SAP IQ Review

An excellent column-based, enterprise relational database solution with good speed and compression


What is our primary use case?

We use SAP IQ primarily for data warehousing and business intelligence.

What is most valuable?

The most valuable features of the product are the column structure, speed, and compression. Partitioning is one of the most useful features with SAP IQ. It was something that they used to charge a lot for but it costs less now.

What needs improvement?

Actually, it is not the product that needs revision but the company itself. Sybase IQ was bought by SAP. They use it, but they don't really advertise and push it correctly. So SAP IQ — from a company standpoint — is not really supported correctly. If they did more to support the product, it would be a more popular solution.

SAP IQ has not introduced more integration with Hadoop so the two products would act in a more tightly coupled way. This would be one of the more important features that they might add. The integration with Hadoop is important because it seems everybody is going towards Hadoop for big data. You also need a system that works well. Hadoop is fast, but SAP IQ is even faster. They each have advantages, so if you can combine them, that would be good. It will work out better for cost and extra storage.

For how long have I used the solution?

I've actually used IQ from the earliest versions, so over 20 years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

My impression from using the product over its lifetime is a little different than it is now. For IQ 16, the latest, the stability is actually quite decent. It got very, very stable. In the beginning, our implementation was slightly unstable because I changed the network to something similar to Aarna, so there were some issues because of all those changes. It was slightly unstable, but after some adjustments, it's really stable.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

The product is very scalable. You can scale it upwards and sideways — that is by adding new hardware or working with software solutions. This is the only product I know which will allow you to do both.

Our company is slightly smaller than many with only about 100 users. Most probably there are more, but this is on average. It all depends on the business climate. 

How are customer service and technical support?

Technical support for the product has become almost nonexistent for this product. There are no real agents because SAP let all the people go who were dedicated to the IQ project. Actually, I used to work for SAP. They let us all go. That's why I say there are not a lot of real experts in the SAP organization available for SAP IQ support. As far as I am concerned, that is a problem for users.

If you previously used a different solution, which one did you use and why did you switch?

Personally, I've explored a lot of solutions. While it may not have been specifically for where I am working now, I stay aware of what is on the market. It only affects the current solution in that I am aware that there are other options, what their competitive advantages are, and features we might implement or emulate. 

For example, I've used Data Warehousing with Oracle, Dv2 also with Oracle and SQL Server. But I do not think that other products really have an advantage for warehousing over the SAP IQ solution. All of them that compete now seem to be Oracle Exadata, which is fast, but it is also very expensive. All the newer products seem to have columnized solutions as that is very advantageous for data warehousing. It is in order to compete with what SAP IQ already provided.

How was the initial setup?

IQ's initial setup is relatively easy and is not that complex. The actual installation and deployment is a day or two. The biggest bottle-necks are normally encountered with the storage and having people who can configure and set up the storage correctly. The storage needs to conform to the parameters of SAP IQ. So, in reality, the time-delay is due to setting up the storage which is the big bottleneck for deployment. We can't blame the product itself.

What about the implementation team?

We do our own setup and deployment.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

Pricing changes. In South Africa, it depends on how the pricing is obtained. The pricing is good and it is actually better now because they are realizing that they should price it correctly according to the market. The pricing improved especially with the partitioning because they used to charge too much for that feature. They have now lowered that because obviously data warehouses get huge so when you use partitioning that it would get very expensive. It benefits people who have big databases.

As far as actual cost, there's a standard licensing fee and then there are the add-ons. The most useful and most expensive add-on was the partitioning. That's the only real additional cost that I've found useful. They also have got a high-security encryption module, but that's something that's very, very niche. So beyond the standard licensing you also have to factor in the cost of modular enhancements. But there aren't a lot of additional things you need to pay for in order to enhance what the base system does.

The only other add on that you would need to pay for is if you scale sideways. That is the multiplex which requires additional hardware.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

Being in this business for a long time — now as a data architect — I've had the opportunity to use a few solutions and there are many more to research. There is a long list of products that I've worked with and evaluated. You might say that evaluation is constant but I am an expert with SAP IQ. None of the other products have capabilities that would make me suggest a shift.

What other advice do I have?

In rating the product, I would give it at least an 8 out of ten. The only thing really needed to make it a ten out of ten for us and our usage is better support from the vendor. Well, I say better support but also better vision into the future. I do not think the company is doing sufficient work in development.

My advice for other people and companies considering this product as a solution is to find out if you can get proper support. I really think that's the biggest challenge facing people who use the product. The current company that owns the product, SAP, is very laid back about supporting the product.

It may be helpful to note that the solution does not require a lot of maintenance. We've really got only one or two DBAs looking after it and it is not even a full-time job. If you have a multiplex setup you may require more dedicated DBA staff for maintenance.

Once the setup is done correctly, the maintenance comes down to monitoring. There's not a lot of other effort involved in keeping things running.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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