Archive for January, 2009

By Shawn Kung in Blogroll, Frontline data warehouse, TCO on January 27, 2009

Back in March 2005, I attended the AFCOM Data Center World Conference while working at NetApp.  It was a great opportunity to learn about enterprise data center challenges and network with some very experienced folks.  One thing that caught my attention was a recurring theme on growing power & cooling challenges in the data center.

Vendors, consultants, and end user case study sessions trumpeted dire warnings that the proliferation of powerful 1U blade servers would result in power demands outstripping supply (for example, a typical 42U rack consumed 7-10kW, while new-generation blade servers were said to exhibit peak rack heat loads of 15-25kW).  In fact, estimates were that HVAC cooling (for heat emissions) were an equally significant power consumer (ie. for every watt you burn to power the hardware, you burn another watt to cool it down).

Not coincidentally, 2005 marked the year when many server, storage, and networking vendors came out with “green” messaging.  The idea was to convey technologies that reduce power consumption and heat emissions, saving both money and the environment.  While some had credible stories (eg. VMware), more often than not the result was me-too bland positioning or sheer hype (also known as “green washing”).

Luckily, Aster doesn’t suffer from this, as the architecture was designed for cost-efficiency (both people costs and facilities costs).  Among many examples:

[1] Heterogeneous scaling: we use commodity hardware but the real innovation is making new servers work with pre-existing older ones.  This saves power & cooling costs because rather than having to create a new cluster from scratch (which requires new Queen nodes, new Loader nodes, more networking equipment, etc), you can just plug in new-generation Worker nodes and scale-out on the existing infrastructure…

[2] Multi-layer scaling: A related concept is nCluster doesn’t require the same hardware for each “role” in the data warehousing lifecycle.  This division-of-labor approach ensures cost-effective scaling and power efficiency.  For example, Loader nodes are focused on ultra-fast partitioning and loading of data - since data doesn’t persist to disk, these servers contain minimal spinning disk drives to save power.  On the opposite end, Backup nodes are focused on storing full/incremental backups for data protection - typically these nodes are “bottom-heavy” and contain lots of high-capacity SATA disks for power efficiency benefits (fewer servers, fewer disk drives, slower spinning 7.2K RPM drives).

[3] Optimized partitioning: one of our secret sauce algorithms ensures maximizing locality of joins via intelligent data placement.  As a result, less data transfers over the network, which means IT orgs can stretch their existing network assets (without having to buy more networking gear and burn power).

[4] Compression: we love to compress things.  Tables, cross-node transfers, backup & recovery, etc all leverage compression algorithms to get 4x - 12x compression ratios - this means fewer spinning disk drives to store data and lower power consumption.

…and others (too many to list in a short blog like this)

I’d love to continue the conversation with IT folks passionate about power consumption…what are your top challenges today and what trends do you see in power consumption for different applications in the data center?

By Mayank Bawa in Frontline data warehouse on January 22, 2009

We are very excited that OnMedia has just announced Aster as one of the winners of the AlwaysOn OnMedia 100, a listing of the top 100 private, emerging technology companies in the advertising, publishing, marketing, branding and PR spaces. As a technology enabler for many media clients like MySpace, Invite Media, aCerno, Aggregate Knowledge (and others soon to be announced), we understand the pressures that media faces today. Our customers are a great testament to the fact that Aster has the best solution to meet the rapidly changing needs of media, to keep up with the huge amounts of data they are managing for themselves and their end clients. More info on Aster’s win here.

Don’t Get Caught with Your Drives Down
By Steve Wooledge in Blogroll on January 18, 2009

Interesting unrest brewing among Seagate customers today about Barracuda drives failing at an alarming rate. So how can you protect against this? Even though Seagate allows you to RMA the product, it’s really the data loss and downtime that are the headache, right?

You must figure out a strategy to deal with both planned and unplanned downtime before it happens. Ask your vendors about their fault-tolerance and self-healing capabilities to help you deal with hardware and software failures. Make sure the solutions address every component of failure, not just disks or processors. Ask whether replication can occur on commodity hardware - or will you have to wait 5 days for a new custom box to be ordered? And make sure online backup is an option, even if it’s a last resort.

If you’re looking for a low-cost way to protect your data warehouse against hardware failures, read more about Aster Data’s “always on” database.

By Mayank Bawa in Blogroll on January 13, 2009

We announced today that we have raised $12M in our Series B funding.

We’re thrilled that our vision and message have resonated so well in these times when investors have become extremely selective. And frankly that is because our message is resonating so well with our customers: within 4 months of publicly launching the company in May 2008, our customer base had grown to double digits with several of our customers deploying/considering a second production system.

The inside story is that we had scheduled our first meetings to raise Series B for the week of October 5. It turned out to be the week of a perfect financial storm. The week began with Iceland’s currency dropping 30% against the Euro. On October 6, several European governments stepped up to guarantee bank deposits. On October 7, as Iceland and Russia exchanged Yes and No statements on a Euro 4B loan, Sequoia Capital gathered its portfolio CEOs in an auditorium and warned them (and by the power and reach of the Web, every venture capitalist, entrepreneur, executive and journalist) that the time had come to “Get Real or Go Home”. By October 10, the cost of short-term credit had spiraled up and as a result DJI dove to 8,451 from 9,955 at the start of the week, its lowest point in the previous 5 years.

Tasso and I still went to our scheduled meetings to present Aster’s opportunity and our customer adoption, and got invited back. In the next 5 weeks, as the financial markets continued their drop off a cliff, we continued to receive strong interest for investing that matured with multiple term-sheets for us to consider.

We were very excited to accept JAFCO Ventures as our new investor to lead Series B. We signed our term-sheet with JAFCO on November 10, a fast turn-around by any standard and an incredible one given the roller-coaster the world was riding. As a previous investor in DATAllegro (acquired by Microsoft), we are beaming that JAFCO Ventures chose to back us against the big giants in the DBMS market. Return-backer Sequoia Capital also has significant experience in the space, having been an early investor in the now-public Netezza. It is a great vote of confidence that the two VCs who understand the data warehousing space the best have chosen to invest in Aster as we lead the revolution in next-generation data warehousing.

In addition, we also announced today that Ben Horowitz, former CEO of Opsware, has joined our company advisory board. Ben co-founded Opsware and built it into one of the great enterprise technology companies of this era. Ben provides us a wealth of experience to tap into for growing an enterprise software company from scratch to $1B+.

We will use this funding and support to fuel our growth. There is a big opportunity in working with customers and partners to help change how people and applications use data. And we intend to rise to the opportunity!

The Power of Media
By Mayank Bawa in Blogroll on January 9, 2009

When I can afford a multi-week break, I head home to India. It is really impressive how home refreshes and recharges a person as nothing else does.

India has a burdgeoning media and communications industry. The movie industry is well-known and huge, but in truth the story of media in India in the last decade has been that of television coming of age. Internet as a media channel is still in its infancy here. Even in communications, Internet’s growth is dwarfed substantially by the growth of mobile networks.

The power of media in shaping conversations and spreading awareness really hit home in two separate anecdotes.

I had flown into Mumbai when an airport-based pre-paid cab driver offered me very generous rates if I were to retain him on a consistent basis for the week of my stay. I am always suspicious of cab drivers anywhere giving a good deal, so I asked him the reason for his generosity. “Sahib, business weak hai recession ke waaste (Sir, business is weak due to recession)” came the answer.

I went to a get-together, and uncles/aunts who are one-generation older than me asked if the US recession is as severe as they hear, and gave sensible advice to my cousins on safeguarding their jobs. The last generation in India had lived their formative and middle years in a government-regulated economy. I was in high school in India during the 1990-91 recession when our small town was severely hit when the dominant livelihood-providing steel manufacturing plant suffered huge losses. I remember that the same uncles/aunts then fairly-and-squarely blamed the lack of efficiency in government enterprises, the lack of product quality and a consistent lack of investment over the last decade (i.e., everything except a recession!).

The media has successfully educated a broad section of the population on reasons for their livelihood misery. And people were responding appropriately to protect their interests.

But then something happened today that motivated this post.

Two days ago, the oil workers in Indian state-run oil companies went on a strike. Today, the cable news networks were full of doomsday talk of oil-dry gas stations and replaying clips of long consumer queues. I marveled at the power of oil in bringing Delhi to its knees within 48 hours of the supply chain being halted, and decided to go check it out myself. Imagine my surprise when I found normal traffic at the pump. Intrigued, I drove around (yes, I’m on vacation with lots of free time :-) ) finding pump after pump and not finding the promised long queues.

The same media that spread awareness was actively spreading needless panic!

I am sure if more people in Delhi had as much free time as I did, they would have gone to the gas stations to hoard in anticipation and then queues would have formed. Luckily, as dusk fell and normal office hours ended (giving people free time), the strike had been called off.

We escaped news from generating reality, as opposed to the other way around.

Happy new year!

By Steve Wooledge in Blogroll, Frontline data warehouse on January 5, 2009

If you would have told me that Aster Data Systems would be referenced by Gartner in the Magic Quadrant for Data Warehouse Database Management Systems report after just 6 months of coming out of stealth mode, I would have said you were pretty ambitious. There are some pretty high criteria for being placed, such as having a generally-available product for more than one year, as well as over 10 customers in production.

Well, we were included. Even if it was only a mention. And I’m proud to say that as of the publishing date, I believe the only criteria that held us back from being placed on it was having a product available for less than one year.

Although Aster’s high-performance analytic database, Aster nCluster, has been generally available since May - we’re actually on the third major release tested in customer environments.  We were busy building out its functionality and testing Aster nCluster in some pretty rigorous frontline data warehouses such as Aggregate Knowledge and MySpace, where we have strict requirements for scale (100+ terabytes) and uptime (no unplanned downtime for more than one year).

2008 was a break-out year for Aster.  2009 will be even more exciting as we continue to set new limits for what customers expect of a relational database management system.

I suppose the next thing you’ll tell me is that we should be placed in the Leaders or Visionaries Quadrants on the chart?  That’s ambitious. But it’s just the sort of thing this team and product are capable of.


The Magic Quadrant is copyrighted 2008 by Gartner, Inc. and is reused with permission. The Magic Quadrant is a graphical representation of a marketplace at and for a specific time period. It depicts Gartner’s analysis of how certain vendors measure against criteria for that marketplace, as defined by Gartner. Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in the Magic Quadrant, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors placed in the “Leaders” quadrant. The Magic Quadrant is intended solely as a research tool, and is not meant to be a specific guide to action. Gartner disclaims all warranties, express or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.