The first version of Microsoft’s Parallel Data Warehouse is out for a while, now I had the chance to get my hands on it during a customer POC. Because PDW is an appliance solution the software is hardware bounded. You can’t download and install PDW on a normal server, you need the right hardware which needs to be MPP capable. Currently there are only 2 vendors providing PDW hardware, HP and DELL.
For all of you who need a further introduction into PDW I can recommend my past blog posts:
So let’s go back to the customer POC. My customer currently has a Data Warehouse solution build on SQL Server. The following list provides some high level information about the environment:
Since his current hardware is not able to scale beyond this size he is looking for a new solution. Together with HP & Microsoft we started a 3 weeks POC to check if PDW can meet customer needs. Without going to much into detail let me quickly highlight the current customer pain points.
ETL Performance: Currently all data loads are implemented with SQL Server Integration Services. Altogether there are about 400 SSIS package that are responsible for source system connectivity and to support data loading over 3 data warehouse layers. In the current environment data loads are done daily and have a predefined time frame for execution. The customer requirement was to get a least the same SSIS-Performance as on the current production system and to be able to scale SSIS in case of adding additional load processes to the daily load without breaking the current loading window.
Relational Query Performance: Today nearly 80% of all customer analysis is done based on an Analysis Services cube. The cube gives us the ability to present the complex data model and business logic in a simplified form that end users understand and are able to work with. But there is also a small amount of technical affine power users which want to be able to analyze data directly on the relational data model. So the demand for a scalable relational reporting solution is growing.
Scalability: As mentioned before my customer is looking for a scalable Data Warehouse solution that is able to handle up to 50TB of relational data (estimated growth in the next 2 years).
Administration: This area is not a real critical success criteria but the customer is also interested in administration efforts and IT operation processes like backup / restore, database administration, database reorg, etc.
As you can imagine we can’t test all this within 3 weeks and there are also points that doesn’t make sense to test on your own, like scalability. I think based on the given MPP architecture it’s totally clear, that the system is able to scale for data volume. If you need more space, you need to buy an additional rack, this is how it works.
So clearly we had to focus on what we can really test within 3 weeks and what are the most important things the customer wants to see that are working so that he is able to make a decision to go ahead with PDW or not. Together with the team we agreed that we have a deeper look at ETL Performance and relational query performance.
We decided to take a representative ETL process and run it against PDW. This process includes:
As we all know from Best Practices it is recommended to have a dedicated environment for ETL and one for the relational engine. But what about PDW?
PDW is a solution for a relational SQL Server engine based on a MPP architecture. So the Best Practice about a dedicated ETL server is still valid. The good news is, that within the PDW architecture there is also a small ETL server included.
Why small? The server itself is not a high end scalable ETL server (it only has 6 Cores, 24 GB RAM, connected via Infiniband to the other servers). And because PDW is an appliance there is no option to put in more cores or memory in. So for the POC this server was good enough but for a real life project scenario an additional ETL server with enough hardware resources would be needed.
To measure relational query performance the customer provided us 3 representative relational SQL queries with corresponding runtimes on the current environment. So we took these and executed them against PDW.
Within Part 2 of this PDW POC series I will dig into more details about our test cases, about the migration, issues we faced with and of course the results and lessons learned we got. So stay tuned…