15 December 2010

Pundit for a Day

I've been reading Cringely for decades, and especially, along with most who read him it turns out, his annual predictions.  Since leaving his PBS gig, he hasn't been doing them.  Sniff.  But today he announced that he would do another, and invited his readers to contribute same.  Well.  Not one to turn my nose up at the possibility of 15 seconds of fame (he allowed that any reader predictions would be printed with attribution, which he sort of has to do) I offered up what follows.

Just one, sort of.

I've been banging a drum for SSD for a number of years, at least since Intel released their flash version (in true Enterprise, Texas Memory has been shipping DRAM parts for decades, but that's another story).

When STEC, Violin, et al started to build "Enterprise" flash SSD those few years ago, the notion they promoted was that SSD would replace HDD, byte for byte.  That didn't happen, largely IMO because the storage vendors (SSD makers and storage OEMs) couldn't develop a value story.

There always was a story:  the Truly Relational RDBMS (not the flatfile dumps common in Fortune X00 companies which moved their COBOL/VSAM apps to some database) is (so far) the only thing which exercises the real strength of the SSD:  random IOPS.  But to get that benefit, you have to have a BCNF (or better) database, and join the shit out of it.  The COBOL/VSAM and java apps devs don't think that way; they love their bespoke written loops.

So, what we've got now is SSD as front end cache to HDD arrays.  And SSD as game machine and laptop speed up.  Enterprise hasn't yet bought SSD as primary storage.  Hmmm.

In 2011, we will see that.  My guess is Oracle will be the lead.  It works this way.  Larry wanted Sun, not for java or MySql, but the hardware stack.  What Larry needs is that last group of holdouts:  IBM mainframe apps.  To do that, he needs a credible alternative to the z machine ecosystem. 

He has that now, but it ain't COBOL.  He needs a value story to get those COBOL/VSAM apps.  Whether you buy that Oracle is the best RDBMS or not, Larry can make the case, particularly since his competitors (save IBM) have adopted the MVCC semantic of Oracle. 

Pushing highly normalized databases, with most/all of the business logic in the database (DRI and triggers and SP) running on SSD makes for a compelling story.  But you've got to spend some quality time building the story and a POC to go with it.  Larry's going to do it; he hasn't any choice.  And it makes sense, anyway.

Remember, a RDBMS running on SSD is just an RCH from running an in-memory database.  You don't need, or want, lots of intermediate caching between the user screen and the persistent store.  Larry's got the gonads to do it.

Robert Young

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