February 9, 2011

High Performance In-Memory Cloud Services

Cloud Services in combination with high performance in-memory computing will change how enterprises work. Currently, most of the data is stored in silos of slow disk-based row-oriented database systems. Besides, transactional data is not stored in the same database as analytical data, but in separate data warehouses and gets replicated in batch jobs. Consequently, instant real time analytics are not possible and company leaders often have to make decisions in a very short time frame based on insufficient information.

This is about to change. In the last decade, hardware architectures have evolved dramatically. Multi core architectures and the availability of large amounts of main memory at low costs are about to set new breakthroughs in the software industry. It has become possible to store data sets of whole companies entirely in main memory, which offers a performance that is orders of magnitudes faster than disk. Traditional disks are one of the remaining mechanical devices in a world of silicon and are about to become the new tape, only necessary for backup. With in-memory computing and hybrid databases using row or column stores where appropriate, transactional and analytic data storages will be unified.

Cloud Computing will provide the elasticity, flexibility, and possibility to access all information of a company from everywhere whereas in-memory computing in combination with hybrid databases will enable systems to provide all information in real-time. With clouds, the IT infrastructure and data storage can automatically grow with the demand of the company. Even in case of an unpredictable higher workload, tomorrow’s systems will automatically request the necessary amount of computing power and will, therefore, be able to guarantee higher service availability at reduced costs. Therefore, current software management and monitoring systems have to be adapted and modified for the new in-memory computing paradigm.

Clouds will be totally stored in RAM and, in consequence, durable storage such as disks will only be used for backup purposes. Updates will not be stored synchronously on disk but will be replicated synchronously to further servers in order to guarantee data consistency even in case of hardware failures. For enterprise environments, clouds will not base on commodity hardware, but on high-end servers, which offer a much higher reliability and higher performance. By providing information from everywhere in real-time at high availability but low costs, such new technologies will offer enterprises entirely new opportunities how businesses are run and operated.

At the chair of Prof. Dr. Hasso Plattner and Dr. Alexander Zeier at the Hasso-Plattner Institute, we are conducting research projects how enterprises can access information in real-time. We built an in-memory hybrid database that unifies the advantages of column- and row oriented database systems. In corporation projects with SAP, we could show that with in-memory column-oriented databases the time for business transactions, like dunning, can be reduced from 20 min to 1s. We are also augmenting Available-to-Promise applications with real time analytics and flexible order fulfillment. We are conducting research how multi-tenant analytics can be provided through a cloud-based infrastructure. Besides, we are analyzing architectures for clouds that are totally stored in main memory and how software management systems can be adapted to provide high service availability at low costs.

Author: Jan Schaffner

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