EMC Takes on Big Data with New Greenplum Platform

Posted on December 08, 2011 By Thor Olavsrud

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We have entered the world of Big Data. Data sets are becoming so large, and growing so quickly, that they are becoming increasingly difficult to manage, let alone leverage. Enter EMC division Greenplum, which Tuesday announced the EMC Greenplum Unified Analytics Platform (UAP), specifically designed to facilitate the discovery and sharing of insights from Big Data.

According to EMC (NYSE:EMC) competitor IBM, people create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day. Moreover, 90 percent of the data in the world today was created in the past two years. Individual organizations can have terabytes or even petabytes of data at their disposal. Taking that data and turning it into an asset organizations can use to engender greater foresight and agility is both the challenge and promise of Big Data.

For example, a retail bank could leverage its Big Data to evaluate customers on their current value to the bank and then use analytics to create user-based recommendations to help increase that value. Or an organization could use Big Data to predict when a customer might decide to shop for another vendor, gaining the ability to act to retain that customer.

"We believe UAP will be transformational in the industry because it will provide a unifying platform for powerful and agile analytics," said Mike Brown, chief technology officer of comScore, which uses Greenplum to help it crunch massive amounts of data. "The seamless processing of the structured and unstructured data is critical to driving rapid innovation that is required in today’s environment. It is the fusing of these multiple types of data at large scale that is where the magic lies to drive innovation and agility in business today."

Greenplum, acquired by EMC in 2010, thinks that many companies are approaching the Big Data challenge the wrong way. Luke Lonergan, chief technology officer of the Data Computing Division at EMC and vice president and co-founder of Greenplum, said technology limitations lead many companies to approach Big Data analytics as a departmental science project. In other words, it's isolated from the broader organization, preventing it from taking advantage of the data, systems and people involved.

Instead, Lonergan explained, Greenplum takes a non-monolithic approach with collaboration -- a sort of Facebook for data scientists -- central to the whole affair. The Greenplum UAP fuses three Greenplum products: the EMC Greenplum database for structured data; EMC Greenplum HD, the unit’s enterprise Hadoop offering for analysis and processing of unstructured data; and EMC Greenplum Chorus, a productivity engine and social network for data science teams.

"There really is a team of people, the data science team, that is responsible for implementing these analytics projects," Lonergan said. "Data scientists have become the rock stars of IT recruiting: mathematicians, statisticians, data engineers, data analysts, BI analysts -- people who can make references from data. It's a staff of people attacking these projects. Greenplum Chorus is designed to connect them all."

While Chorus supplies the connective glue that brings everything together, Greenplum HD provides the engine to make everything go. It's built on Apache Hadoop, the open source software platform that makes massive Web-scale operations like Google and Facebook go. The platform is designed to support data-intensive distributed applications. Greenplum HD uses Hadoop to break unstructured data into small pieces and then distribute them to large clusters of machines to analyze.

"EMC is leveraging Big Data analytics to drive business value for its customers and prospects," said Julie Lockner, senior analyst and vice president of Data Management at Enterprise Strategy Group. "With the introduction of the EMC Greenplum Unified Analytics Platform, they are setting industry direction giving data science teams a better way to accelerate the time to value for Big Data. All the components necessary for a successful implementation are available in Greenplum UAP. While everything is conveniently packaged in a single platform, EMC is also providing open integration and APIs with the customer's tool vendor of choice. The beauty is that they are not about locking customers into a single tool or technology stack. This, combined with Greenplum Chorus, makes the company's offer very compelling."

Lonergan explained that EMC Greenplum UAP is offered via per terabyte pricing, allowing customers to pay for what they use. EMC is also offering the UAP as an appliance that can be run in a unit as small as a quarter rack.

Thor Olavsrud is a contributor to InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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