12
Nov
   

I’ve been working in the analytics and database market for 12 years. One of the most interesting pieces of that journey has been seeing how the market is ever-shifting. Both the technology and business trends during these short 12 years have massively changed not only the tech landscape today, but also the future of evolution of analytic technology. From a “buzz” perspective, I’ve seen “corporate initiatives” and “big ideas” come and go. Everything from “e-business intelligence,” which was a popular term when I first started working at Business Objects in 2001, to corporate performance management (CPM) and “the balanced scorecard.” From business process management (BPM) to “big data”, and now the architectures and tools that everyone is talking about.

The one golden thread that ties each of these terms, ideas and innovations together is that each is aiming to solve the questions related to what we are today calling “big data.” At the core of it all, we are searching for the right way to enable the explosion of data and analytics that today’s organizations are faced with, to simply be harnessed and understood. People call this the “logical data warehouse”, “big data architecture”, “next-generation data architecture”, “modern data architecture”, “unified data architecture”, or (I just saw last week) “unified data platform”.  What is all the fuss about, and what is really new?  My goal in this post and the next few will be to explain how the customers I work with are attacking the “big data” problem. We call it the Teradata Unified Data Architecture, but whatever you call it, the goals and concepts remain the same.

Mark Beyer from Gartner is credited with coining the term “logical data warehouse” and there is an interesting story and explanation. A nice summary of the term is,

The logical data warehouse is the next significant evolution of information integration because it includes ALL of its progenitors and demands that each piece of previously proven engineering in the architecture should be used in its best and most appropriate place.  …

And

… The logical data warehouse will finally provide the information services platform for the applications of the highly competitive companies and organizations in the early 21st Century.”

The idea of this next-generation architecture is simple: When organizations put ALL of their data to work, they can make smarter decisions.

It sounds easy, but as data volumes and data types explode, so does the need for more tools in your toolbox to help make sense of it all. Within your toolbox, data is NOT all nails and you definitely need to be armed with more than a hammer.

In my view, enterprise data architectures are evolving to let organizations capture more data. The data was previously untapped because the hardware costs required to store and process the enormous amount of data was simply too big. However, the declining costs of hardware (thanks to Moore’s law) have opened the door for more data (types, volumes, etc.) and processing technologies to be successful. But no singular technology can be engineered and optimized for every dimension of analytic processing including scale, performance or concurrent workloads.

Thus, organizations are creating best-of-breed architectures by taking advantage of new technologies and workload-specific platforms such as MapReduce, Hadoop, MPP data warehouses, discovery platforms and event processing, and putting them together into, a seamless, transparent and powerful analytic environment. This modern enterprise architecture enables users to get deep business insights and allows ALL data to be available to an organization, creating competitive advantage while lowering the total system cost.

But why not just throw all your data into files and put a search engine like Google on top? Why not just build a data warehouse and extend it with support for “unstructured” data? Because, in the world of big data, the one-size-sits-all approach simply doesn’t work.

Different technologies are more efficient at solving different analytical or processing problems. To steal an analogy from Dave Schrader—a colleague of mine—it’s not unlike a hybrid car. The Toyota Prius can average 47 mpg with hybrid (gas and electric) vs. 24 mpg with a “typical” gas-only car – almost double! But you do not pay twice as much for the car.

How’d they do it? Toyota engineered a system that uses gas when I need to accelerate fast (and also to recharge the battery at the same time), electric mostly when driving around town, and braking to recharge the battery.

Three components integrated seamlessly – the driver doesn’t need to know how it works.  It is the same idea with the Teradata UDA, which is a hybrid architecture for extracting the most insights per unit of time – at least doubling your insight capabilities at reasonable cost. And, business users don’t need to know all of the gory details. Teradata builds analytic engines—much like the hybrid drive train Toyota builds— that are optimized and used in combinations with different ecosystem tools depending on customer preferences and requirements, within their overall data architecture.

In the case of the hybrid car, battery power and braking systems, which recharge the battery, are the “new innovations” combined with gas-powered engines. Similarly, there are several innovations in data management and analytics that are shaping the unified data architecture, such as discovery platforms and Hadoop. Each customer’s architecture is different depending on requirements and preferences, but the Teradata Unified Data Architecture recommends three core components that are key components in a comprehensive architecture – a data platform (often called “Data Lake”), a discovery platform and an integrated data warehouse. There are other components such as event processing, search, and streaming which can be used in data architectures, but I’ll focus on the three core areas in this blog post.

Data Lakes

In many ways, this is not unlike the operational data store we’ve seen between transactional systems and the data warehouse, but the data lake is bigger and less structured. Any file can be “dumped” in the lake with no attention to data integration or transformation. New technologies like Hadoop provide a file-based approach to capturing large amounts of data without requiring ETL in advance. This enables large-scale data processing for data refining, structuring, and exploring data prior to downstream analysis in workload-specific systems, which are used to discover new insights and then move those insights into business operations for use by hundreds of end-users and applications.

Discovery Platforms

Discovery platforms are a new workload-specific system that is optimized to perform multiple analytic techniques in a single workflow to combine SQL with statistics, MapReduce, graph, or text analysis to look at data from multiple perspectives. The goal is to ultimately provide more granular and accurate insights to users about their business. Discovery Platforms enable a faster investigative analytical process to find new patterns in data, identify different types fraud or consumer behavior that traditional data mining approaches may have missed.

Integrated Data Warehouses

With all the excitement about what’s new, companies quickly forget the value of consistent, integrated data for reuse across the enterprise. The integrated data warehouse has become a mission-critical operational system which is the point of value realization or “operationalization” for information. The data within a massively parallel data warehouse has been cleansed, and provides a consistent source of data for enterprise analytics. By integrating relevant data from across the entire organization, a couple key goals are achieved. First, they can answer the kind of sophisticated, impactful questions that require cross-functional analyses. Second, they can answer questions more completely by making relevant data available across all levels of the organization. Data lakes (Hadoop) and discovery platforms complement the data warehouse by enriching it with new data and new insights that can now be delivered to 1000’s of users and applications with consistent performance (i.e., they get the information they need quickly).

A critical part of incorporating these novel approaches to data management and analytics is putting new insights and technologies into production in reliable, secure and manageable ways for organizations.  Fundamentals of master data management, metadata, security, data lineage, integrated data and reuse all still apply!

The excitement of experimenting with new technologies is fading. More and more, our customers are asking us about ways to put the power of new systems (and the insights they provide) into large-scale operation and production. This requires unified system management and monitoring, intelligent query routing, metadata about incoming data and the transformations applied throughout the data processing and analytical process, and role-based security that respects and applies data privacy, encryption and other policies required. This is where I will spend a good bit of time on my next blog post.



20
Feb
   

Ever since Aster Data became part of Teradata a couple years ago, we have been fortunate to have the resources and focus to accelerate our rate of product innovation. In the past 8 months alone, we have led the market in deploying big analytics on Hadoop and introducing an ultra-fast appliance for discovering big data insights. Our focus is to provide the market with the best big data discovery platform; that is, the most efficient, cost-effective, and enterprise-friendly way to extract valuable business insights form massive piles of structured and unstructured data.

Today I am excited to announce another significant innovation that extends our lead in this direction. For the first time, we are introducing in-database, SQL-MapReduce-based visualization functions, as part of the Teradata Aster Discovery Platform 5.10 software release. These are functions that take the output of an analytical process (either SQL or MapReduce) and create an interactive data visualization that can be accessed directly from our platform through any web browser. There are several functions that we are introducing with today’s announcement, including functions that let you visualize flows of people or events, graphs, and arbitrary patterns. These functions complement your existing BI solution by extending the types of information you can visualize without adding the complexity of another BI deployment.

It did take some significant engineering effort and innovation from our field in working with customers to make a discovery platform produce in-database, in-process visualizations. So, why bother? Because these functions have three powerful characteristics: they are beautiful; powerful; and instant. Let me elaborate in reverse order.

Instant: the goal of a discovery platform like Aster’s is to accelerate the hypothesis –> analysis –> validation iteration process. One of the major big data challenges is that the data is so complex that you don’t even know what questions to ask. So you start with 10s or 100s of possible questions that you need to quickly implement and validate until you find the couple questions that extract the gold nuggets of information from the data. Besides analyzing the data, having access to instant visualizations can help data scientists and business analysts understand if they are down the right path of finding the insights they’re looking for. Being able to rapidly analyze and – now – visualize the insights in-process can rapidly accelerate the discovery cycle and save an analysts time and cost by more than 80% as has been recently validated.    

Powerful: Aster comes with a broad library of pre-built SQL-MapReduce functions. Some of the most powerful, like nPath, crunch terabytes of customer or event data and produce patterns of activity that yield significant insights in a single pass of the data, regardless of the complexity of the pattern or history being analyzed. In the past, visualizing these insights required a lot of work – even after the insight was generated. This is because there were no specialized visualization tools that could consume the insight as-is to produce the visualizations. Abstracting the insights in order to visualize them is sub-optimal since it is killing the ‘a-ha!’ moment. With today’s announcement, we provide analysts with the ability to natively visualize concepts such as a graph of interactions or patterns of customer behavior with no compromises and no additional effort!

Beautiful: We all know that numbers and data are only as good as the story that goes with them. By having access to instant, powerful and also aesthetically beautiful in-database visualizations, you can do justice to your insights and communicate them effectively to the rest of the organization, whether that means business clients, executives, or peer analysts.

In addition, with this announcement we are introducing four buckets of pre-built SQL-MapReduce functions, I.e. Java functions that can be accessed through a familiar SQL or BI interface. These buckets are Data Acquisition (connecting to external sources and acquiring data); Data Preparation (manipulate structured and unstructured data to quickly prepare for analysis); Data Analytics (everything from path and pattern analysis to statistics and marketing analytics); and Data Visualization (introduced today). This is the most powerful collection of big data tools available in the industry today, and we’re proud to provide them to our customers.

Teradata Aster Discovery Portfolio - figure 2

Teradata Aster Discovery Portfolio

Our belief is that our industry is still scratching the surface in terms of providing powerful analytical tools to enterprises that help them find more valuable insights, more quickly and more easily. With today’s launch, the Teradata Aster Discovery Platform reconfirms its lead as the most powerful and enterprise-friendly tool for big data analytics.



18
Dec
   

It’s been about two months since Teradata launched the Aster Big Analytics Appliance and since then we have had the opportunity to showcase the appliance to various customers, prospects, partners, analysts, journalists etc. We are pleased to report that since the launch the appliance has already received the “Ventana Big Data Technology of the Year” award and has been well received by industry experts and customers alike.

Over the past two months, starting with the launch tweetchat, we have received numerous enqueries around the appliance and think now is a good time to answer the top 10 most frequently asked questions about the new Teradata Aster offering. Without further ado here are the top 10 questions and their answers:

WHAT IS THE TERADATA ASTER BIG ANALYTICS APPLIANCE?

The Aster Big Analytics Appliance is a powerful, ready to-run platform that is pre-configured and optimized specifically for big data storage and analysis. A purpose built, integrated hardware and software solution for analytics at big data scale, the appliance runs Teradata Aster patented SQL-MapReduce® and SQL-H technology on a time-tested, fully supported Teradata hardware platform. Depending on workload needs, it can be exclusively configured with Aster nodes, Hortonworks Data Platform (HDP) Hadoop nodes, or a mixture of Aster and Hadoop nodes. Additionally, integrated backup nodes are available for data protection and high availability

WHO WILL BENEFIT MOST BY DEPLOYING THE APPLIANCE?

The appliance is designed for organizations looking for a turnkey integrated hardware and software solution to store, manage and analyze structured and unstructured data (ie: multi-structured data formats). The appliance meets the needs of both departmental and enterprise-wide buyers and can scale linearly to support massive data volumes.

WHY DO I NEED THIS APPLIANCE?

This appliance can help you gain valuable insights from all of your multi-structured data. Using these insights, you can optimize business processes to reduce cost and better serve your customers. More importantly, these insights can help you innovate by identifying new markets, new products, new business models etc. For example, by using the appliance a telecommunications company can analyze multi-structured customer interaction data across multiple channels such as web, call center and retail stores to identify the path customers take to churn. This insight can be used proactively to increase customer retention and improve customer satisfaction.

WHAT’S UNIQUE ABOUT THE APPLIANCE?

The appliance is an industry first in tightly integrating SQL-MapReduce®, SQL-H and Apache Hadoop. The appliance delivers a tightly integrated hardware and software solution to store, manage and analyze big data. The appliance delivers integrated interfaces for analytics and administration, so all types of multi-structured data can be quickly and easily analyzed through SQL based interfaces. This means that you can continue to use your favorite BI tools and all existing skill sets while deploying new data management and analytics technologies like Hadoop and MapReduce. Furthermore, the appliance delivers enterprise class reliability to allow technologies like Hadoop to now be used for mission critical applications with stringent SLA requirements.

WHY DID TERADATA BRING ASTER & HADOOP TOGETHER?

With the Aster Big Analytics Appliance, we are not just putting Aster and Hadoop in the same box. The Aster Big Analytics Appliance is the industry’s first unified big analytics appliance, providing a powerful, ready to run big analytics and discovery platform that is pre-configured and optimized specifically for big data analysis. It provides intrinsic integration between the Aster Database and Apache Hadoop, and we believe that customers will benefit the most by having these two systems in the same appliance.

Teradata’s vision stems from the Unified Data Architecture. The Aster Big Analytics Appliance offers customers the flexibility to configure the appliance to meet their needs. Hadoop is best for capture, storing and refining multi-structured data in batch whereas Aster is a big analytics and discovery platform that helps derive new insights from all types of data. Hadoop is best for capture, storing and refining multi-structured data in batch. Depending on the customer’s needs, the appliance can be configured with all Aster nodes, all Hadoop nodes or a mix of the two.

WHAT SKILLS DO I NEED TO DEPLOY THE APPLIANCE?

The Aster Big Analytics appliance is an integrated hardware and software solution for big data analytics, storage, and management, which is also designed as a plug and play solution that does not require special skill sets.

DOES THE APPLIANCE MAKE DATA SCIENTISTS OR DATA ANALYSTS IRRELEVANT?

Absolutely not. By integrating the hardware and software in an easy to use solution and providing easy to use interfaces for administration and analytics, the appliance allows data scientists to spend more time analyzing data.

In fact, with this simplified solution, your data scientists and analysts are freed from the constraints of data storage and management and can now spend their time on value added insights generation that ultimately leads to a greater fulfillment of your organization’s end goals.

HOW IS THE APPLIANCE PRICED?

Teradata doesn’t disclose product pricing as part of its standard business operating procedures. However, independent research conducted by industry analyst Dr. Richard Hackathorn, president and founder, Bolder Technology Inc., confirms that on a TCO and Time-to-Value basis the appliance presents a more attractive option vs. commonly available do-it-yourself solutions. http://teradata.com/News-Releases/2012/Teradata-Big-Analytics-Appliance-Enables-New-Business-Insights-on–All-Enterprise-Data/

WHAT OTHER ASTER DEPLOYMENT OPTIONS ARE AVAILABLE?

Besides deploying via the appliance, customers can also acquire and deploy Aster as a software only solution on commodity hardware] or in a public cloud.

WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFORMATION?

You can learn more about the Big Analytics Appliance via http://asterdata.com/big-analytics-appliance/  – home to release information, news about the appliance, product info (data sheet, solution brief, demo) and Aster Express tutorials.

 

Join the conversation on Twitter for additional Q&A with our experts:

Manan Goel @manangoel | Teradata Aster @asterdata

 

For additional information please contact Teradata at http://www.teradata.com/contact-us/