I’ve found over the years that the IT professionals I have the greatest respect for are those who have the guts to speak openly and candidly about such things as vendor performance and project failures, so that their peers can benefit from their experiences. At the recent Teradata 2014 Partners conference in Nashville, I had the opportunity to speak at length with Mike Berger, vice president of enterprise analytics at Geisinger Health System, a hospital system in Danville, Pa., who did just that.
Berger said Geisinger became a Teradata customer about three years ago—18 months before he joined the organization—with the purchase of two Data Warehouse Appliance 2650s. He said Geisinger recently upgraded to a Data Warehouse Appliance 2750, which has become the production machine.
During the course of our conversation, Berger identified two areas in which he said he wasn’t getting what he would like to get from Teradata: one in the area of professional services, and one in the area of the customer experience. He also said he would like to have seen Teradata announce usability improvements at the conference.
Daniel Conway, Teradata’s director of public relations, subsequently provided an email response to the points Berger had raised during my conversation with him. What follows are each of Berger’s points, followed by Teradata’s response.
Regarding professional services, Berger said he would like to see Teradata become more on par with the likes of IBM and Oracle:
There are a lot of pieces to that—you need the deep pockets, you need the training infrastructure, you need to start getting the recruiting. You need to onboard people, and mold them into these androids that can go and do kickass consulting. With the Teradata model, they’re definitely not there yet. I think that’s an area where there’s a lot of room for growth, if that’s the path they want to take. If they want to be a one-off mercenary here and there, even there, you want to have a deeper bench, and I don’t find their bench deep enough. … And it would be like IBM or Oracle: ‘We’re going to come in and sell you hardware, and we’re going to have all these consulting services that are going to be very structured, and very deep. And we’re going to give you a nice combination onshore/offshore model.’ I know they do that, but I would say their ability to execute, when I compare an Accenture, or a Deloitte, or a KPMG, to Claraview, which is their consulting arm that they acquired, Claraview isn’t there. … When I compare IBM Consulting Services to Claraview, Teradata consulting services, it’s a big gap.
Consulting is a people business and Teradata Consulting has built a global practice of experienced and skilled personnel solely focused on big data, analytics and applications. Customer stories have validated that Teradata Consulting teams have successfully architected and implemented the right solution to meet enterprise needs.
In the past ten years, we have invested significantly in building global consulting centers in Asia and Europe with the best people, repeatable processes and latest technology available that complement our on-shore consultants, and help our customers exploit data as a strategic asset. Teradata is always looking to increase our bench strength by either hiring the best and brightest from across the globe, or acquiring capabilities and personnel such as the recent acquisition of Think Big, a best-of-breed consultancy headquartered in Silicon Valley and focused on open source big data implementations.
Teradata provides the full spectrum of services from strategy and advisory, to architecture and implementation, to managed, support, and cloud services. Claraview represents an important subset of this broader consulting portfolio by specializing in business intelligence and data visualization. Importantly, Teradata Consulting continues to demonstrate exceptional service quality as illustrated in the 2014 TSIA [Technology Services Industry Association] Project Performance Study, where Teradata significantly outpaced the industry averages for completing high impact projects on time and on budget.
With respect to the customer experience, Berger expressed the view that Teradata tends to “nickel and dime” customers with add-ons that he feels should be standard equipment:
The Teradata platform is a complicated tool to get humming well. I use the Ferrari analogy a lot—I think if you’ve got it tuned well, it’s absolutely tremendous. We do 80 million queries a month, so I know the thing hums—and this is an appliance, it’s not even an enterprise-class machine. The challenge is the learning curve to get there is pretty steep. It’s hard to figure out all the little nooks and crannies to get that thing really humming well from a configuration standpoint. To me, Teradata should be trying to provide as many tools as possible to the DBA staff, and those shouldn’t be bolt-on products to help you better manage the tool. They should be must-haves, part of a strategy of, ‘We want to make you as successful as you can be, using that Teradata tool.’ …To me, if you want to build brand loyalty, you want to give every one of those tricks and tools to every one of your customers as quickly as you can, because you want them to have the best possible experience. That’s not where you make your money, nickeling, and diming your customers. So there are tools that they’ve built that are fantastic, that they charge extra for … these are core DBA functions that they charge extra for. To me, it’s not creating the brand loyalty that I think they could.
The Teradata Database is designed to deliver out-of-the-box performance optimizations with minimal tuning. ‘Set & Go’ optimizations deliver performance-tuning options with little-to-no ongoing effort.
The Teradata Database’s ‘parallel everything’ design and smart Optimizer enables out-of-the-box fast query execution across platforms. Data distribution is automatic and DBAs never have to set parameters, manage table space, or reorganize data, leading to fast time-to-value with minimal support required. And when the business grows, the Teradata Database is responsive to change with a fully parallel MPP (massive parallel processing) ‘shared nothing’ architecture that scales linearly across data, users, and applications. This provides consistent and predictable performance and growth.
When tuning can help performance, Set & Go optimizations make it easy to set up and maintain. Performance tuning features like in-database data mining, geospatial analysis, temporal processing, virtual OLAP/cubes, pre-built and custom application objects (User Defined Functions) drive efficient and differentiated business insight through powerful embedded analytics. Workload management settings can ensure that data warehouse resources are assigned and consumed according to business priorities, such as by-user, application, time-of-day and CPU exceptions. Additional features that help get the most performance include reduced full file scanning through primary indexes, secondary indexes, multi-level partitioned primary indexes, hybrid row and column tables, aggregate join indexes, and sync scan.
Teradata has reduced the management tasks required by DBAs and has freed them to support the analytic needs of the organization. Teradata Database is designed to be versatile and powerful for analytic insight. It can support hundreds of installations, from three terabytes to huge warehouses with petabytes of data and thousands of users. Teradata Database’s inherent capabilities provide more than pure performance. It also offers low total cost of ownership and a simple, scalable, and self-managing solution for building a successful analytic platform. One of Teradata’s many customers is a high-end grocery chain and said that Teradata is ‘simple and capable.’ ‘That [concept] pretty much hits the nail on the head in terms of the ease of use for the staff, and the capability of getting the information to the people who need it.’ The Teradata Database enabled another customer, a Fortune 500 industrial supply company, to cut through common CFO challenges of cost reduction, transparency, flexibility, and profitability.
Finally, I asked Berger what Teradata didn’t announce at the Partners conference that he would like to have seen it announce. He responded by citing the plight of his DBAs:
Obviously, I’d love to see a shift towards a more DBA- and end-user-friendly experience on these appliances. They’re fragile; the learning curve is high. There are opportunities for them to make them simpler. Maybe they see it as the opposite, where having all of these configuration options really allows people to have the flexibility to do exactly what they want. For me, if feels like all my DBA team ever does is go to Teradata and say, ‘How do we get back to vanilla? We just want the vanilla version of the product, and then get whatever help you can give us to help us get better performance management.’ Again, there’s the Ferrari analogy: You know the dealer is going to be expensive, but you know you have to go there. You don’t want to just take it to the local tire shop and have them do an oil change. You want to take it to the dealer. I wish [Teradata] was a little bit more like a Toyota version, where the thing has really good manuals and really good end-usability. I don’t think Teradata is there, and I don’t think that’s where they’re investing, either. I think they’re investing to try to keep up with open source, and these small companies that are started out of a garage. The people building those things in their garages, they’re not building it for usability, either. So I don’t think the industry is getting better that way. I think the DBAs’ jobs are only getting harder.
Teradata provides a powerful set of tools and utilities that address core data warehouse administration and database access needs. To make its database even easier to use, Teradata will be making additional tools widely available to enhance customers’ leading edge environments and make them the easiest to use and manage in the industry. These tools will enable development of applications with automatic, consistent activity logging built-in without developer action. In addition, rich Viewpoint portlet analysis tools assist DBAs to monitor and investigate database activity and performance trends by application, query, or user. Advanced visualizations highlight important changes and high-value areas for investigation by the operations and DBA staff.
After previewing them at the Partners User Group conference, Teradata will roll out enhanced DevOps (development and operations) capability. These capabilities help organizations rapidly produce effective software products and services by emphasizing communication, collaboration, and integration between software developers and information technology operations personnel.
Teradata is committed to continuous innovation in its database administration tools and provide the enterprise with easy access to data and analytics in open source technologies, as well as analytic platforms with traditional business data.
At the Partners User Group conference, Teradata announced the data fabric enabled by Teradata QueryGrid, which turns multiple best-of-breed solutions into an orchestrated analytical ecosystem. The data fabric weaves together multiple analytics, diverse data repositories, and disparate systems to provide business users a cohesive and uninterrupted analytic ecosystem. The data fabric puts the focus on getting answers to business questions, and not on the underlying IT process or infrastructure. Businesses can now put Big Data to work, extending access to users throughout their organization.
Teradata QueryGrid is just one of many capabilities that enhance usability and performance without burdening the database administrator. For example, a high-tech manufacturing customer that implemented the Teradata Unified Data Architecture was able to drive complexity out of its IT infrastructure.
A contributing writer on IT management and career topics with IT Business Edge since 2009, Don Tennant began his technology journalism career in 1990 in Hong Kong, where he served as editor of the Hong Kong edition of Computerworld. After returning to the U.S. in 2000, he became Editor in Chief of the U.S. edition of Computerworld, and later assumed the editorial directorship of Computerworld and InfoWorld. Don was presented with the 2007 Timothy White Award for Editorial Integrity by American Business Media, and he is a recipient of the Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award for editorial excellence in news coverage. Follow him on Twitter @dontennant.