Greenplum Offers Greener Pastures in Data Warehousing

Company officials hope new scalability and performance capabilities will help push the company ahead of its competitors in the space.

Greenplum wants to challenge the heavyweights in the data warehousing space, and it is banking on scalability, performance and pricing to do so.

The company was founded in 2003 and counts Oracle, Teradata and Netezza among its chief competitors in the data warehousing market. However, the data warehousing space is crowded with other, larger players with established customer bases, such as DATAllegro and database heavyweights IBM and Microsoft. But it is in the areas of scalability and pricing that Greenplum officials hope they can separate themselves from the pack.

"There are many data storage solutions in the marketplace," said Luke Lonergan, Greenplum's chief technology officer and co-founder. "Teradata is ... quite well suited for BI [business intelligence] and DW [data warehousing], but because of their proprietary hardware and software bundle, they are price-prohibitive for companies facing 100-plus terabyte requirements. ... We see a similar situation vis-a-vis Netezza. So we see ourselves as [a] peer to Teradata and Netezza but with a substantially lower price for the same or better performance and capacity."

Lonergan also said that because Greenplum's offering is a software-only product, it can be delivered as stand-alone product or in a complete appliance solution, as the company does with Sun Microsystems.

Greenplum's software is based on the PostgreSQL database. Its latest version, Greenplum 3, was released Feb. 11 and has been designed to scale to support the demands of petabyte data warehousing, according to the company. Fully parallel loading enables the software to load in excess of 3.5TB per hour, company officials said. In addition, the company has added support for numerous ANSI SQL 2003 compliant OLAP functions including Windowing Extensions, Grouping Extensions, and Aggregate Extensions to help users perform advanced analytic functions such as rollup, cube, grouping sets and multi-argument aggregation.

The massively parallel processing architecture of G3 allows these operations to be executed faster, Lonergan said.

"The resulting benefit to the end user is that now a lot of the heavy lifting that pertains to computation-intensive analytics is happening at the database level in parallel, which significantly increases the speed of these operations relative to other architectures that perform them in serial or on the client machine," he said.

The company also improved workload management, allowing administrators to evaluate usage patterns and behaviors and then adjust user configurations accordingly.

"The primary target customers for the Greenplum Database are large enterprises," Lonergan said. "These are the kind of companies that are at the leading edge of massive data creation and are in need of a solution which can manage current terabyte-level requirements, but also can scale up to petabytes in the future because of the [massively parallel processing] architecture on which [the] Greenplum database is based. [The] future success of Greenplum is dependent upon our ongoing development of this product for higher speed data loading, higher speed scanning/queries, and finally the expansion of our routes to market with hardware and reseller partners."

The company just received a total of $27 million in funding from venture capitalist firm Meritech Capital Partners, Sun Microsystems and SAP. The partnership between the company and Sun, which recently moved to acquire MySQL AB and has also been a supporter of PostgreSQL, could offer Greenplum just the opportunity it needs to expand, Gartner analyst Donald Feinberg said.

"Take the following scenario-they partner with Sun to supply a DW appliance; Sun now has MySQL and the sales force really starts to come up to speed on DBMS; they have the customer base of Sun plus MySQL (and) this gives the sales force many customers to visit for Greenplum," he said. "Summary-yes the can challenge the standard DW vendors if they continue with the successes they have had, and they are not standing still as can be seen with release 3."