What Defines a DW Appliance?
What, exactly, is a data warehousing appliance: hardware, software, or a combination of the two?
Last month’s acquisition of DATAllegro Corp. by Microsoft Corp. raised many questions. Some, such as “What are Redmond’s precise plans in the data warehouse (DW) appliance segment?” probably won’t be answered for a few months yet, which is par for the course in any acquisition.
Microsoft’s move also raised questions about the DW appliance segment itself. For example, when is an appliance truly an appliance? At a time when many vendors — including, to a degree, DATAllegro itself — tout DW appliance software that is decoupled from (or, at least, not inextricably married to) an underlying hardware platform, it’s an intriguing question.
DATAllegro — with its February, 2007 announcement of a range of appliances based on Dell Computer Corp. servers, EMC Corp. storage, and Cisco Systems Inc. networking interconnects — seemed to sever its appliance line from any explicit dependency on hardware. DATAllegro’s “appliances” still require dedicated device drivers, experts say, but can run across a range of off-the-shelf hardware configurations. DATAllegro, for example, has since added systems from EU hardware stalwart Bull (developer of the NovaScale line of servers) to its appliance line.
It’s a point that DATAllegro officials were at pains to make last month, talking up the importance of DW “reference architectures” — in which DW software is certified to run on top of a range of different hardware configurations — to RDBMS giants such as Microsoft and Oracle Corp. (see http://esj.com/business_intelligence/article.aspx?EditorialsID=9056).
“Reference architectures are the way major vendors have co-opted the appliance story. A big part of why [Microsoft] bought us is that we have the expertise and the ability to take that [reference architecture] to a whole new level and leapfrog Oracle in [terms of] getting that reference architecture right,” said Frost.