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Microsoft buys data warehouse appliance maker DATAllegro

Microsoft has announced that it will buy DATAllegro, maker of data warehouse appliances. It plans to use the acquired technology as the basis for a SQL Server 2008 appliance. This purchase is interesting on a lot of levels for the enterprise market. First and foremost, it signals that the hot area of high-end, shared nothing massively parallel processing (MPP) appliances have won out and users can expect them to take a major leap toward affordability, now that Microsoft has entered the market.

This architecture isn't a new concept, Teradata was perhaps the leader of shared-nothing, MPP a good decade ago, according to a story in Intelligent Enterprise. About a dozen vendors are competing in this market today. However, one is not among the MPP fans: Oracle, says blogger Curt Monash. Monash says that Microsoft's entry on the side of MPP means that MPP has become the winner in the shared everything technology wars. (He expects Oracle to give it up and make an MPP acquisition of its own, too.) The Intelligence Enterprise article explains:

Shared nothing means that data nodes are independent, with dedicated memory and storage, while MPP spreads query load across the many processors available in commodity multi-core processor servers. The result is high performance without using expensive, high-powered symmetric multiprocessor (SMP) servers.

DATAllegro also targets extremely large data warehouse applications, Microsoft says, which will help SQL Server create a reputation as a high end data center player, (again, elbowing Oracle out of the way).

Unlike most data warehouse appliance vendors targeting the 1–25 terabyte range, DATAllegro has specialized in large-volume, high-performance data warehouses. DATAllegro’s data warehouse appliance installations boast some of the largest data volume capacities in the industry — up to hundreds of terabytes on a single system.

Perhaps the most interesting is that DATAllegro doesn't even support SQL Server at the moment. It was built on Ingres and Linux. Microsoft claims that it selected DATAllegro because its architecture is "open" and therefore easiest to port to SQL. But it certainly seems that by selecting an MPP player proven to scale beyond the capacity of the competitors (and one built on Linux no less) Microsoft has snipped the head off a competitor while filling in a hole in its offerings for SQL Server 2008.

Indeed, Bob Muglia, Sr. vp of Microsoft's server and tool division told analysts at Microsoft's Financial Analyst Meeting today: "DATAllegro provides a very high capability to scale out data warehouse that we will move on to the SQL platform and Windows platform. With this we will have a scale-out data warehouse that will scale out  into the 100s of terabytes in size and be able to compete for the highest end enterprise datawarehousing solutions. We have never been able to do that before. This solution will scale well beyond what Oracle can do today." 

It also offers a proving point that Microsoft technologies can scale as large as Linux can. In a jubilant blog post by DATAllegro's founder, Stuart Frost, he notes:

"As soon as the acquisition closes, we'll start the work of moving our technology from Ingres & Linux to SQL Server and Windows. Our feasibility studies over the last few months indicate that SQL Server is a significant improvement in terms of performance - especially in key areas such as star joins, I/O throughput and in-memory operations."

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. However Frost says that DATAllegro has raised about $65 million in venture funding and that the sale of his company "created a hugely successful exit for my investors, my great team and last, but not least, me!"

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