MySQL variant MariaDB is aiming for the OLAP market with the public release of its latest feature, ColumnStore 1.0.
The move is part of MariaDB’s mission to broaden its reach and offer a cheaper alternative to analytics databases like Teradata or Vertica. But the company faces stiff open source competition.
Doing more with less
Originally announced in April, ColumnStore isn’t a new project; it’s a port of the existing InfiniDB that used the MySQL engine. After the company that produced InfiniDB went defunct in 2015, MariaDB took over the project, continued supporting its existing customer base, and realized that InfiniDB’s column-oriented technology could add OLAP capabilities to the traditionally OLTP-oriented MySQL. (Column-stored data allows for high-speed reading and searching of data sets.)
MariaDB believes there are multiple advantages to blending the two approaches. One is being able to perform queries that mix both columnar InfiniDB data and row-based MariaDB data — for instance, being able to create SQL JOINs across both kinds of data. Another is having a native SQL querying layer for an OLAP solution, which many OLAP products have been adding separately with widely varying efficacy.
But the biggest advantage is cost. MariaDB claims that ColumnStore “on average costs 90.3% less per terabyte compared to commercial data warehouses,” but offers little specific detail — the size of database, the specific commercial competitors, and so on — to back up the claim. A sample customer story involving the World Bank’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation mostly cites earlier versions of MySQL (due to existing infrastructure) and the in-memory MemSQL database as the other choices considered, rather than any of the more commercial data-warehousing solutions.
Not the only game in town
Late 2015 saw a major open source competitor to conventional data warehouses or OLAP analytics solutions emerge: Greenplum Database, the data warehouse solution open-sourced by Pivotal.
In a way, Greenplum vs. ColumnStore amounts to a clash between two long-standing open source database projects. With ColumnStore, it’s MySQL/MariaDB; with Greenplum, it’s PostgreSQL, since Greenplum is derived from that project.
That said, the two have evolved far past their roots; the competition between them is less about what underlying technology they use and more about how large an existing audience each of them is likely to capture.
Greenplum is likely to appeal to those who are already settled on Pivotal in one form or another. ColumnStore is for those still on MariaDB, but ready to outgrow as they tackle problems of far larger scope than MariaDB was set to handle. By offering ColumnStore, MariaDB aims to stave off migrations not only to competing products, but to new-breed warehousing services like Snowflake that are both increasingly cost-effective and ANSI SQL-compliant.