Greenplum Eyes Data Warehouses

With a little help from Sun, startup sets sights on database giant Oracle

February 10, 2007

4 Min Read
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Startup Greenplum is tying open source software to Sun's "Thumper" server-storage hardware in an attempt to challenge Oracle in the data warehousing market.

The startup's flagship product is the Greenplum database, which it claims can process data much faster than traditional databases, thanks largely to a recent partnership with Sun. (See Sun, Greenplum Unveil App.)

Last year Greenplum signed a deal to resell its software, which is based on the open source PostgresSQL database, on Sun's X4500 appliance. The device, code-named "Thumper" packs up to 24 Tbytes of SATA disk storage in a rack-mounted system with two dual-core AMD Opteron "x64" processors (See Sun Thumps Storage-Server Hybrid, Joyent, and Sun Reveals Roadmap.)

This week the two firms announced their first customer for the package, which is sold as Sun's Data Warehouse Appliance. Philipines-based wireless service Smart Communications has deployed the appliance to trawl data on its 22 million subscribers and run checks on fraud and billing information. (See Smart Signs Greenplum.) Pricing for Sun's Data Warehouse Appliance starts at around $22,000 per Tbyte for a 20-Tbyte configuration

Greenplum CTO Luke Lonergan told Byte and Switch that the database can run rapid queries as a result of the Thumper architecture. "Each CPU core [is] right next to its own private storage," he says, adding that this enables the transfer of data around 50 times faster than a typical Oracle database.Oracle did not respond to Byte and Switch's request for comment on this claim, although the database giant is not the only vendor playing in the data warehousing space. Greenplum is also up against IBM, Teradata, and startups Netezza and DATAllegro. (See IBM Streamlines BI ,LSI Powers Teradata, and Netezza Nets $15M More.)

Despite such well-established competition, persuading firms to overhaul their existing infrastructure could be easier said than done. "Our application developers couldn't and wouldn't do it," says Doug Mackie, vice president of enterprise technology at Port Washington, New York-based market research firm NPD Group.

NPD uses Oracle on HP Itanium servers tied to a data warehousing appliance from DataAllegro. "That works fine for us," explained Mackie, although a recent attempt to change this infrastructure proved too much of a technical hassle. "I wanted to change to DB2 two years ago, [but] it was too much of a challenge for the application development group."

It is hardly surprising, then, that Greenplum is boosting its sales and marketing efforts. This week the vendor clinched $19 million in funding and debt financing, bringing its total funding to just over $30 million. (See Greenplum Closes $19M.)

The San Mateo, Calif.-based startup also appointed former Sun exec Bill Cook as its CEO this week. Cook, Sun's former U.S. vice president of sales, told Byte and Switch that the cash influx will help grow the vendor's headcount from 50 to around 70 people by the end of the year, mostly in sales.Greenplum is also planning to extend its operations in Asia, according to the exec, and is likely to open an office in Singapore in the near future. "We see quite an uptick in our business in southeast Asia," says Cook, adding that Sun has a strong presence in the region.

The exec also refused to rule out the possibility of partnerships with other storage vendors. "We're really happy with the Sun partnership, but we have options to do other things down the road," he explains. That said, that there are no "immediate plans" to replicate the Sun deal with someone else, he says.

Sun's storage business has become something of a pain point for the company, which is still wrestling with its $4.1 billion StorageTek acquisition. (See StorageTek Users Voice Support Fears, and Sun to Acquire StorageTek for $4.1B.) The firm has at least started to sell its Thumper devices, which is said to be the first in a family of server/storage hybrids from the firm. (See Storage Slows Down Sun.)

Greenplum, for its part, also offers its software as a standalone product, running on Linux-based x86 servers. Cook told Byte and Switch that Greenplum has between 15 and 20 total customers, although only a couple of these, Frontier Airlines and O'Reilly Media, have been made public.

James Rogers, Senior Editor Byte and Switch

  • Greenplum

  • Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)

  • Netezza Corp.

  • Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW)

  • Teradata0

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