Getting creative with EXASOL: Would Sir prefer a server in your pocket or a cluster in your backpack?

Creating a fast in-memory analytic database is what we at EXASOL do very well. And while we can continue to market the solution as a great tool to help analyze data at lightning-fast speeds in order to drive business outcomes – such as customer insight, revenue assurance, operational performance or a whole host of other use cases – what is sometimes more fascinating is how users and fans of EXASOL come up with ingenious ways of deploying the database, be it for reasons of portability, convenience or just cost and time.

Software-only and cloud-based deployments are a given these days, but what if you want to take the database on the road with you, show it off to your customers or other stakeholders in your business? What does that look like?

Enter stage left Atheon Analytics, a UK retail analytics specialist that has come up with not just one but two fantastic ways to show off the power and flexibility of the EXASOL in-memory analytic database: “EXASOL in my pocket” and “EXASOL in my backpack.”

In my pocket

As detailed by Atheon Analytics’ self-styled chief data animator, Guy Cuthbert, EXASOL in my pocket is a rather simple idea. As he mentions, the term scalability, bandied around by many database vendors as a something that means “go large,” should also mean “go small.” Consequently, Guy and his team acquired an Intel NUC with Ubuntu and VirtualBox, installed EXASOL’s community edition as a virtual machine. With the device in his pocket, he has since taken EXASOL on the road to customers, plugged it in, loaded it with 250 million rows of data and showed off EXASOL’s immense power when it comes to analyzing the data – all by using a device that fits in the palm of his hand. As Guy says: “By bringing our own server in such a compact package, we are able to run a far more efficient and accurate proof of concept for our customers without relying on the customers’ internet connection.”

Clearly, such a device is limited to the 250 million rows of data you can load into it, so what happens if you want to go large? Well, Atheon has since come up with a solution.

In my backpack

Atheon set about putting their heads together on how users could use EXASOL on a device that could handle much larger data volumes without sacrificing portability. It was here that Atheon Analytics’ Rose Ahearne, database solutions architect, took inspiration from some mini servers and also some memories of childhood toys: LEGO.

Termed “EXASOL in my backpack,” the solution is also surprisingly simple and straightforward: a fast commodity-hardware-based four-server analytics database cluster that can be dismantled and transported in a backpack. The cluster is made up of four off-the-shelf mini PCs and has a bespoke network switch rack made out of LEGO bricks.

Atheon Analytics created the “in my backpack” cluster in response to the need for a system that they could run their development on while keeping costs to a minimum. What’s more, they wanted a cluster that wasn’t bulky and that could be taken on the road, if need be. So, instead of turning to the cloud, Rose and the team realized that it would be far less expensive to build the cluster using mini-servers that would fit into a backpack. What’s more, having kit on-premise brings the cluster to life and allows users at Atheon Analytics to test how the system copes with the odd disk or server failure, which is something they wouldn’t experience if they were to use the cloud.

While we at EXASOL would recommend the use of higher spec commodity hardware, especially for production environments, it is encouraging to see users of the database come up with other ingenious and less expensive ways to harness the power of the in-memory database for analytics.

More innovation

Atheon has clearly come up with two very good ways to showcase the EXASOL database, and there’s even more innovation going on at the company as it successfully deploys its retail analytics service for CPGs and suppliers called SKUtrak®. But we’ll leave how EXASOL is used there until another time.

If you want to read more about “EXASOL in my pocket” and “EXASOL in my backpack” and what hardware and software makes up both solutions, I highly recommend a read of both Guy’s blogpost here and Rose’s blogpost here.

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