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Microsoft Unveils SQL Server Fast Track Data Warehouse 3.0

Microsoft on Monday announced a new set of reference architectures for partners building Fast Track data warehouse products.

Microsoft's SQL Server Fast Track Data Warehouse version 3.0 was announced at the TDWI World Conference in Las Vegas, an event that continues throughout this week. With this release, Microsoft is enabling its partners to "build and test their own Reference Architectures," according to the company's announcement. Microsoft follows up by validating its partners' Fast Track configurations, but version 3.0 essentially enables greater product differentiation for hardware partners, in Microsoft's view.

Overall, Microsoft offers three software solutions for data warehouse implementations: SQL Server 2008 R2, Parallel Data Warehouse and Fast Track Data Warehouse.

The Fast Track products consist of preconfigured servers using SQL Server 2008 R2 Enterprise edition. Microsoft claims that users can scale the solution upward, moving from Fast Track (handling tens of terabytes workloads) to SQL Server 2008 R2 Parallel Data Warehouse (handling hundreds of terabytes workloads).

Fast Track version 3.0 enables configurations that can scale upward to 80 terabytes "on a single 8-processor server," Microsoft's announcement stated. HP currently offers a configuration on an eight-processor server with a "peak data throughput of up to 15GB/s," according to Microsoft.

Current hardware partners offering SQL Server Fast Track Data Warehouse include Bull, Dell, EMC, HP and IBM. Microsoft also indicated in its announcement that it is working with some new partners on the product, including Cisco Systems, Fujitsu and Hitachi Data Systems. NetApp and EMC are working as storage provider vendors on some of the configurations.

On top of the hardware partner announcements, WhereScape claims to be the first independent software vendor to offer a solution built for Microsoft's Fast Track Data Warehouse 3.0 architecture. The company is now offering its WhereScape RED integrated development environment, which can be used to build SQL Server data warehouses and analysis services cubes.

Other data warehouse software vendors have tried the approach of allowing hardware vendors to tweak the software reference architecture, according to James Kobielus, senior analyst at Forrester Research. He cited Oracle's efforts a few years ago in working with IBM and Dell/EMC as an example, but added that Oracle now emphasizes its own software running on Oracle-Sun hardware as part of its Exadata product family.

"Microsoft remains far more hardware partner focused than Oracle in the EDW [enterprise data warehousing] appliance arena," Kobielus stated in an e-mail. "In fact, HP (which was Oracle's hardware partner on Exadata v1 in 2008, and then quickly abandoned) is Microsoft's primary hardware for its high-end PDW [parallel data warehousing] appliances, and is one of several under the Fast Track program for lower capacity midmarket-focused EDW appliances."

Microsoft made the "leaders" category in a report authored by Kobielus and published this month. The report, "The Forrester Wave: Enterprise Data Warehousing Platforms, Q1 2011," includes a chart comparing the strength of a software vendor’s current offerings with the overall strength of its strategies. The leaders include Teradata, Oracle, Sybase (SAP), IBM, SAP, EMC Greenplum and Netezza (IBM), Microsoft and Vertica Systems.

The report, which is available here, describes the rankings in great detail. Kobielus also talked about his findings recently in a blog post.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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