SQL Chip Gives MySQL Data Warehouse Boost

Kickfire says its chip loosens the I/O bottleneck by pulling data directly from memory without registers or cache.

A SQL chip for every MySQL database server-that's the vision of Kickfire, a startup with its eyes on the data warehousing market.

The company contends that its new SQL chip, built into the Kickfire Database Appliance the company unveiled April 14 as a beta, loosens the I/O bottleneck that slows data queries by pulling data directly from memory without the need for registers or cache. The product is slated to be generally available in fall of 2008.

With Kickfire technology, a SQL query is broken into a parallel execution plan that is then fed to the chip, allowing it to process the data in parallel. After the sought-after data is retrieved from memory in a compressed format, it flows into the SQL chip and is processed as it passes through.

"The way the SQL chip fits into existing hardware is exactly analogous to the way a graphics chip connects to its host server," said Steve Dille, Kickfire's vice president of marketing. "The SQL chip acts like a co-processor to the general-purpose CPU in the host server, just as in the case of graphics chips."

According to Dille, Kickfire's SQL chip has parallelism built in, allowing the appliance to perform at the load speeds of multiple CPUs. In addition, Kickfire has incremental load capabilities for MySQL, providing the ability to track changes on the source database and then automatically move them into the Kickfire appliance.

Tuned for query processing and data warehousing

Though the data warehousing market is dominated by vendors like IBM, Oracle and Teradata, open-source databases have made headway in the space through companies such as Greenplum-based on PostgreSQL-and Infobright, which works with MySQL. Wayne Eckerson, director of research at TDWI (The Data Warehousing Institute), said Kickfire's technology could help speed the adoption of MySQL in the data warehouse.

"MySQL really hasn't been tuned for query processing and [data warehousing], so this is a great step," Eckerson said. "I think [Kickfire will] do well. I've seen a lot of query accelerators come and go in the past, but obviously they are tracking a trend that's been validated by a rash of startups in the past 18 months seeking to improve DW query performance."

Dille said Kickfire decided to focus on the MySQL market for both technical and business reasons. Most database appliances have taken an open-source database like PostgreSQL and then altered the code until it became in essence another proprietary database, he said.

"MySQL supports pluggable storage engines within the MySQL standard. We were able to be part of a standard database and still make our innovations in the SQL chip and database kernel underneath MySQL," Dille said. "On the business side, MySQL is the world's most popular open-source database, so there is a large market of 11 million active installations that do not have access to a high-performance database appliance such as Kickfire."

Focusing on customers that have adopted MySQL for data warehousing gives the company an opportunity to grow, IDC analyst Henry Morris said.

"The combination of the integrated appliance with the most popular open-source database should gain attention in the marketplace," Morris said.