Volume 4, Number 15 -- April 26, 2007

HP Chases Data Warehousing Dollars with Tweaked NonStop Servers

Published: April 26, 2007

by Timothy Prickett Morgan

Sometimes you don't have to teach an old dog a new trick, but rather just remember that the dog used to know other tricks than the one it does today. And so it is with a new data warehousing platform called Neoview from Hewlett-Packard, which is based on the company's fault tolerant NonStop product line. The NonStop servers, which were created by some ex-HPers a few decades ago, have traditionally been used for high volume transaction processing.

Engineering a stack of server and storage hardware and operating system and database software to do OLTP requires a different set of optimizations than a product line for doing business intelligence, and HP knows this. But according to Ben Barnes, vice president and general manager of the business intelligence group at HP, the NonStop experts who were looking for new places to sell the revitalized NonStop line, which was moved to variants of the Itanium-based Integrity server line from HP in June 2006 after years of development, remembered that the original Tandem fault tolerant server designs were not just aimed at OLTP workloads that offered the only practical alternative to a mainframe in the early 1990s, but also had a an operating system (a variant of Unix) and a clustered database that could be (and was) optimized for doing advanced SQL queries against large databases--what was called data warehousing a decade ago and which is now called business intelligence.

While the Neoview product is based on the NonStop hardware and software, HP doesn't want to give the wrong impression. "We are Oracle's number one data warehousing provider for servers and storage, and we have no plans to change that," says Barnes. "But while a general purpose database can do wonderful transaction processing, they get tapped out when they have to deal with large data sets and complex queries. This product is really designed for high-speed queries and scans without requiring a lot of tuning," he says, contrasting this with a general purpose cluster of databases on a stock Windows, Unix, or Linux operating system, which often requires a lot of fiddling around. "This approach is what has allowed Teradata and a number of data warehousing appliance vendors to be successful."

The current iteration of the NonStop Unix kernel and its NonStop SQL database is optimized for OLTP, and Neoview has a variant of this software that is optimized for business intelligence workloads--something Tandem did years ago. "It was like a hidden jewel that we found," says Barnes.

The underlying hardware in the product is based on the rx2620 Integrity server. This Integrity machine is a two-socket, 2U rack-mounted server that originally used Intel's "Madison" Itanium 2 processor; the box can be equipped with the dual-core "Montecito" Itanium 9000 processors chips to provide a single chassis that has four processor cores. The Neoview product, says Barnes, can scale from a base of 16 cores and has been configured as bundled systems in configurations as large as 256 processor cores and hundreds of terabytes of data. (HP is configuring its own StorageWorks arrays to the machine, of course.) Barnes says that the 16-core box can be thought of as a data warehouse appliance, a starter box, while the top-end machine can handle thousands of users doing complex queries. The Neoview system is designed to scale as far as 1,024 cores using future "Tukwila" octo-core Itanium processors. It is interesting to note that the top-end NonStop NS16000 server for fault tolerant clusters can span up to 4,080 Itanium processor sockets. So the upper limit on Neoview could, in theory, be a lot higher than HP is initially offering.

Barnes estimates that the market for decision support systems is approximately $50 billion a year, and is growing at about 10 percent annually, including hardware, software, and services. The Neoview product aims at all three parts of the market, and will leverage the expertise of the 700 business intelligence experts that HP got when it acquired Knightsbridge Solutions last December.

Interestingly, HP itself is the first customer for the Neoview product. Randy Mott, HP's chief information officer, is spearheading a massive consolidation of HP's own data centers, moving from 85 data centers with 25,000 servers down to three mirrored data centers with 14,000 servers; the application stack is also shrinking at HP, too, from about 5,000 to somewhere between 1,100 and 1,500 by the time Mott is through. And one of the key applications is a Neoview data warehouse, which will consolidate some 762 data warehouses and data marts at HP down to a single data warehouse. That project is about half done, and will probably take another 18 months to finish, according to Barnes.

The base Neoview data warehouse appliance comes with 16 processors, the NonStop Unix and database, and a slew of services; it has an entry price of $645,000.


HP Taps Fink to Run Business Critical Systems Division

HP Scales Down NonStop Servers to Chase New Customers

NonStop Fault Tolerant Servers Jump to Itanium

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Editor: Timothy Prickett Morgan
Contributing Editors: Dan Burger, Joe Hertvik,
Shannon O'Donnell, Timothy Prickett Morgan
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