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A data warehouse appliance is an integrated collection of hardware and software designed for a specific purpose that typically involves the high throughput of data and analytic functions. It usually consists of servers, operating systems, data storage facilities, database management systems (DBMS), and software that is pre-installed and optimized for data warehousing. Due to its cost-effectiveness and efficiency, the data warehouse appliance has become an important segment of the data warehousing market.
An organization can use a data warehouse appliance to optimize various areas of data processing. In general, its main intent is to supplant conventional business intelligence functions, such as warehousing, extract, transform, load (ETL), analysis, and reporting. The market for this type of solution has quickly garnered the attention of large traditional competitors who are required to deliver most, or all, of their data warehousing at the highest performing level.
Some data warehouse appliances on the market are merely those that use a language such as SQL to facilitate interaction with the appliance at a database request level. A true data warehouse appliance is generally defined as one that requires no fine-tuning, indexing, partitioning, or aggregating. Similar to a household appliance, it is easy to deploy and maintain, offering the ability to set up a large data warehouse in what is usually a relatively short amount of time.
A data warehouse appliance harnesses its processing power from an array of Massive Parallel Processing (MPP) nodes. These are deployed in what is called a shared nothing architecture, which provides an effective way to combine multiple nodes within a highly parallel environment. In contrast to traditional solutions where the cost and complexity of each additional node prevents a high level of parallelism-by-hardware, a data warehouse appliance is capable of deploying hundreds to thousands of query processing nodes in one appliance package.
Leveraging a fully integrated data warehouse architecture, a data warehouse appliance can deliver a significant performance advantage, performing anywhere from 10 to 100 times faster than general-purpose data warehousing systems. This architecture attributes to the low cost of the actual appliance as well as reduced maintenance, as no indexing or traditional methods are required to tweak performance. It also attributes to low cooling and power requirements because processors are not forced to handle overwhelming amounts of data.
A data warehouse appliance can have a huge positive impact on an enterprise. It can help large organizations staff their data warehouse more efficiently, while assisting mid-level companies in solving business intelligence challenges. Being increasingly adopted across various industries, the data warehouse is fundamentally changing the way the businesses of sorts operate.