, SQL Server and columnar database vendors such as Greenplum and Ingres VectorWise. I am happy to report that we stand up well against them both in terms of performance and in overall cost of ownership. So we welcome such comparisons.
Since our release a year ago, we have added some significant features. They are listed here with brief descriptions:
- Workload Analysis Tool
Takes the guesswork out of the data mart schema needed to deploy IWA on. You simply run your standard set of queries through the tool and it generates the schema in XML format which can then be used to load data into IWA.
- Data Currency
While an IDUG study shows that 90% of data warehouses are only updated once a day, customers who need more frequent refreshes of the entire warehouse can maintain a 2nd copy of data (in compressed form). By toggling between the two copies, one can achieve high data currency and still attain the great performance provided by IWA.
- Cluster Support
IWA can run on a standard SMP machine or on a cluster that is typical with a Blade Server configuration. Here, IWA has access to even more cores and memory across different nodes as opposed to a single node system. IWA efficiently partitions the fact table data while replicating the dimension tables for optimal performance. The number of coordinator and worker processes can be scaled up accordingly.
- Partition Refresh
In the upcoming release of 11.70xC5, we are adding two significant features to IWA. While the current version of IWA requires a complete reload of data when data is refreshed on the host (i.e. IDS), the partition refresh feature now allows users to selectively update one or more partitions. For example, if you have a terabyte size data warehouse already loaded in IWA and updates were made to 10 gigs of data in certain partitions, you can choose to only reload the 10 gigs of changed data. Thee load time for such a refresh is then greatly reduced. In other competitive systems, this is often referred to as Incremental Update or Trickle Feed.
- Loading IWA from Mach11 Secondaries
Taking advantage of the Mach11 capabilities in IDS, one can deploy IWA in a mixed-workload environment by dedicating the primary node for OLTP transactions and having a Mach11 secondary handle the analytic queries. The secondary can be a HDR, a RSS or a SDS node. This secondary node can now handle the loading of data into IWA and can also host the IDS optimizer which determines whether to route a particular query to IWA. The ability to run mixed-workload effectively in a single system is one of the “holy-grails” of database management.
Our goal is to continue to build a base around our Informix customers with analytics needs. We also want to reach beyond the current base into the so-called “white-space”. While there are other overlapping products within IBM’s Information Management portfolio, we believe that the state-of-the-art in-memory technology in IWA together with the strong OLTP capabilities within IDS, provides a unique offering at a price point that is second to none.