Infobright: We're the MySQL of open source data warehousing

Recent open source convert Infobright says it hopes to do for analytics what MySQL did for databases

Infobright on Monday unwrapped a new version of its open source data warehouse for analytics -- and shared its lofty expectations for the product.

"What MySQL did for databases, letting the low end of the market use a great database, we're concentrating on doing for data warehousing," said Susan Davis, Infobright's director of product management and marketing.

[ Microsoft recently released its first SQL Server '08 service pack. | Startup Kickfire this week shipped a MySQL-based appliance that delivers high-performance data warehousing out of the box. | InfoWorld's Test Center reviewed slacker databases that break all the old rules. ]

Indeed, a fistful of other upstart data warehouse providers, some open source but others proprietary, are stepping into the same space where the larger, relational database vendors have not yet fully tread.

Infobright's quest began in September o2008 when the company open-sourced its commercial column-oriented data warehouse. At the time it had eight customers but today has more than 50, including Royal Bank of Canada and Xerox, Davis added. Those customers reside largely in the telecom, mid-tier financial services, and marketing firm spaces. "We're really going into the area where MySQL is," Davis explained.

Infobright's software, in fact, is bundled with MySQL; Sun Microsystems, which owns MySQL, is an investor in Infobright. The latest version adds support for Sun's Solaris 10 operating system on x86 servers.

Version 3.1 also brings a new SQL framework now optimized for the company's knowledge grid, 100 new SQL commands, and a performance kick of 10 times for queries that rely on SQL functions, Davis said.

Victoria Eastwood, vice president of engineering at Infobright, explained that the column-oriented database is ripe for analytics because data gets collected into columns, then compressed. From there Infobright creates data packs and ultimately adds metadata about those data packs. "This gives us a map of the database," Eastwood added. "We have info on every column in there."

The software, available immediately, comes in two flavors: Infobright Community Edition (ICE) and Infobright Enterprise Edition (IEE). The former is a free download, while the latter carries a choice of annual support charges.

The fact that it's open source should help Infobright's cause. "Open source is advancing forward at the database level as MySQL has made good progress over the last several years," said Mark Smith, CEO of Ventana Research, an IT research and advisory firm.

Smith added that the low cost of open source solutions are not the only factors; simplicity and administration are equally important. "Infobright is addressing the cost and complexity issues and taking on the conventional wisdom of just using Microsoft SQL Server or Oracle on hardware from Dell or HP," Smith said. "The bigger guys are not as focused on this market segment and trying to have their channel address it. It's still open ground."

A mix of other small data warehousing vendors are also stepping into that market, including Aster Data, Greenplum, Kognito, Netezza, Sybase IQ, and Vertica. Even stalwart Teradata now has a low-end offering, Smith added.

"They are not trying to say they can build the biggest data warehouse," Smith said. "But they can help you get on the way to data warehousing easily, with little hassle and a lot of value for your business."

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.