Monday, January 15

Are BI appliances falling short?

The one truth that I know is that BI/DW appliances are here and penetrating the BI market. IBM, Teradata, Netezza, and DATAllegro are well known vendors.

But are they a viable solution for you?

Questions that come immediately to mind are: Will appliances be cheaper to implement? Do they have an overall lower cost because they combine hardware and software? Are they cheaper to support? Will I require specialized people to support an appliance?

[Quick description of BI appliances from a non-technology perspective: BI appliances are a combination of hardware and software that are packaged together to provide high-performing, streamlined BI solutions. BI appliances are relatively new to the market but promise a high price-to-performance ratio.]

To build a typical BI system, today you would have to find a hardware vendor, a BI software vendor, and a separate consulting partner (or internal resources) to implement your BI solution -- then you would tune for performance. This can be a complicated process but are using appliances any better?

Here is a link to DATAllegro's CIO Whitepaper Series where I read Bloor Research's Truth about DW appliances white paper by Philip Howard (head's up: he is a bit techy in his explanations). Thank you Fayu for passing this on to me.

In the past, I have questioned whether appliances are ready for prime time. Or are they best for a market niche. To help answer these questions, Philip's white paper suggests the following common myths (concerns) of appliances:
  1. Unfortunately, appliances are proprietary
  2. Only good for data marts, not Enterprise Data Warehouses
  3. It's easier to build your own appliance
  4. Support is split between the appliance and hardware vendors

Philip does give alternative perspectives to these concerns but I didn't walk away evangelistic about appliances. I think this whitepaper was meant to address 'typical' objections vendors try to overcome. So I may just need to hear from those working directly with BI appliances to understand all the great benefits.

Anyone with direct experience willing to comment?

But unless you know something I don't and you don't know whether you need an appliance, then you probably don't.


Joseph A. di Paolantonio said...


One other DW appliance is from Sun & Greenplum, using open source solutions.

In all the years that we've been doing data analytics solutions, the choice of a hardware vendor was never a hard one. What did the IT shop use? With what vendors did they already have established relations? OK, done.

Which machine(s) from those vendors and which software to run on them... ah, that's where the user needs drive the decisions.

Selecting an appliance should be much the same. Will the hardware fit into your infrastructure? Do the functions provided by the appliance meet your users' needs? Are there total cost of ownership [a.k.a. life cycle cost] benefits to choosing the appliance route?

An appliance may be a cost effective choice for a prototype or for data marts pulling from an enterprise operational data store or data warehouse.

I would be interested in any case studies of anyone using appliances as "building blocks" for an enterprise data warehouse. But I don't know of any.

JasonM said...

The whitepaper series is good, but not something I can pass on to a CIO or CFO.