ParAccel to speed up data appliance with flash memory

ParAccel Inc. will release a version of its columnar database appliance with flash memory attached to the server's motherboard that it says will boost data reading speeds by up to 15 times.

The flash memory cards will be connected to the CPUs of the ParAccel Scalable Analytic Appliance II via a PCI Express (PCIe) interface. That is much faster than using flash memory in the form of solid-state drives (SSDs) connected via the speediest hard-disk interfaces, said Barry Zane, the company's CTO.

The flash cards will be supplied by "the biggest name in enterprise flash," said Zane. That is likely Fusion-io, the flash storage startup that has Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak as chief scientist and is widely considered the leader in high-performance flash storage.

The flash-enabled SAA II will be officially available this quarter, but some ParAccel customers are already trying it out, Zane said. ParAccel already offers SAA II customers the option to use flash storage arrays from EMC Corp.

ParAccel apparently jumps ahead of the pack of data warehousing upstarts, which include Greenplum Inc., Netezza Inc., Aster Data Inc., and others. Two established players have preceded it, however.

Oracle Inc. released its Exadata 2 Database Machine last fall which uses PCIe-connected flash storage cards.

Teradata Inc. announced the Extreme Performance Appliance 4555 that uses flash-based SSDs last October and plans to release it the first half of this year.

Zane argued that ParAccel's configuration -- which uses 640 GB of flash per server appliance -- beats Oracle for data warehousing.

"The amount of flash they are using per server is significantly lower than ours," Zane said. "That makes wonderful sense for OLTP (transactional) databases, where you can keep things like heads of indices or small recently-used tables, but it doesn't make sense for data warehouses where you analyzing huge swathes of data."

Teradata's use of SSDs, meanwhile, will likely lead to the problem of "disk controllers not designed for high-speed flash constraining your I/O rate," he said.

Zane grants that flash memory remains too expensive per-byte for many customers. But for those needing high performance, flash is nearly equal to regular disk drives on a price-per-MB-transferred-second basis.

He argues also that ParAccel's design -- which includes heavy compression and excludes indices, materialized views and projections -- means that its databases take up much less space than rivals.

"Other databases where the storage is bloated out are going to have more trouble leveraging flash in a cost-effective way," he said.

Eric Lai covers Windows and Linux, desktop applications, databases and business intelligence for Computerworld . Follow Eric on Twitter at @ericylai , send e-mail to or subscribe to Eric's RSS feed .

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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