Teradata highlights petabyte-plus data warehouse customers

Teradata took its second step in two days to reaffirm itself as king of the data warehousing mountain, as it announced five customers running data warehouses larger than a petabyte in size.

At its PARTNERS conference in Las Vegas on Tuesday, the Miamisburg, Oh. vendor said the five members of its newly-created ‘Petabyte Power Players’ club include eBay Inc., with 5 petabytes of data, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which has 2.5 petabytes, Bank of America Corp., which is storing 1.5 petabytes, Dell Inc., which has a 1PB data warehouse, and a final bank, with a 1.4PB data warehouse that chief marketing officer Darryl McDonald said he couldn’t name yet.

McDonald said the club should grow quickly as Teradata convinces other petabyte-plus enterprises to come forward. However, the many rumored government and military customers that use Teradata will remain publicity-shy, he said.

Most of the customers have been using Teradata for at least half a decade. Take eBay, which started in 2002 with a single 14TB system. Today, it processes 50PB of information each day while adding 40TB of auction and purchase data. Not only is the data warehouse large, it is speedy, with eBay doing real-time analytics alongside less timely data mining efforts, McDonald said.

Listing Wal-Mart is also a reaffirmation of a customer relationship that appeared to be under threat. Last August, Hewlett-Packard Co. announced that Wal-Mart would buy Hewlett-Packard’s new Neoview data warehouse appliance to analyze data collected from its 4,000 retail stores, and take over some functions that “otherwise would have gone to Teradata.”

Teradata has another 35 customers whose Teradata systems exceed 100TB. Some of the figures above include more than just the original user data, admitted McDonald, and may include duplicate data kept by companies for backup purposes or for fast retrieval.

Teradata’s largest customers use its enterprise-class products, such as its Active Enterprise Data Warehouse 5550. Some, he says, are thinking of shifting to its new Extreme Data Appliance 1550, which can scale up to 50 petabytes.

As the company starts to make petabyte-scale data warehouses routine, Teradata did give some thought to changing its name, chosen in 1979 when one terabyte of data was large and expensive. A Morrow Designs Winchester hard drive introduced in 1981 had 26 megabytes and sold for US$4,995, about $12,119 in 2008 dollars.

To buy enough Morrows to get a terabyte, you’d have needed to spend almost $200,000, or almost half a million in 2008 dollars. Today, a 1TB hard drive can cost under $100.

But Teradata, like other companies whose once-futuristic names have been rendered trite by time or progress (think Century 21 Real Estate), decided to keep its name in the end.

“We have a great brand and we don’t want to walk away from it,” McDonald said. If Teradata did change its name, he said, it would probably adopt the prefix of something several orders of magnitude beyond the exabyte (1,000 PB), which was chosen by Oracle Corp. for its recent Exadata Storage Server appliance. That could be the zettabyte, which is a million times larger than a petabyte, or the yottabyte, which is a billion times larger than a petabyte.

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