“We believe that businesses today are looking for ways to leverage the large amounts of data collected, which is driving them to try to minimize, or eliminate, the delay between event, insight, and action to embed data-driven intelligence into their real-time business processes.” –Simon Player
I have interviewed Simon Player, Director of Development for TrakCare and Data Platforms, Helene Lengler, Regional Director for DACH & BeNeLux, and Joe Lichtenberg, Director of Marketing for Data Platforms. All three work at InterSystems. We talked about the new InterSystems IRIS Data Platform.
Q1. You recently announced the InterSystems IRIS Data Platform®. What is it?
Simon Player: We believe that businesses today are looking for ways to leverage the large amounts of data collected, which is driving them to try to minimize, or eliminate, the delay between event, insight, and action to embed data-driven intelligence into their real-time business processes.
It is time for database software to evolve and offer multiple capabilities to manage that business data within a single, integrated software solution. This is why we chose to include the term ‘data platform’ in the product’s name.
InterSystems IRIS Data Platform supports transactional and analytic workloads concurrently, in the same engine, without requiring moving, mapping, or translating the data, eliminating latency and complexity. It incorporates multiple, disparate and dissimilar data sources, supports embedded real-time analytics, easily scales for growing data and user volumes, interoperates seamlessly with other systems, and provides flexible, agile, Dev Ops-compatible deployment capabilities.
InterSystems IRIS provides concurrent transactional and analytic processing capabilities; support for multiple, fully synchronized data models (relational, hierarchical, object, and document); a complete interoperability platform for integrating disparate data silos and applications; and sophisticated structured and unstructured analytics capabilities supporting both batch and real-time use cases in a single product built from the ground up with a single architecture. The platform also provides an open analytics environment for incorporating best-of-breed analytics into InterSystems IRIS solutions, and offers flexible deployment capabilities to support any combination of cloud and on-premises deployments.
Q2. How is InterSystems IRIS Data Platform positioned with respect to other Big Data platforms in the market (e.g. Amazon Web Services, Cloudera, Hortonworks Data Platform, Google Cloud Platform, IBM Watson Data Platform and Watson Analytics, Oracle Data Cloud system, Microsoft Azure, to name a few) ?
Joe Lichtenberg: Unlike other approaches that require organizations to implement and integrate different technologies, InterSystems IRIS delivers all of the functionality in a single product with a common architecture and development experience, making it faster and easier to build real-time, data rich applications. However it is an open environment and can integrate with existing technologies already in use in the customer’s environment.
Q3. How do you ensure High Performance with Horizontal and Vertical Scalability?
Simon Player: Scaling a system vertically by increasing its capacity and resources is a common, well-understood practice. Recognizing this, InterSystems IRIS includes a number of built-in capabilities that help developers leverage the gains and optimize performance. The main areas of focus are Memory, IOPS and Processing management. Some of these tuning mechanisms operate transparently, while others require specific adjustments on the developer’s own part to take full advantage.
One example of those capabilities is parallel query execution, built on a flexible infrastructure for maximizing CPU usage, it spawns one process per CPU core, and is most effective with large data volumes, such as analytical workloads that make large aggregation.
When vertical scaling does not provide the complete solution—for example, when you hit the inevitable hardware (or budget) ceiling—data platforms can also be scaled horizontally. Horizontal scaling fits very well with virtual and cloud infrastructure, in which additional nodes can be quickly and easily provisioned as the workload grows, and decommissioned if the load decreases.
InterSystems IRIS accomplishes this by providing the ability to scale for both increasing user volume and increasing data volume.
For increased user capacity, we leverage a distributed cache with an architectural solution that partitions users transparently across a tier of application servers sitting in front of our data server(s). Each application server handles user queries and transactions using its own cache, while all data is stored on the data server(s), which automatically keeps the application server caches in sync.
For increased data volume, we distribute the workload to a sharded cluster with partitioned data storage, along with the corresponding caches, providing horizontal scaling for queries and data ingestion. In a basic sharded cluster, a sharded table is partitioned horizontally into roughly equal sets of rows called shards, which are distributed across a number of shard data servers. For example, if a table with 100 million rows is partitioned across four shard data servers, each stores a shard containing about 25 million rows. Queries against a sharded table are decomposed into multiple shard-local queries to be run in parallel on multiple servers; the results are then transparently combined and returned to the user. This distributed data layout can further be exploited for parallel data loading and with third party frameworks like Apache Spark.
Horizontal clusters require greater attention to the networking component to ensure that it provides sufficient bandwidth for the multiple systems involved and is entirely transparent to the user and the application.
Q4. How can you simultaneously processes both transactional and analytic workloads in a single database?
Simon Player: At the core of InterSystems IRIS is a proven, enterprise-grade, distributed, hybrid transactional-analytic processing (HTAP) database. It can ingest and store transactional data at very high rates while simultaneously processing high volumes of analytic workloads on real-time data (including ACID-compliant transactional data) and non-real-time data. This architecture eliminates the delays associated with moving real-time data to a different environment for analytic processing. InterSystems IRIS is built on a distributed architecture to support large data volumes, enabling organizations to analyze very large data sets while simultaneously processing large amounts of real-time transactional data.
Q5. There are a wide range of analytics, including business intelligence, predictive analytics, distributed big data processing, real-time analytics, and machine learning. How do you support them in the InterSystems IRIS Data Platform?
Simon Player: Many of these capabilities are built into the platform itself and leverage that tight integration to simultaneously processes both transactional and analytic workloads; however, we realize that there are multiple use cases where customers and partners would like InterSystems IRIS Data Platform to access data on other systems or to build solutions that leverage best-of-breed tools (such as ML algorithms, Spark etc.) to complement our platform and quickly access data stored on it.
That’s why we chose to provide open analytics capabilities supporting industry standard APIs such as UIMA, Java Integration, xDBC and other connectivity options.
Q6. What about third-party analytics tools?
Simon Player: The InterSystems IRIS Data Platform offers embedded analytics capabilities such as business intelligence, distributed big data processing & natural language processing, which can handle both structured and unstructured data with ease. It is designed as an Open Analytics Platform, built around a universal, high-performance and highly scalable data store.
Third-party analytics tools can access data stored on the platform via standard APIs including ODBC, JDBC, .NET, SOAP, REST, and the new Apache Spark Connector. In addition, the platform supports working with industry-standard analytical artifacts such as predictive models expressed in PMML and unstructured data processing components adhering to the UIMA standard.
Q7. How does InterSystems IRIS Data Platform integrate into existing infrastructures and with existing best-of-breed technologies (including your own products)?
Simon Player: InterSystems IRIS offers a powerful, flexible integration technology that enables you to eliminate “siloed” data by connecting people, processes, and applications. It includes the comprehensive range of technologies needed for any connectivity task.
InterSystems IRIS can connect to your existing data and applications, enabling you to leverage your investment, rather than “ripping and replacing.” With its flexible connectivity capabilities, solutions based on InterSystems IRIS can easily be deployed in any client environment.
A comprehensive library of adapters provides out-of-the-box connectivity and data transformations for packaged applications, databases, industry standards, protocols, and technologies – including SQL, SOAP, REST, HTTP, FTP, SAP, TCP, LDAP, Pipe, Telnet, and Email.
Object inheritance minimizes the effort required to build any needed custom adapters. Using InterSystems IRIS’ unit testing service, custom adapters can be tested without first having to complete the entire solution. Traceability of each event allows efficient analysis and debugging.
The InterSystems IRIS messaging engine offers guaranteed message delivery, content-based routing, high-performance message transformation, and support for both synchronous and asynchronous interactions. InterSystems IRIS has a graphical editor for business process orchestration, a business rules engine, and a workflow editor that enable you to automate your enterprise-wide business procedures or create new composite applications. With world-class support for XML, SOAP, JSON and REST, InterSystems
Because it includes a high performance transactional-analytic database, InterSystems IRIS can store and analyze messages as they flow through your system. It enables business activity monitoring, alerting, real-time business intelligence, and event processing.
· Other integration point with industry standards or best-of-breed technologies include the ability to easily transport files between client machines and the server in a secure via our Managed File Transfer (MFT) capability. This functionality leverages state-of-the-art MFT providers like Box, Dropbox and KiteWorks to provide a simple client that non-technical users can install and companies can pre-configure and brand. InterSystems IRIS connects with these providers as a peer and exposes common APIs (e.g. to manage users)
· When using Apache Spark for large distributed data processing and analytics tasks, the Spark Connector will leverage the distributed data layout of sharded tables and push computation as close to the data as possible, increasing parallelism and thus overall throughput significantly vs regular JDBC connections.
Q8. What market segments do you address with IRIS Data Platform?
Helene Lengler: InterSystems IRIS is an open platform that suits virtually any industry, but we will be initially focusing on a couple of core market segments, primarily due to varying regional demand. For instance, we will concentrate on the financial services industry in the US or UK and the retail and logistics market in the DACH and Benelux regions. Additionally, in Germany and Japan, our major focus will be on the manufacturing industry, where we see a rapidly growing demand for data-driven solutions, especially in the areas of predictive maintenance and predictive analytics.
We are convinced that InterSystems IRIS is ideal for this and also for other kinds of IoT applications with its ability to handle large-scale transactional and analytic workloads On top of this, we are also looking to engage with companies that are at the very beginning of product development – in other words, start-ups and innovators working on solutions that require a robust, future-proof data platform.
Q9. Are there any proof of concepts available?
Helene Lengler: Yes. Although the solution has only been available to selected partners for a couple of weeks, we have already completed the first successful migration in Germany. A partner that is offering an Enterprise Information Management System, which allows organizations to archive and access all of an organization’s data, documents, emails and paper files has been able to migrate from InterSystems Caché to InterSystems IRIS in as little as a couple of hours and – most importantly – without any issues at all. The partner decided to move to InterSystems IRIS because they are in the process of signing a contract with one of the biggest players in the German travel & transport industry. With customers like this, you are looking at data volumes in the Petabyte range very, very shortly, meaning you require the right technology from the start in order to be able to scale horizontally – using the InterSystems IRIS technologies such as sharding – as well as vertically.
In addition, we were able to show a live IoT demonstrator at our InterSystems DACH Symposium in November 2017. This proof of concept is actually a lighthouse example of what the new platform’s brings to the table: A team of three different business partners and InterSystems experts leveraged InterSystems IRIS’ capabilities to rapidly develop and implement a fully functional solution for a predictive maintenance scenario. Numerous other test scenarios and PoC’s are currently being conducted in various industry segments with different partners around the globe.
Q10. Can developers already use InterSystems IRIS Data Platform?
Simon Player: Yes. Starting on 1/31, developers can use our sandbox, the InterSystems IRIS Experience, at www.intersystems.com/experience.
Qx. Anything else you wish to add?
Simon Player: The public is welcome to join the discussion on how to graduate from database to data platform on our developer community at https://community.intersystems.com.
Simon Player is director of development for both TrakCare and Data Platforms at InterSystems. Simon has used and developed on InterSystems technologies since the early 1990s. He holds a BSc in Computer Sciences from the University of Manchester.
Helene Lengler is the Regional Managing Director for the DACH and Benelux regions. She joined InterSystems in July 2016 and has more than 25 years of experience in the software technology industry. During her professional career, she has held various senior positions at Oracle, including Vice President (VP) Sales Fusion Middleware and member of the executive board at Oracle Germany, VP Enterprise Sales and VP of Oracle Direct. Prior to her 16 years at Oracle, she worked for the Digital Equipment Corporation in several business disciplines such as sales, marketing and presales.
Helene holds a Masters degree from the Julius-Maximilians-University in Würzburg and a post-graduate Business Administration degree from AKAD in Pinneberg.
Joe Lichtenberg is responsible for product and industry marketing for data platform software at InterSystems. Joe has decades of experience working with various data management, analytics, and cloud computing technology providers.
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“There is a lot of hype about the dangers of IoT and AI. It’s important to understand that nobody is building Blade-Runner style replicants.” — Philippe Kahn
I have interviewed Philippe Kahn. Philippe is a mathematician, well known technology innovator, entrepreneur and founder of four technology companies: Fullpower Technologies, LightSurf Technologies, Starfish Software and Borland.
Q1. Twenty years ago, you spent about a year working on a Web-based infrastructure that you called Picture Mail. Picture Mail would do what we now call photo “sharing”. How come it took so long before the introduction of the iPhone, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook Live and co.?
Philippe Kahn: Technology adoption takes time. We designed a system where a picture would be stored once and a link-back would be sent as a notification to thousands. That’s how Facebook and others function today. At the time necessity created function because for wireless devices and the first Camera-Phones/Cellphone-Cameras the bandwidth on cellular networks was 1200 Baud at most and very costly. Today a picture or a video are shared once on Facebook and millions/billions can be notified. It’s exactly the same approach.
Q2. Do you have any explanation why established companies such as Kodak, Polaroid, and other camera companies (they all had wireless camera projects at that time), could not imagine that the future was digital photography inside the phone?
Philippe Kahn: Yes, I met with all of them. Proposed our solution to no avail. They had an established business and thought that it would never go away and they could wait. They totally missed the paradigm shift. Paradigm shifts are challenges for any established player, look at the demise of Nokia for missing the smartphone.
Q3. What is your take on Citizen journalism?
Philippe Kahn: Citizen journalism is one of the pillars of future democracy. There is always someone snapping and pushing forward a different point of view. We see it every day around the world.
Q4. Do you really believe that people can’t hide things anymore?
Philippe Kahn: I think that people can’t hide what they do in public: Brutality, Generosity, Politics, Emotions. We all have a right to privacy. However in public, there is always someone snapping.
Q5. What about fake news?
Philippe Kahn: There is nothing new about Fake News. It’s always been around. What’s new is that with the web omnipresent, it’s much more effective. Add modern powerful editing and publishing tools and sometimes it’s very challenging to differentiate what’s real from what’s fake.
Q6. You told Bob Parks, who interviewed you for a Wired article in 2000: ‘In the future people will document crimes using video on their phones. Then everyone will know the real story.’ Has this really changed our world?
Philippe Kahn: Yes, it has. It’s forced policing for example to re-examine protocols. Of course not every violence or crime is covered, but video and photos are helping victims.
Q7. What are the challenges and opportunities in country like Africa, where people don’t have laptops, but have phones with cameras?
Philippe Kahn: The opportunities are great. Those countries are skipping the laptop and focusing on a Smartphone with a cloud infrastructure. That’s pretty much what I do daily. In fact, this is what I am doing as I am answering these questions.
Q8. Back to the future: you live now in the world of massive firehouses of machine data and AI driven algorithms. How these new technologies will change the world (for the better or the worst)?
Philippe Kahn: There are always two sides to everything: Even shoes can be used to keep me warm or march fascist armies across illegitimately conquered territories. The dangers of AI lie in police states and in a massive focus on an advertising business model. But what we do with AI is helping us find solutions for better sleep, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer and more. We need to accept one to get the other in some ways.
Q9. In my recent interview with interview Vinton G. Cerf , he expressed great concerns about the safety, security and privacy of IoT devices. He told me “A particularly bad scenario would have a hacker taking over the operating system of 100,000 refrigerators.”
Philippe Kahn: When we build AI-powered IoT solutions at Fullpower, security and privacy are paramount. We follow the strictest protocols. Security and privacy are at risk every day with computer viruses and hacking. Nothing is new. It’s always a game of cat and mouse. I want to believe that we are a great cat. We work hard at it.
Q10. With your new startup, FullPower Technologies, you have developed under-the-mattress sensors and cloud based artificial intelligence to gather data and personalize recommendations to help customers improve their sleep. What do you think of Cerf´s concerns and how can they be mitigated in practice?
Philippe Kahn: Vince’s concerns are legitimate. At Fullpower our privacy, security and anonymity protocols are our #1 focus together with quality, accuracy, reliability and repeatability. We think of what we build as a fortress. We’ve built in security, privacy, preventive maintenance, automated secure trouble shooting.
Qx Anything else you wish to add?
Philippe Kahn: There is a lot of hype about the dangers of IoT and AI. It’s important to understand that nobody is building Blade-Runner style replicants. AI is very good at solving specialized challenges: Like being the best at playing chess, where the rules are clear and simple. AI can’t deal with general purpose intelligence that is necessary for a living creature to prosper. We are all using AI, Machine Learning, Deep Learning, Supervised Learning for simple and useful solutions.
Philippe Kahn is CEO of Fullpower, the creative team behind the AI-powered Sleeptracker IoT Smartbed technology platform and the MotionX Wearable Technology platform. Philippe is a mathematician, scientist, inventor, and the creator of the camera phone, which original 1997 implementation is now with the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.
– Internet of Things: Safety, Security and Privacy. Interview with Vint G. Cerf, ODBMS Industry Watch, 2017-06-11
– On Artificial Intelligence and Analytics. Interview with Narendra Mulani, ODBMS Industry Watch, 2017-12-08
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“We are now seeing a number of our customers in financial services adopt a real-time approach to detecting and preventing fraudulent credit card transactions. With the use of ML integrating into the real-time rules engine within VoltDB, the transaction can be monitored, validated and either rejected or passed, before being completed, saving time and money for both the financial institution and the consumer.”–David Flower.
I have interviewed David Flower, President and Chief Executive Officer of VoltDB. We discussed his strategy for VoltDB, and the main data challenges enterprises face nowadays in performing real-time analytics.
Q1. You joined VoltDB as Chief Revenue Officer last year, and since March 29, 2017 you have been appointment to the role of President and Chief Executive Officer. What is your strategy for VoltDB?
David Flower : When I joined the company we took a step back to really understand our business and move from the start-up phase to growth stage. As with all organizations, you learn from what you have achieved but you also have to be honest with what your value is. We looked at 3 fundamentals;
1) Success in our customer base – industries, use cases, geography
2) Market dynamics
3) Core product DNA – the underlying strengths of our solution, over and above any other product in the market
The outcome of this exercise is we have moved from a generic veneer market approach to a highly focused specialized business with deep domain knowledge. As with any business, you are looking for repeatability into clearly defined and understood market sectors, and this is the natural next phase in our business evolution and I am very pleased to report that we have made significant progress to date.
With the growing demand for massive data management aligned with real-time decision making, VoltDB is well positioned to take advantage of this opportunity.
Q2. VoltDB is not the only in-memory transactional database in the market. What is your unique selling proposition and how do you position VoltDB in the broader database market?
David Flower : The advantage of operating in the database market is the pure size and scale that it offers – and that is also the disadvantage. You have to be able to express your target value. Through our customers and the strategic review we undertook, we are now able to express more clearly what value we have and where, and equally importantly, where we do not play! Our USP’s revolve around our product principles – vast data ingestion scale, full ACID consistency and the ability to undertake real-time decisioning, all supported through a distributed low-latency in-memory architecture, and we embrace traditional RDBMS through SQL to leverage existing market skills, and reduce the associated cost of change. We offer a proven enterprise grade database that is used by some of the World’s leading and demanding brands, a fact that many other companies in our market are unable to do.
Q3. VoltDB was founded in 2009 by a team of database experts, including Dr. Michael Stonebraker (winner of the ACM Turing award). How much of Stonebraker`s ideas are still in VoltDB and what is new?
David Flower : We are both proud and privileged to be associated with Dr. Stonebraker, and his stature in the database arena is without comparison. Mike’s original ideas underpin our product philosophy and our future direction, and he continues to be actively engaged in the business and will always remain a fundamental part of our heritage. Through our internal engineering experts and in conjunction with our customers, we have developed on Mike’s original ideas to bring additional features, functions and enterprise grade capabilities into the product.
Q4. Stonebraker co-founded several other database companies. Before VoltDB, in 2005, Stonebraker co-founded Vertica to commercialize the technology behind C-Store; and after VoltDB, in 2013 he co-founded another company called Tamr. Is there any relationship between Vertica, VoltDB and Tamr (if any)?
David Flower : Mike’s legacy in this field speaks for itself. VoltDB evolved from the Vertica business and while we have no formal ties, we are actively engaged with numerous leading technology companies that enable clients to gain deeper value through close integrations.
Q5. VoltDB is a ground-up redesign of a relational database. What are the main data challenges enterprises face nowadays in performing real-time analytics?
The demand for ‘real-time’ is one of the most challenging areas for many businesses today. Firstly, the definition of real-time is changing. Batch or micro-batch processing is now unacceptable – whether that be for the consumer, customer and in some cases for compliance. Secondly, analytics is also moving from the back-end (post event) to the front-end (in-event or in-process).
The drivers around AI and ML are forcing this even more. The market requirement is now for real-time analytics but what is the value of this if you cannot act on it? This is where VoltDB excels – we enable the action on this data, in process, and when the data/time is most valuable. VoltDB is able to truly deliver on the value of translytics – the combination of real-time transactions with real-time analytics, and we can demonstrate this through real use cases.
Q6. VoltDB is specialized in high-velocity applications that thrive on fast streaming data. What is fast streaming data and why does it matter?
David Flower : As previously mentioned, VoltDB is designed for high volume data streams that require a decision to be taken ‘in-stream’ and is always consistent. Fast streaming data is best defined through real applications – policy management, authentication, billing as examples in telecoms; fraud detection & prevention in finance (such as massive credit card processing streams); customer engagement offerings in media & gaming; and areas such as smart-metering in IoT.
The underlying principle being that the window of opportunity (action) is available in the fast data stream process, and once passed the opportunity value diminishes.
Q7. You have recently announced an “Enterprise Lab Program” to accelerate the impact of real-time data analysis at large enterprise organizations. What is it and how does it work?
David Flower : The objective of the Enterprise Lab Program is to enable organizations to access, test and evaluate our enterprise solution within their own environment and determine the applicability of VoltDB for either the modernization of existing applications or for the support of next gen applications. This comes without restriction, and provides full access to our support, technical consultants and engineering resources. We realize that selecting a database is a major decision and we want to ensure the potential of our product can be fully understood, tested and piloted with access to all our core assets.
Q8. You have been quoted saying that “Fraud is a huge problem on the Internet, and is one of the most scalable cybercrimes on the web today. The only way to negate the impact of fraud is to catch it before a transaction is processed”. Is this really always possible? How do you detect a fraud in practice?
David Flower : With the phenomenal growth in e-commerce and the changing consumer demands for web-driven retailing, the concerns relating to fraud (credit card) are only going to increase. The internet creates the challenge of handling massive transaction volumes, and cyber criminals are becoming ever more sophisticated in their approach.
Traditional fraud models simply were not designed to manage at this scale, and in many cases post-transaction capture is too late – the damage has been done. We are now seeing a number of our customers in financial services adopt a real-time approach to detecting and preventing fraudulent credit card transactions. With the use of ML integrating into the real-time rules engine within VoltDB, the transaction can be monitored, validated and either rejected or passed, before being completed, saving time and money for both the financial institution and the consumer. By using the combination of post- analytics and ML, the most relevant, current and effective set of rules can be applied as the transaction is processed.
Q9. Another area where VoltDB is used is in mobile gaming. What are the main data challenges with mobile gaming platforms?
David Flower : Mobile gaming is a perfect example of fast data – large data streams that require real-time decisioning for in-game customer engagement. The consumer wants the personal interaction but with relevant offers at that precise moment in the game. VoltDB is able to support this demand, at scale and based on the individual’s profile and stage in the application/game. The concept of the right offer, to the right person, at the right time ensures that the user remains loyal to the game and the game developer (company) can maximize its revenue potential through high customer satisfaction levels.
Q11. Can you explain the purpose of VoltDB`s recently announced co-operations with Huawei and Nokia?
David Flower : We have developed close OEM relationships with a number of major global clients, of which Huawei and Nokia are representative. Our aim is to be more than a traditional vendor, and bring additional value to the table, be it in the form of technical innovation, through advanced application development, or in terms of our ‘total company’ support philosophy. We also recognize that infrastructure decisions are critical by nature, and are not made for the short-term.
VoltDB has been rigorously tested by both Huawei and Nokia and was selected for several reasons against some of the world’s leading technologies, but fundamentally because our product works – and works in the most demanding environments providing the capability for existing and next-generation enterprise grade applications.
David Flower brings more than 28 years of experience within the IT industry to the role of President and CEO of VoltDB. David has a track record of building significant shareholder value across multiple software sectors on a global scale through the development and execution of focused strategic plans, organizational development and product leadership.
Before joining VoltDB, David served as Vice President EMEA for Carbon Black Inc. Prior to Carbon Black he held senior executive positions in numerous successful software companies including Senior Vice President International for Everbridge (NASDAQ: EVBG); Vice President EMEA (APM division) for Compuware (formerly NASDAQ: CPWR); and UK Managing Director and Vice President EMEA for Gomez. David also held the position of Group Vice President International for MapInfo Corp. He began his career in senior management roles at Lotus Development Corp and Xerox Corp – Software Division.
David attended Oxford Brookes University where he studied Finance. David retains strong links within the venture capital investment community.
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“You can’t get good insights from bad data, and AI is playing an instrumental role in the data preparation renaissance.”–Narendra Mulani
I have interviewed Narendra Mulani, chief analytics officer, Accenture Analytics.
Q1. What is the role of Artificial Intelligence in analytics?
Narendra Mulani: Artificial Intelligence will be the single greatest change driver of our age. Combined with analytics, it’s redefining what’s possible by unlocking new value from data, changing the way we interact with each other and technology, and improving the way we make decisions. It’s giving us wider control and extending our capabilities as businesses and as people.
AI is also the connector and culmination of many elements of our analytics strategy including data, analytics techniques, platforms and differentiated industry skills.
You can’t get good insights from bad data, and AI is playing an instrumental role in the data preparation renaissance.
AI-powered analytics essentially frees talent to focus on insights rather than data preparation which is more daunting with the sheer volume of data available. It helps organizations tap into new unstructured, contextual data sources like social, video and chat, giving clients a more complete view of their customer. Very recently we acquired Search Technologies who possess a unique set of technologies that give ‘context to content’ – whatever its format – and make it quickly accessible to our clients.
As a result, we gain more precise insights on the “why” behind transactions for our clients and can deliver better customer experiences that drive better business outcomes.
Overall, AI-powered analytics will go a long way in allowing the enterprise to find the trapped value that exists in data, discover new opportunities and operate with new agility.
Q2. How can enterprises become ‘data native’ and digital at the core to help them grow and succeed?
Narendra Mulani: It starts with embracing a new culture which we call ‘data native’. You can’t be digital to the core if you don’t embed data at the core. Getting there is no mean feat. The rate of change in technology and data science is exponential, while the rate at which humans can adapt to this change is finite. In order to close the gap, businesses need to democratize data and get new intelligence to the point where it is easily understood and adopted across the organization.
With the help of design-led analytics and app-based delivery, analytics becomes a universal language in the organization, helping employees make data-driven decisions, collaborate across teams and collectively focus efforts on driving improved outomes for the business.
Enterprises today are only using a small fraction of the data available to them as we have moved from the era of big data to the era of all data. The comprehensive, real-time view businesses can gain of their operations from connected devices is staggering.
But businesses have to get a few things right to ensure they go on this journey.
Understanding and embracing convergence of analytics and artificial intelligence is one of them. You can hardly overstate the impact AI will have on mobilizing and augmenting the value in data, in 2018 and beyond. AI will be the single greatest change driver and will have a lasting effect on how business is conducted.
Enterprises also need to be ready to seize new opportunities – and that means using new data science to help shape hypotheses, test and optimize proofs-of-concept and scale quickly. This will help you reimagine your core business and uncover additional revenue streams and expansion opportunities.
All this requires a new level of agility. To help our clients act and respond fast, we support them with our platforms, our people and our partners. Backed by deep analytics expertise, new cloud-based systems and a curated and powerful alliance and delivery network, our priority is architecting the best solution to meet the needs of each client. We offer an as-a-service engagement model and a suite of intelligent industry solutions that enable even greater agility and speed to market.
Q3. Why is machine learning (ML) such a big deal, where is it driving changes today, and what are the big opportunities for it that have not yet been tapped?
Narendra Mulani: Machine learning allows computers to discover hidden or complex patterns in data without explicit programming. The impact this has on the business is tremendous—it accelerates and augments insights discovery, eliminates tedious repetitive tasks, and essentially enables better outcomes. It can be used to do a lot of good for people, from reading a car’s license plate and forcing the driver to slow down, to allowing people to communicate with others regardless of the language they speak, and helping doctors find very early evidence of cancer.
While the potential we’re seeing for ML and AI in general is vast, businesses are still in the infancy of tapping it. Organizations looking to put AI and ML to use today need to be pragmatic. While it can amplify the quality of insights in many areas, it also increases complexity for organizations, in terms of procuring specialized infrastructure or in identifying and preparing the data to train and use AI, and with validating the results. Identifying the real potential and the challenges involved are areas where most companies today lack the necessary experience and skills and need a trusted advisor or partner.
Whenever we look at the potential AI and ML have, we should also be looking at the responsibility that comes with it. Explainable AI and AI transparency are top of mind for many computer scientists, mathematicians and legal scholars.
These are critical subjects for an ethical application of AI – particularly critical in areas such as financial services, healthcare and life sciences – to ensure that data use is appropriate, and to assess the fairness of derived algorithms.
We need recognize that, while AI is science, and science is limitless, there are always risks in how that science is used by humans, and proactively identify and address issues this might cause for people and society.
Narendra Mulani is Chief Analytics Officer of Accenture Analytics, a practice that his passion and foresight have helped shape since 2012.
A connector at the core, Narendra brings machine learning, data science, data engineers and the business closer together across industries and geographies to embed analytics and create new intelligence, democratize data and foster a data native culture.
He leads a global team of industry and function-specific analytics professionals, data scientists, data engineers, analytics strategy, design and visualization experts across 56 markets to help clients unlock trapped value and define new ways to disrupt in their markets. As a leader, he believes in creating an environment that is inspiring, exciting and innovative.
Narendra takes a thoughtful approach to developing unique analytics strategies and uncovering impactful outcomes. His insight has been shared with business and trade media including Bloomberg, Harvard Business Review, Information Management, CIO magazine, and CIO Insight. Under Narendra’s leadership, Accenture’s commitment and strong momentum in delivering innovative analytics services to clients was recognized in Everest Group’s Analytics Business Process Services PEAK Matrix™ Assessment in 2016.
Narendra joined Accenture in 1997. Prior to assuming his role as Chief Analytics Officer, he was the Managing Director – Products North America, responsible for delivering innovative solutions to clients across industries including consumer goods and services, pharmaceuticals, and automotive. He was also managing director of supply chain for Accenture Management Consulting where he led a global practice responsible for defining and implementing supply chain capabilities at a diverse set of Fortune 500 clients.
Narendra graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce degree at Bombay University, where he was introduced to statistics and discovered he understood probability at a fundamental level that propelled him on his destined career path. He went on to receive an MBA in Finance in 1982 as well as a PhD in 1985 focused on Multivariate Statistics, both from the University of Massachusetts. Education remains fundamentally important to him.
As one who logs too many frequent flier miles, Narendra is an active proponent of taking time for oneself to recharge and stay at the top of your game. He practices what he preaches through early rising and active mindfulness and meditation to keep his focus and balance at work and at home. Narendra is involved with various activities that support education and the arts, and is a music enthusiast. He lives in Connecticut with his wife Nita and two children, Ravi and Nikhil.
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” Open source software comes with a promise, and that promise is not about looking at the code, rather it’s about avoiding vendor lock-in.” –Jacque Istok.
” The cloud has out-paced the data center by far and we should expect to see the entire database market being replatformed into the cloud within the next 5-10 years.” –Mike Waas.
I have interviewed Jacque Istok, Head of Data Technical Field for Pivotal, and Mike Waas, founder and CEO Datometry.
Main topics of the interview are: the future of Data Warehousing, how are open source and the Cloud affecting the Data Warehouse market, and Datometry Hyper-Q and Pivotal Greenplum.
Q1. What is the future of Data Warehouses?
Jacque Istok: I believe that what we’re seeing in the market is a slight course correct with regards to the traditional data warehouse. For 25 years many of us spent many cycles building the traditional data warehouse.
The single source of the truth. But the long duration it took to get alignment from each of the business units regarding how the data related to each other combined with the cost of the hardware and software of the platforms we built it upon left everybody looking for something new. Enter Hadoop and suddenly the world found out that we could split up data on commodity servers and, with the right human talent, could move the ball forward faster and cheaper. Unfortunately the right human talent has proved hard to come by and the plethora of projects that have spawned up are neither production ready nor completely compliant or compatible with the expensive tools they were trying to replace.
So what looks to be happening is the world is looking for the features of yesterday combined with the cost and flexibility of today. In many cases that will be a hybrid solution of many different projects/platforms/applications, or at the very least, something that can interface easily and efficiently with many different projects/platforms/applications.
Mike Waas: Indeed, flexibility is what most enterprises are looking for nowadays when it comes to data warehousing. The business needs to be able to tap data quickly and effectively. However, in today’s world we see an enormous access problem with application stacks that are tightly bonded with the underlying database infrastructure. Instead of maintaining large and carefully curated data silos, data warehousing in the next decade will be all about using analytical applications from a quickly evolving application ecosystem with any and all data sources in the enterprise: in short, any application on any database. I believe data warehouses remain the most valuable of databases, therefore, cracking the access problem there will be hugely important from an economic point of view.
Q2. How is open source affecting the Data Warehouse market?
Jacque Istok: The traditional data warehouse market is having its lunch eaten by open source. Whether it’s one of the Hadoop distributions, one of the up and coming new NoSQL engines, or companies like Pivotal making large bets and open source production proven alternatives like Greenplum. What I ask prospective customers is if they were starting a new organization today, what platforms, databases, or languages would you choose that weren’t open source? The answer is almost always none. Open source software comes with a promise, and that promise is not about looking at the code, rather it’s about avoiding vendor lock-in.
Mike Waas: Whenever a technology stack gets disrupted by open source, it’s usually a sign that the technology has reached a certain maturity and customers have begun doubting the advantage of proprietary solutions. For the longest time, analytical processing was considered too advanced and too far-reaching in scope for an open source project. Greenplum Database is a great example for breaking through this ceiling: it’s the first open source database system with a query optimizer not only worth that title but setting a new standard, and a whole array of other goodies previously only available in proprietary systems.
Q3. Are databases an obstacle to adopting Cloud-Native Technology?
Jacque Istok: I believe quite the contrary, databases are a requirement for Cloud-Native Technology. Any applications that are created need to leverage data in some way. I think where the technology is going is to make it easier for developers to leverage whichever database or datastore makes the most sense for them or they have the most experience with – essentially leveraging the right tool for the right job, instead of the tool “blessed” by IT or Operations for general use. And they are doing this by automating the day 0, day 1, and day 2 operations of those databases. Making it easy to instantiate and use these platforms for anyone, which has never really been the case.
Mike Waas: In fact, a cloud-first strategy is incomplete unless it includes the data assets, i.e., the databases. Now, databases have always been one of the hardest things to move or replatform, and, naturally, it’s the ultimate challenge when moving to the cloud: firing up any new instance in the cloud is easy as 1-2-3 but what to do with the 10s of years of investment in application development? I would say it’s actually not the database that’s the obstacle but the applications and their dependencies.
Q4. What are the pros and cons of moving enterprise data to the cloud?
Jacque Istok: I think there are plenty of pros to moving enterprise data to the cloud, the extent of that list will really depend on the enterprise you’re talking to and the vertical that they are in. But cons? The only cons would be using these incredible tools incorrectly, at which point you might find yourself spending more money and feeling that things are slower or less flexible. Treating the cloud as a virtual data center, and simply moving things there without changing how they are architected or how they are used would be akin to taking
Mike Waas: I second that. A few years ago enterprises were still concerned about security, completeness of offering, and maturity of the stack. But now, the cloud has out-paced the data center by far and we should expect to see the entire database market being replatformed into the cloud within the next 5-10 years. This is going to be the biggest revolution in the database industry since the relational model with great opportunities for vendors and customers alike.
Q5. How do you quantify when is appropriate for an enterprise to move their data management to a new platform?
Jacque Istok: It’s pretty easy from my perspective, when any enterprise is done spending exorbitant amounts of money it might be time to move to a new platform. When you are coming up on a renewal or an upgrade of a legacy and/or expensive system it might be time to move to a new platform. When you have new initiatives to start it might be time to move to a new platform. When you are ready to compete with your competitors, both known and unknown (aka startups), it might be time to move to a new platform. The move doesn’t have to be scary either, as some products are designed to be a bridge to a modern a data platform.
Mike Waas: Traditionally, enterprises have held off from replatforming for too long: the switching cost has deterred them from adopting new and highly superior technology with the result that they have been unable to cut costs or gain true competitive advantage. Staying on an old platform is simply bad for business. Every organization needs to ask themselves constantly the question whether their business can benefit from adopting new technology. At Datometry, we make it easy for enterprises to move their analytics — so easy, in fact, the standard reaction to our technology is, “this is too good to be true.”
Q6. What is the biggest problem when enterprises want to move part or all of their data management to the cloud?
Jacque Istok: I think the biggest problem tends to be not architecting for the cloud itself, but instead treating the cloud like their virtual data center. Leveraging the same techniques, the same processes, and the same architectures will not lead to the cost or scalability efficiencies that you were hoping for.
Mike Waas: As Jacque points out, you really need to change your approach. However, the temptation is to use the move to the cloud as a trigger event to rework everything else at the same time. This quickly leads to projects that spiral out of control, run long, go over budget, or fail altogether. Being able to replatform quickly and separate the housekeeping from the actual move is, therefore, critical.
However, when it comes to databases, trouble runs deeper as applications and their dependencies on specific databases are the biggest obstacle. SQL code is embedded in thousands of applications and, probably most surprising, even third-party products that promise portability between databases get naturally contaminated with system-specific configuration and SQL extensions. We see roughly 90% of third-party systems (ETL, BI tools, and so forth) having been so customized to the underlying database that moving them to a different system requires substantial effort, time, and money.
Q7. How does an enterprise move the data management to a new platform without having to re-write all of the applications that rely on the database?
Mike Waas: At Datometry, we looked very carefully at this problem and, with what I said above, identified the need to rewrite applications each time new technology is adopted as the number one problem in the modern enterprise. Using Adaptive Data Virtualization (ADV) technology, this will quickly become a problem of the past! Systems like Datometry Hyper-Q let existing applications run natively and instantly on a new database without requiring any changes to the application. What would otherwise be a multi-year migration project and run into the millions, is now reduced in time, cost, and risk to a fraction of the conventional approach. “VMware for databases” is a great mental model that has worked really well for our customers.
Q8. What is Adaptive Data Virtualization technology, and how can it help adopting Cloud-Native Technology?
Mike Waas: Adaptive Data Virtualization is the simple, yet incredibly powerful, abstraction of a database: by intercepting the communication between application and database, ADV is able to translate in real-time and dynamically between the existing application and the new database. With ADV, we are drawing on decades of database research and solving what is essentially a compatibility problem between programming languages and systems with an elegant and highly effective approach. This is a space that has traditionally been served by consultants and manual migrations which are incredibly labor-intensive and expensive undertaking.
Through ADV, adopting cloud technology becomes orders of magnitude simpler as it takes away the compatibility challenges that hamper any replatforming initiative.
Q9. Can you quantify what are the reduced time, cost, and risk when virtualizing the data warehouse?
Jacque Istok: In the past, virtualizing the data warehouse meant sacrificing performance in order to get some of the common benefits of virtualization (reduced time for experimentation, maximizing resources, relative ease to readjust the architecture, etc). What we have found recently is that virtualization, when done correctly, actually provides no sacrifices in terms of performance, and the only question becomes whether or not the capital cost expenditure of bare metal versus the opex cost structure of virtual is something that makes sense for your organisation.
Mike Waas: I’d like to take it a step further and include ADV into this context too: instead of a 3-5 year migration, employing 100+ consultants, and rewriting millions of lines of application code, ADV lets you leverage new technology in weeks, with no re-writing of applications. Our customers can expect to save at least 85% of the transition cost.
Q10. What is the massively parallel processing (MPP) Scatter/Gather Streaming™ technology, and what is it useful for?
Jacque Istok: This is arguably one of the most powerful features of Pivotal Greenplum and it allows for the fastest loading of data in the industry. Effectively we scatter data into the Greenplum data cluster as fast as possible with no care in the world to where it will ultimately end up. Terabytes of data per hour, basically as much as you can feed down the wires, is sent to each of the workers within the cluster. The data is therefore disseminated to the cluster in the fastest physical way possible. At that point, each of the workers gathers the data that is pertinent to them according to the architecture you have chosen for the layout of those particular data elements, allowing for a physical optimization to be leveraged during interrogation of the data after it has been loaded.
Q11. How Datometry Hyper-Q & Pivotal Greenplum data warehouse work together?
Jacque Istok: Pivotal Greenplum is the world’s only true open source, production proven MPP data platform that provides out of the box ANSI compliant SQL capabilities along with Machine Learning, AI, Graph, Text, and Spatial analytics all in one. When combined with Datometry Hyper-Q, you can transparently and seamlessly take any Teradata application and, without changing a single line of code or a single piece of SQL, run it and stop paying the outrageous Teradata tax that you have been bearing all this time. Once you’re able to take out your legacy and expensive Teradata system, without a long investment to rewrite anything, you’ll be able to leverage this software platform to really start to analyze the data you have. And that analysis can be either on premise or in the cloud, giving you a truly hybrid and cross-cloud proven platform.
Mike Waas: I’d like to share a use case featuring Datometry Hyper-Q and Pivotal Greenplum featuring a Fortune 100 Global Financial Institution needing to scale their business intelligence application, built using 2000-plus stored procedures. The customer’s analysis showed that replacing their existing data warehouse footprint was prohibitively expensive and rewriting the business applications to a more cost-effective and modern data warehouse posed significant expense and business risk. Hyper-Q allowed the customer to transfer the stored procedures in days without refactoring the logic of the application and implement various control-flow primitives, a time-consuming and expensive proposition.
Qx. Anything else you wish to add?
Jacque Istok: Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you. We have found that there has never been a more valid time than right now for customers to stop paying their heavy Teradata tax and the combination of Pivotal Greenplum and Datometry Hyper-Q allows them to do that right now, with no risk, and immediate ROI. On top of that, they are then able to find themselves on a modern data platform – one that allows them to grow into more advanced features as they are able. Pivotal Greenplum becomes their bridge to transforming your organization by offering the advanced analytics you need but giving you traditional, production proven capabilities immediately. At the end of the day, there isn’t a single Teradata customer that I’ve spoken to that doesn’t want Teradata-like capabilities at Hadoop-like prices and you get all this and more with Pivotal Greenplum.
Mike Waas: Thank you for this great opportunity to speak with you. We, at Datometry, believe that data is the key that will unlock competitive advantage for enterprises and without adopting modern data management technologies, it is not possible to unlock value. According to the leading industry group, TDWI, “today’s consensus says that the primary path to big data’s business value is through the use of so-called ‘advanced’ forms of analytics based on technologies for mining, predictions, statistics, and natural language processing (NLP). Each analytic technology has unique data requirements, and DWs must modernize to satisfy all of them.”
We believe virtualizing the data warehouse is the cornerstone of any cloud-first strategy because data warehouse migration is one of the most risk-laden and most expensive initiatives that a company can embark on during their journey to to the cloud.
Interestingly, the cost of migration is primarily the cost of process and not technology and this is where Datometry comes in with its data warehouse virtualization technology.
We are the key that unlocks the power of new technology for enterprises to take advantage of the latest technology and gain competitive advantage.
Jacque Istok serves as the Head of Data Technical Field for Pivotal, responsible for setting both data strategy and execution of pre and post sales activities for data engineering and data science. Prior to that, he was Field CTO helping customers architect and understand how the entire Pivotal portfolio could be leveraged appropriately.
A hands on technologist, Mr. Istok has been implementing and advising customers in the architecture of big data applications and back end infrastructure the majority of his career.
Prior to Pivotal, Mr. Istok co-founded Professional Innovations, Inc. in 1999, a leading consulting services provider in the business intelligence, data warehousing, and enterprise performance management space, and served as its President and Chairman. Mr. Istok is on the board of several emerging startup companies and serves as their strategic technical advisor.
Mike Waas, CEO Datometry, Inc.
Mike Waas founded Datometry after having spent over 20 years in database research and commercial database development. Prior to Datometry, Mike was Sr. Director of Engineering at Pivotal, heading up Greenplum’s Advanced R&Dteam. He is also the founder and architect of Greenplum’s ORCA query optimizer initiative. Mike has held senior engineering positions at Microsoft, Amazon, Greenplum, EMC, and Pivotal, and was a researcher at Centrum voor Wiskunde en Informatica (CWI), Netherlands, and at Humboldt University, Berlin.
Mike received his M.S. in Computer Science from University of Passau, Germany, and his Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Amsterdam, Netherlands. He has authored or co-authored 36 publications on the science of databases and has 24 patents to his credit.
– On Open Source Databases. Interview with Peter Zaitsev, ODBMS Industry Watch, Published on 2017-09-06
– On Apache Ignite, Apache Spark and MySQL. Interview with Nikita Ivanov , ODBMS Industry Watch, Published on 2017-06-30
– On the new developments in Apache Spark and Hadoop. Interview with Amr Awadallah, ODBMS Industry Watch, Published on 2017-03-13
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“With multi scale dataflow computing, we adjust the structure of the computer to the problem, rather than spending countless hours molding the problem into a computer language which is then interpreted by a microprocessor in an endless game of “Chinese whispers”. The poor microprocessor has no chance to figure out what the original problem might have been. We take a specific problem and program your computer to only solve that problem, or teach you to do it yourself. This means that the microprocessor does not waste energy, time and power on trying to figure out what needs to be computed next.”–Devin Graham.
I have interviewed Devin Graham, in charge of Finance Risk Products at Maxeler Technologies. We covered in the interview the challenges and opportunities for risk managers and how dataflow technology is transforming the industry.
Q1. What are the typical functions of a chief risk officer?
Devin Graham: To minimize risk across four categories; market risk, operational risk, credit risk and regulatory risk. For market risk you are trying to maximize the potential profit of your institution whilst ensuring you have the lowest amount of volatile risk. With operational risk you need to look at your business processes and ensure you have systems and controls in place that minimise any negative financial impacts to running your business. To manage credit risk you need to minimise the risk of the exposure of your assets and profits to your counterparties. Regulatory risk management involves ensuring the business is aware of and follows regulations.
Q2. What are the main challenges at present for financial risk management?
Devin Graham: The data sets you are dealing with now are very large. The challenge today is meeting the complexity and vastness of this data with speed – in real time. The velocity of data also poses challenges around security, particularly with threats of intrusion and spoofing attacks which are much harder to detect when there is so much data to analyse. Your computer needs to work out the patterns of serial spoofers, and CPUs with standard software stacks are overwhelmed by the challenge.
Q3. In which way can data flow technology be useful for risk management for the finance industry?
Devin Graham: Our dataflow technology provides complex calculations at maximum speed, for running analytics on large scale data sets and for line rate processing of trade flow and matching, as well as data enrichment. Multiscale Dataflow provides the technology to bridge over today’s financial capability gap, providing real and measurable competitive advantage.
Q4. What exactly is dataflow computing?
Devin Graham: With multiscale dataflow computing, we adjust the structure of the computer to the problem, rather than spending countless hours molding the problem into a computer language which is then interpreted by a microprocessor in an endless game of “Chinese whispers”.
The poor microprocessor has no chance to figure out what the original problem might have been. We take a specific problem and program your computer to only solve that problem, or teach you to do it yourself. This means that the microprocessor does not waste energy, time and power on trying to figure out what needs to be computed next.
In a financial context, multiscale dataflow makes it possible to analyse risk in real time, rather than off-line, looking at risk in the future, rather than computing the risk of the past.
Q5. What are the main differences in performing dataflow computation, from computing with conventional CPUS?
Devin Graham: The main difference is that dataflow provides computational power at much lower energy consumption, much higher performance density and greater speed at tremendous savings in total cost of ownership. It is ideal for dealing with Big Complex Data.
More technically, CPUs solve equations linearly – through time. Dataflow computes vast numbers of equations as a graph, with data flowing through the nodes all at the same time. Complex calculations happen as a side effect of the data flowing through a graph which looks like the structure of your problem.
Q6. Do you have any measures to share with us on the benefits in performance, space and power consumption?
Devin Graham: Maxeler’s Dataflow technology enables organisations to speed up processing times by 20-50x when comparing computing boxes of the same size, with over 90% reduction in energy usage and over 95% reduction in data center space. Taking one of our customers as an example. They were able to run computations of 50 compute nodes, in a single dataflow node. Such ability brings 32 Maxeler dataflow nodes to an equivalent of 1,600 CPU nodes, delivering operational cost saving of £3.2 million over 3 years.
In a financial risk context the advantages of Multiscale Dataflow Computing enable the analysis of thousands of market scenarios in minutes rather than hours. A Tier 1 investment bank recently delivered portfolio pricing and risk in seconds, down from minutes.
Q7. What is the new paradigm for financial risk management defined by Maxeler Technologies?
Devin Graham: The new paradigm shift resulting from Maxeler’s technology enables traders and risk managers with a super power: real-time data analysis. The technology is available right here and right now, as opposed to other technologies which remain on the horizon, or require a datacenter to be cooled down to 0 Kelvin to compute a few bits of results.
Dataflow computing works at room temperature, without the need to cool things down to the point where even the smallest particles stop moving.
Since we describe Dataflow programs in Java, it is easy to learn how to program Dataflow Engines (DFEs). Financial analytics experts are learning how to program their DFEs themselves — putting power back into the hands of financial experts, without the need for help from external sources. That is very exciting!
Devin Graham, Senior Risk Advisor, Maxeler Technologies
Devin Graham, former partner and Chief Risk Officer at a multi-billion dollar hedge fund has spent his entire career in the financial services industry, managing risk, technology and businesses for large hedge funds and leading investment banks.
As Chief Risk Officer, Devin established and chaired the risk committee, was a member of the executive committee and investor relations management team. During his tenure, the fund achieved market leading returns with minimal return volatility.
Previously, Devin developed and managed multiple new technology driven businesses at a leading investment bank including Prime Brokerage, Derivative Investor Products, and Risk Analytics.
Devin received his B.S. in Biomechanical Engineering from MIT
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“To be competitive with non-open-source cloud deployment options, open source databases need to invest in “ease-of-use.” There is no tolerance for complexity in many development teams as we move to “ops-less” deployment models.” –Peter Zaitsev
I have interviewed Peter Zaitsev, Co-Founder and CEO of Percona.
In this interview, Peter talks about the Open Source Databases market; the Cloud; the scalability challenges at Facebook; compares MySQL, MariaDB, and MongoDB; and presents Percona’s contribution to the MySQL and MongoDB ecosystems.
Q1. What are the main technical challenges in obtaining application scaling?
Peter Zaitsev: When it comes to scaling, there are different types. There is a Facebook/Google/Alibaba/Amazon scale: these giants are pushing boundaries, and usually are solving very complicated engineering problems at a scale where solutions aren’t easy or known. This often means finding edge cases that break things like hardware, operating system kernels and the database. As such, these companies not only need to build a very large-scale infrastructures, with a high level of automation, but also ensure it is robust enough to handle these kinds of issues with limited user impact. A great deal of hardware and software deployment practices must to be in place for such installations.
While these “extreme-scale” applications are very interesting and get a lot of publicity at tech events and in tech publications, this is a very small portion of all the scenarios out there. The vast majority of applications are running at the medium to high scale, where implementing best practices gets you the scalability you need.
When it comes to MySQL, perhaps the most important question is when you need to “shard.” Sharding — while used by every application at extreme scale — isn’t a simple “out-of-the-box” feature in MySQL. It often requires a lot of engineering effort to correctly implement it.
While sharding is sometimes required, you should really examine whether it is necessary for your application. A single MySQL instance can easily handle hundreds of thousands per second (or more) of moderately complicated queries, and Terabytes of data. Pair that with MemcacheD or Redis caching, MySQL Replication or more advanced solutions such as Percona XtraDB Cluster or Amazon Aurora, and you can cover the transactional (operational) database needs for applications of a very significant scale.
Besides making such high-level architecture choices, you of course need to also ensure that you exercise basic database hygiene. Ensure that you’re using the correct hardware (or cloud instance type), the right MySQL and operating system version and configuration, have a well-designed schema and good indexes. You also want to ensure good capacity planning, so that when you want to take your system to the next scale and begin to thoroughly look at it you’re not caught by surprise.
Peter Zaitsev: The Facebook Team is the most qualified to answer this question. However, I imagine that at Facebook scale being efficient is very important because it helps to drive the costs down. If your hot data is in the cache when it is important, your database is efficient at handling writes — thus you want a “write-optimized engine.”
If you use Flash storage, you also care about two things:
- – A high level of compression since Flash storage is much more expensive than spinning disk.
– You are also interested in writing as little to the storage as possible, as the more you write the faster it wears out (and needs to be replaced).
RocksDB and MyRocks are able to achieve all of these goals. As an LSM-based storage engine, writes (especially Inserts) are very fast — even for giant data sizes. They’re also much better suited for achieving high levels of compression than InnoDB.
This Blog Post by Mark Callaghan has many interesting details, including this table which shows MyRocks having better performance, write amplification and compression for Facebook’s workload than InnoDB.
Q3. Beringei is Facebook’s open source, in-memory time series database. According to Facebook, large-scale monitoring systems cannot handle large-scale analysis in real time because the query performance is too slow. What is your take on this?
Peter Zaitsev: Facebook operates at extreme scale, so it is no surprise the conventional systems don’t scale well enough or aren’t efficient enough for Facebook’s needs.
I’m very excited Facebook has released Beringei as open source. Beringei itself is a relatively low-end storage engine that is hard to use for a majority of users, but I hope it gets integrated with other open source projects and provides a full-blown high-performance monitoring solution. Integrating it with Prometheus would be a great fit for solutions with extreme data ingestion rates and very high metric cardinality.
Q4. How do you see the market for open source databases evolving?
Peter Zaitsev: The last decade has seen a lot of open source database engines built, offering a lot of different data models, persistence options, high availability options, etc. Some of them were build as open source from scratch, while others were released as open source after years of being proprietary engines — with the most recent example being CMDB2 by Bloomberg. I think this heavy competition is great for pushing innovation forward, and is very exciting! For example, I think if that if MongoDB hadn’t shown how many developers love a document-oriented data model, we might never of seen MySQL Document Store in the MySQL ecosystem.
With all this variety, I think there will be a lot of consolidation and only a small fraction of these new technologies really getting wide adoption. Many will either have niche deployments, or will be an idea breeding ground that gets incorporated into more popular database technologies.
I do not think SQL will “die” anytime soon, even though it is many decades old. But I also don’t think we will see it being the dominant “database” language, as it has been since the turn of millennia.
The interesting disruptive force for open source technologies is the cloud. It will be very interesting for me to see how things evolve. With pay-for-use models of the cloud, the “free” (as in beer) part of open source does not apply in the same way. This reduces incentives to move to open source databases.
To be competitive with non-open-source cloud deployment options, open source databases need to invest in “ease-of-use.” There is no tolerance for complexity in many development teams as we move to “ops-less” deployment models.
Q5. In your opinion what are the pros and cons of MySQL vs. MariaDB?
Peter Zaitsev: While tracing it roots to MySQL, MariaDB is quickly becoming a very different database.
It implements some features MySQL doesn’t, but also leaves out others (MySQL Document Store and Group Replication) or implements them in a different way (JSON support and Replication GTIDs).
From the MySQL side, we have Oracle’s financial backing and engineering. You might dislike Oracle, but I think you agree they know a thing or two about database engineering. MySQL is also far more popular, and as such more battle-tested than MariaDB.
MySQL is developed by a single company (Oracle) and does not have as many external contributors compared to MariaDB — which has its own pluses and minuses.
MySQL is “open core,” meaning some components are available only in the proprietary version, such as Enterprise Authentication, Enterprise Scalability, and others. Alternatives for a number of these features are available in Percona Server for MySQL though (which is completely open source). MariaDB Server itself is completely open source, through there are other components that aren’t that you might need to build a full solution — namely MaxScale.
Another thing MariaDB has going for it is that it is included in a number of Linux distributions. Many new users will be getting their first “MySQL” experience with MariaDB.
For additional insight into MariaDB, MySQL and Percona Server for MySQL, you can check out this recent article
Q6. What’s new in the MySQL and MongoDB ecosystem?
Peter Zaitsev: This could be its own and rather large article! With MySQL, we’re very excited to see what is coming in MySQL 8. There should be a lot of great changes in pretty much every area, ranging from the optimizer to retiring a lot of architectural debt (some of it 20 years old). MySQL Group Replication and MySQL InnoDB Cluster, while still early in their maturity, are very interesting products.
For MongoDB we’re very excited about MongoDB 3.4, which has been taking steps to be a more enterprise ready database with features like collation support and high-performance sharding. A number of these features are only available in the Enterprise version of MongoDB, such as external authentication, auditing and log redaction. This is where Percona Server for MongoDB 3.4 comes in handy, by providing open source alternatives for the most valuable Enterprise-only features.
Q7. Anything else you wish to add?
Peter Zaitsev: I would like to use this opportunity to highlight Percona’s contribution to the MySQL and MongoDB ecosystems by mentioning two of our open source products that I’m very excited about.
First, Percona XtraDB Cluster 5.7.
While this has been around for about a year, we just completed a major performance improvement effort that allowed us to increase performance up to 10x. I’m not talking about improving some very exotic workloads: these performance improvements are achieved in very typical high-concurrency environments!
I’m also very excited about our Percona Monitoring and Management product, which is unique in being the only fully packaged open source monitoring solution specifically built for MySQL and MongoDB. It is a newer product that has been available for less than a year, but we’re seeing great momentum in adoption in the community. We are focusing many of our resources to improving it and making it more effective.
Peter Zaitsev co-founded Percona and assumed the role of CEO in 2006. As one of the foremost experts on MySQL strategy and optimization, Peter leveraged both his technical vision and entrepreneurial skills to grow Percona from a two-person shop to one of the most respected open source companies in the business. With more than 150 professionals in 29 countries, Peter’s venture now serves over 3000 customers – including the “who’s who” of Internet giants, large enterprises and many exciting startups. Percona was named to the Inc. 5000 in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.
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“Gaia continues to be a challenging mission in all areas even after 4 years of operation.
In total we have processed almost 800 Billion (=800,000 Million) astrometric, 160 Billion (=160,000 Million) photometric and more than 15 Billion spectroscopic observation which is the largest astronomical dataset from a science space mission until the present day.”
— Uwe Lammers.
In December of 2013, the European Space Agency (ESA) launched a satellite called Gaia on a five-year mission to map the galaxy and learn about its past. The Gaia mission is considered by the experts “the biggest data processing challenge to date in astronomy”.
I recall here the Objectives of the Gaia Project (source ESA Web site):
“To create the largest and most precise three dimensional chart of our Galaxy by providing unprecedented positional and radial velocity measurements for about one billion stars in our Galaxy and throughout the Local Group.”
I have been following the GAIA mission since 2011, and I have reported it in three interviews until now.
In this interview, Uwe Lammers – Gaia’s Science Operations Manager – gives a very detailed description of the data challenges and the opportunities of the Gaia mission.
This interview is the fourth of the series, the second after the launch.
Q1. Of the raw astrometry, photometry and spectroscopy data collected so far by the Gaia spacecraft, what is their Volume, Velocity, Variety, Veracity and Value?
Since the beginning of the nominal mission in 2014 until end June 2017 the satellite has delivered about 47.5 TB compressed raw data. This data is not suitable for any scientific analysis but first has to be processed into higher-level products which inflates the volume about 4 times.
The average raw daily data rate is about 40 GB but highly variable depending on which part of the sky the satellite is currently scanning through. The data is highly-complex and interdependent but not unstructured – it does not come with a lot of meta-information as such but follows strictly defined structures. In general it is very trustworthy, however, the downstream
data processing cannot blindly assume that every single observation is valid.
As with all scientific measurements, there can be outliers which must be identified and eliminated from the data stream as part of the analysis. Regarding value, Gaia’s data set is absolutely unique in a number of ways.
Gaia is the only mission surveying the complete sky with unprecedented precision and completeness. The end results is expected to be a treasure trove for generations of astronomers to come.
Q2 How is this data transmitted to Earth?
Under normal observing conditions the data is transmitted from the satellite to the ground through a so-called phased-array-antenna (PAA) at a rate of up to 8.5 Mbps. As the satellite spins, it continuously keeps a radio beam directed towards the Earth by activating successive panels on the PAA. This is a fully electronic process as there can be no moving parts on Gaia which would otherwise disturb the precise measurements. On the Earth we use three 35m radio dishes in Spain, Australia, and Argentina to receive the telemetry from Gaia.
Q3. Calibrated processed data, high level data products and raw data. What is the difference? What kind of technical data challenges do they each pose?
That question is not easy to answer in a few words. Raw data are essentially unprocessed digital measurements from the CCDs – perhaps comparable to data from the “raw mode” of digital consumer cameras. They have to be processed with a range of complex software to turn it into higher level products from which at the end astrophysical information can be inferred. There are many technical challenges, the most basic one is still to handle the 100s of GBs of daily data. Handling means, reception, storage, processing, I/O by the scientific algorithms, backing-up, and disseminating the processed data to 5 other partner data processing centres across Europe.
Here at the Science Operations Centre (SOC) near Madrid we have chosen years ago InterSystems Caché RDMS + NetApp hardware as our storage solution and this continues to be a good solution. The system is reliable and performant which are crucial pre-requisites for us. Another technical challenge is data accountability which means to keep track of the more than 70 Mio scientific observation we get from the satellite every single day.
Q4. Who are the users for such data and what they do with it?
The data we are generating here at the SOC has no immediate users. It is sent out to the 5 other Gaia Data Processing Centres where more scientific processing takes place and more higher-level products get created. From all this processed data we are constructing a stellar catalogue which is our final result and this is what the end users – the astronomical community of world – to see. The first version of our catalogue was published 14 September last year (Gaia Data Release 1) and we are currently working hard to release the second version (DR2) in April next year.
Our end users do fundamental astronomical research with the data ranging from looking at individual stars, studies of clusters, dynamics of our Milky-Way to cosmological questions like the expansion rate of our universe. The scientific exploitation of the Gaia data has just started but already now more than 200 scientific articles have been published. This is about 1 per day since DR1 and we expect this rate to go higher up after DR2.
Q5. Can you explain at a high level how is the ground processing of Gaia data implemented?
ESA has entrusted the Gaia data processing to the Data Processing Analysis Consortium (DPAC) which the SOC is an integral part of. DPAC consists of 9 so-called Coordination Units (CU) and 6 data processing centres (DPCs) across Europe, so this is a large distributed system.
In total some 450 people from 20+ countries with a large range of educational backgrounds and experiences are forming DPAC. Roughly speaking, the CUs are responsible for writing and validating the scientific processing software which is then run in one of the DPCs (every CU is associated with exactly one DPC).
The different CUs cover different aspects of the data processing (e.g. CU3 takes care of astrometry, CU5 of photometry).
The corresponding processes run more or less independent of each other, however, due to the complex interdependencies of the Gaia data itself this is only a first approximation. Ultimately, everything depends on everything else (e.g. astrometry depends on photometry and vice versa) which means that the entire system has to be iterated to produce the final solution. As you can imagine a lot of data has the be exchanged. SOC/DPCE is the hub in a hub-and-spokes topology where the other 5 DPCs are sitting at the ends of the spokes. No data exchange between DPCs is allowed but all the data flow is centrally managed through the hub at DPCE.
Q6. How do you process the data stream in near real-time in order to provide rapid alerts to facilitate ground-base follow up?
Yes, indeed we do. For ground-based follow up observations of variable objects quick turn-around times are essential. The time difference between an observation made on-board and the confirmation of a photometric alert on the ground is typically 2 days now which is close to the optimal value given all the operational constraints we have.
Q7. What are the main technical challenges with respect to data processing, manipulation and storage you have encountered so far? and how did you solved them?
Regarding storage, the handling of 100s of GBs of raw and processed data every day has always been and remains until today quite a challenge as explained above. The Gaia data reduction task is also a formidable computational problem. Years ago we estimated the total numerical effort to produce the final catalogue at some 10^20 FLOPs and this has proven fairly accurate.
So we need quite some number-crunching capabilities in the DPCs and to continuously expand CPU resources as the data volume keeps growing in the operational phase of the mission. Moore’s law is slowly coming to an end but, fortunately, a number of algorithms are perfectly parallelizable (processing every object in the sky individually and isolated) such that CPU bottlenecks can be ameliorated by simply adding more processors to the existing systems.
Data transfers are likewise a challenge. At the moment 1 Gbps connections (public Internet) between DPCE and the other 5 DPCs are sufficient, however, in the coming years we heavily rely on seeing bandwidths increasing to 10 Gbps and beyond. Unfortunately, this is largely not under our control which is a risk to the project.
Q8. What kind of databases and analytics tools do you use for the Gaia`s data pipeline?
As explained above, for the so-called daily pipeline we have chosen InterSystems Caché and are very satisfied with this approach. We had some initial problems with the system but were able to overcome all difficulties with the help of Intersystems. We much appreciated their excellent service and customer orientation in this phase and till the present day. Regarding analytics tools we use most facilities that are part of Caché, but have also developed a suite of custom-made solutions.
Q9. How do you transform the raw information into useful and reliable stellar positions?
The raw data from the satellite is first turned into higher level-products which already includes preliminary estimates for the stellar positions. But each of these positions is then only based on a single measurements. The high accuracy of Gaia comes from combining _all_ observations that have been taken during the mission with a scheme called Astrometric Iterative Solution (AGIS) [see The astrometric core solution for the Gaia mission. Overview of models, algorithms, and software implementation].
This cannot be done on a star-by-star basis but is a global, simultaneous optimization of a large number of parameters including the 5 basic astrometric parameters of each star (about 1 Billion in total), the time-varying attitude of the satellite
(a few Million), and a number of calibration parameters (a few 10.000).
The process is iterative and in the end gives the best match between the model parameters and the actual observations. The stellar positions are two of the five astrometric parameter of each object.
Q10. What is the level of accuracy you have achieved so far?
The accuracies depend on the brightnesses of the stars – the brighter a star, the higher is the achievable accuracy. In DR1 the typical uncertainty is about 0.3 mas for the positions and parallaxes, and about 1 mas yr^-1 for the proper motions.
For positions and parallaxes a systematic component of another 0.3 mas should be added. With DR2 we are aiming to reduce these formal errors by at least a factor 3 and likewise eliminate systematic errors by the same or a larger amount.
Q11. The first catalogue of more than a billion stars from ESA’s Gaia satellite was published on 14 September 2016 – the largest all-sky survey of celestial objects to date. What data is in this catalog? What is the size and structure of the information you analysed so far?
Gaia DR1 contains astrometry, G-band photometry (brightnesses), and a modest number of variable star light curves, for a total of 1 142 679 769 sources [See Gaia Data Release 1. Summary of the astrometric, photometric, and survey properties]. For the large majority of those we only provide position and magnitude but about 2 Million stars also have parallaxes and proper motions. In DR2 these numbers will be substantially larger.
The information is structured in simple, easy-to-use tables which can be queried via the central Gaia Archive and a number of other data centres around the world.
Q12. What insights have been derived so far by analysing this data?
The astronomical community eagerly grabbed the DR1 data and since 14 September a couple of hundred scientific articles have appeared in peer-reviewed astronomical journals covering a large breads of topics.
Only to give one example: A new so-called open cluster of stars was discovered very close to the brightest star in the night sky, Sirius. All previous surveys had missed it!
Q13 How do you offer a proper infrastructure and middleware upon which scientists will be able to do exploration and modeling with this huge data set?
That is a very good question! At the moment the archive system does not allow yet real big data-mining using the entire large Gaia data set. Up to know we do not know precisely yet what scientists will want to do with the Gaia data in the end.
There is the “traditional” astronomical research which mostly uses only subsets of the data, e.g. all stars in a particular area of the sky. Such data requests can be satisfied with traditional queries to a RDBMS.
But in the future we expect also applications which will need data mining capabilities and we are experimenting with a number of different approaches using the “code-to-the-data” paradigm. The idea is that scientists will be able to upload and deploy their codes directly through a platform which allows execution with quick data access close to the archive.
For DR2 this will only be available for DPAC-internal use but, depending on experiences gained, as per DR3 it might become a service for public use. One technology we are looking at is Apache Spark for big data mining.
Q14. What software technologies do you use for accessing the Gaia catalogue and associated data?
As explained above, at the moment we are offering access to the catalogue only through a traditional RDBMS system which allows queries to be submitted in a special SQL dialect called ADQL (Astronomical Data Query Language). This DB system is not using InterSystems Caché but Postgres.
Q15. In addition to the query access, how do you “visualize” such data? Which “big data” techniques do you use for histograms production?
Visualization is done with a special custom-made application that sits close to the archive and is using not the raw data but pre-computed special objects especially constructed for fast visualization. We are not routinely using any big data techniques but are experimenting with a few key concepts.
For visualization one interesting novel application is called vaex and we are looking at it.
Histogramming of the entire data set is likewise done using pre-canned summary statistics which was generated when the data was ingested into the archive. The number of users really wanting the entire data set and this kind of functionality is very limited at the moment. We as well as the scientific community are still learning what can be done with the Gaia data set.
Q16. Which “big data” software and hardware technologies did use so far? And what are the lessons learned?
Again, we are only starting to look into big data technologies that may be useful for us. Until now most of the effort has gone into robustifying all systems and prepare DR1 and now DR2 for April next year. One issue is always that the Gaia data is so peculiar and special that COTS solutions rarely work. Most of the software systems we use are special developments.
Q.17 What are the main technical challenges ahead?
As far as the daily systems are concerned we are now finally in the routine phase. The main future challenges lie in robustifying and validating the big outer iterative loop that I described above. It has not been tested yet, so, we are executing it for the first time with real flight data.
Producing DR3 (mid to late 2020) will be a challenge as this for the first time involves output from all CUs and the results from the outer iterative loop. DR4 around end 2022 is then the final release for the nominal mission and for that we want to release “everything”. This means also the individual observation data (“epoch data”) which will inflate the total volume served by the archive by a factor 100 or so.
Qx Anything else you wish to add?
Gaia continues to be a challenging mission in all areas even after 4 years of operation. In total we have processed almost 800 Billion (=800,000 Million) astrometric, 160 Billion (=160,000 Million) photometric and more than 15 Billion spectroscopic observation which is the largest astronomical dataset from a science space mission until the present day.
Gaia is fulfilling its promises in every regard and the scientific community is eagerly looking into what is available already now and the coming data releases. This continues to be a great source of motivation for everybody working on this great mission.
Uwe Lammers. My academic background is in physics and computer science. After my PhD I joined ESA to first work on the X-ray missions EXOSAT, Beppo-SAX, and XMM-Newton before getting interested in Gaia in 2005. The first years I led the development of the so-called Astrometric Global Iterative Solution (AGIS) system and then became Gaia’s Science Operations Manager in 2014.
– The astrometric core solution for the Gaia mission. Overview of models, algorithms, and software implementation
L. Lindegren, U. Lammers et al. Astronomy & Astrophysics, Volume 538, id.A78, 47 pp. February 2012, DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/201117905
– Gaia Data Release 1. Summary of the astrometric, photometric, and survey properties A.G.A. Brown and Gaia Collaboration, Astronomy & Astrophysics, Volume 595, id.A2, 23 pp. November 2016, DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/201629512
– Gaia Data Release 1. Astrometry: one billion positions, two million proper motions and parallaxes L. Lindegren, U. Lammers, et al. Astronomy & Astrophysics, Volume 595, id.A4, 32 pp. November 2016, DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/201628714
– The Gaia mission in 2015. Interview with Uwe Lammers and Vik Nagjee , ODBMS Industry Watch, March 24, 2015
– The Gaia mission, one year later. Interview with William O’Mullane. ODBMS Industry Watch, January 16, 2013
– Objects in Space vs. Friends in Facebook. ODBMS Industry Watch, April 13, 2011
– Objects in Space. ODBMS Industry Watch, February 14, 2011
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