ORLANDO – Teradata fleshed out its plans to offer support for Linux in its database and data warehousing products at its annual Partners user conference last month

The company said it had chosen Novell’s Suse distribution of the open source operating system, as well as tools and utilities products that access Teradata user applications on both Suse and Red Hat Linux. Teradata first announced its expansion from Windows and its own version of Unix, MP-RAS, at last year’s event.

Although Novell recently announced the availability of Suse Linux Enterprise System (SLES) 10, Teradata is starting out with the 64-bit version of SLES 9, said Carol Walter, the company’s director of 64-bit programs. Walter said Teradata decided to put its weight behind a single Linux distribution so it could focus its resources and investments on value-added services around its core products.

That being said, she pointed out that the use of Novell Suse applied only to the database tier. At the client end, users are still free to run whatever distribution of Linux they choose.

“The Novell base is large and established . . . they were also able to provide us with the 2.6 kernel faster than Red Hat could,” she told a session at the Partners conference. “The intellectual property rights infringement risk is also mitigated by Novell’s indemnification.”

Walter insisted customers already trained on Red Hat will not need additional Suse training, since both are based on the 2.6 kernel, and system administrators use Teradata utilities and functions, not OS utilities and commands. Scalability, availability and manageability features are also in the Teradata software, she said, not the OS.

“Everything you know about Teradata (products), it’s exactly the same,” she said, later referencing two beta customers who tested the Linux version of the database in December of last year. “They ported over the applications and tools and didn’t even tell the developers,” she said. “They had no idea they were working on a Linux system.”

One of the two beta customers was Overstock.com, an online retailer that specializes in selling clearance-priced brand-name merchandise. Jack Garzella, Overstock.com’s vice-president of IT operations, said its use of Teradata on Linux was primarily driven by growth in its business and the need to speed up its ability to get analytical data.

“Our reporting system was dying,” he said, adding that getting analytical results was taking days or weeks in some cases. “We had a lot of issues on the back end.”

Like many data warehouse users, Garzella said Overstock.com was interested in using the business intelligence (BI) functions of the product, in order to improve its customer relationship management efforts. Overstock.com wants to move to a system that captures every customer interaction whether online, over the phone or through e-mail, so that every time it communicates with customers it will be 100 per cent targeted, he said.

Overstock.com had been using the MP-RAS version of Teradata’s products and had about 60 days to complete the migration, Garzella said. The work involved 28 nodes of Teradata on Linux running alongside an Oracle 10g database to run Business Objects middleware and other tools, along with more than 65 dual process application servers running e-mail, reporting and data integration tools.

Garzella was surprised by the lack of performance problems. “I said, ‘This is bad, we have to find bugs.’” He ordered his staff to triple the query load on the system. It took four days of running at five times the normal load before any bugs showed up. “We’ve gone from 12 to 16 hours for ad hoc queries down to four.”

Walter said Teradata will ship with 6 GB per node, versus the maximum of 4 GB it offered on its own MP-RAS.

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