The Opportunity Cost of Complexity: Simple is Still Better

softwaredesignWhen I joined Netezza back in 2006, there was a powerpoint presentation that included a slide that we all came to refer to as “the no slide”.  It listed all of the things that you didn’t need to worry about when you were running a Netezza appliance — indexes, complex partitioning schemes, tablespace sizing and configuration, storage administration, and so on.  Simplicity was always a core goal of engineering Netezza systems, now the IBM PureData System for Analytics.

In fact, it’s really hard to try and apply simplicity after the fact as vendors like Teradata and Oracle have tried to do with their “appliance” offerings.  The inherent complexity of a Teradata system, for example, is entrenched in the core software itself.  Teradata will tell you that having 19 different types of indexes is a good thing, because it lets you tune the system.  Sessions on how best to use Teradata indexes are a common at Teradata user conferences, and there are several expensive books available on the topic as well.

Not only do constructs like indexes add overhead to the system itself (more objects, more storage, more maintenance), but additional complexity also translates to more DBAs and staff required to run the system.  It’s a double edged sword:  you have to do lots of upfront work to get the system running, and then lots of continuing work to keep it happy.

All of this translates to higher cost of ownership, and longer deployment times, which is borne out by the ITG Cost/Benefit Analysis study.   Indeed, consider all of the missed opportunites that complexity leads to.  Some highlights:

  • Three-year costs of ownership for Teradata 2750 systems averaged 1.5 times higher than for PureData System for Analytics equivalents
  • Personnel costs for use of the Teradata 2750 averaged 2.6 times higher than for PureData System for Analytics.
  • Deployment costs, principally for external professional services, averaged 3.8 times higher for Teradata 2750 systems than for use of PureData System for Analytics N200X.

To put it simply (pun intended), simple, easy to use systems = Faster time to value at lower cost.   A well designed system, like the PureData System for Analytics, shouldn’t need to be complex and can provide outstanding performance without added complexity.  So don’t let vendors try and tell you that complexity is a friend because it gives you more control and power… With friends like that, who needs enemies?

One thought on “The Opportunity Cost of Complexity: Simple is Still Better”

  1. I like the post. What about some of the newer databases in the NoSQL area? With the growth of Hadoop, NoSQL, etc…I wonder if we really know the true cost of ownership? I could see hidden costs like departments deploying applications on the wrong database, and then having to re-deploy on a proper one.

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