Ingres works on hardware-savvy database engine

Ingres' VectorWise engine pushes databases to take advantage of new chip capabilities

Ingres plans to use a new engine that exploits the latest chip hardware for faster execution of database-related tasks, the company said on Wednesday.

The engine, developed with a company called VectorWise, takes advantage of hardware enhancements like faster chips and larger caches to perform more tasks at the same time on a chip, said Roger Burkhardt, CEO of Ingres.

Ingres plans to integrate the new code in its database to take advantage of hardware features found in new chips like Intel's Xeon. The new chips include beefier pipelines and special instruction sets for faster task execution on a single core.

Certain workloads -- like video games and photo editing -- are written to take advantage of the latest chips, but database systems have traditionally not been written for parallel execution, Burkhardt said.

The VectorWise engine asks chips to execute multiple data sets at one time as opposed to in single rows, speeding up simultaneous task execution.

"The net result is at any one point in a single core -- it depends on the circumstances -- you might have a hundred instructions in flight at any one time," Burkhardt said. That is one level of fine-grained parallelism, said Burkhardt.

Another way VectorWise tries to speed up task execution is by simplifying code and reducing data dependencies, Burkhardt said.

Typical databases lose time with complicated routines that could slow down task execution. VectorWise also enables in-cache execution, which allows for efficient execution of code while using memory only as a buffer.

Previously, large servers were needed to execute those kind of tasks, but hardware advancements have brought those capabilities to laptops. The engine could help $US2,000 laptops do what expensive computers were previously needed for, Burkhardt said.

"As an individual businessperson, if you want to analyze tens or hundreds of millions of rows, you can do that and get the results back in a few seconds," Burkhardt said.

The project is being done in partnership with VectorWise, which was spun off from Centrum Wiskunde and Informatica (CWI), a research organization in Amsterdam. CWI is known for inventing programming languages like Python.

Ingres read about performance improvements provided by the engine in a research paper developed by VectorWise and was blown away by the results, Burkhardt said.

"We chose to team up with them to take what they had done and ... bring it to market inside the Ingres database," Burkhardt said.

Company officials couldn't provide an exact date on when the engine could reach the market.

The performance improvements were realized across a range of chips, including Intel's Nehalem chips and Advanced Micro Devices' Opteron server chips.

Performance improvements also showed on Intel's Itanium processors and chips based on the RISC (reduced instruction set computer) architecture.

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