Why Simple, by Design, is Still Better

By Rich Hughes,

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” is the succinct design dictum by perhaps the greatest designer of all time, Leonardo da Vinci. A proficient aviation engineer took the simplicity standard to another level by coining the design phrase “Keep it simple stupid”. Lockheed engineer Kelly Johnson invented the KISS principle because his project responsibility demanded ease-of-use for flight operations. The 1950s era aircraft, once created, had to be maintained by mechanics of average skill level, using an elementary tool kit, while working under combat conditions. In the 1970s, Johnson’s simplicity required aircraft engineering methodology inspired programmers as a leading design philosophy for the emerging software industry.

In a May 2014 article entitled Simple is STILL Better, Mike Kearney describes data warehouse implementation using the KISS software design philosophy.   Kearney draws a distinction between the first generation of data warehouses built on general purpose Relational Database Management Systems (RDBMS), and the second generation data warehouse— most prominently represented by the PureData System for Analytics family.

The earlier RDMBS platforms started around 1980, while the latter systems, powered by Netezza technology, came to the market in the early 2000s. The data warehouses built on the 1980s era, general purpose RDBMS have historically suffered from not being able to easily handle the heavy I/O demanded from users accessing large data volumes.  Conversely, the PureData System for Analytics was specifically designed to overcome the I/O problem,  provide data warehouse users with fast access,  and deliver the results in a simple to use platform.

Think of an NFL football stadium built long ago, and later refitted for the modern game. Chicago’s Soldier field was erected in 1924 at a cost of $14,000,000, and seated about 74,000 fans. Soldier Field’s exterior remained while the interior was gutted during extensive renovations that brought the stadium up to NFL standards, but reduced the seating to 63,000. The team was forced to find a temporary home during the 2001-03 renovation, and Bear’s fans travelled the 140 miles to Champaign, IL, for the 2002 Chicago ‘home’ games.

First generation RDBMS data warehouses need extensive renovation, not unlike Soldier Field, to adapt to data warehouse demands. The PureData System for Analytics, built from the ground up, resembles the new, fan friendly home of the San Francisco 49ers. Both Levi’s Stadium and PureData System for Analytics were purpose-built around the design principles of easy user access and manageable operations.

Kearney’s article, which can be viewed at this link, highlights speed delivered with simplicity as the combined reason for the successful data warehouses that are powered by the purpose built Netezza technology. The burden for general purpose but refitted for data warehousing platforms, is the not-so-hidden complexity that drives up ownership costs and reduce business value.  The necessary, but non value adding administrative expenses limit the potential generated from data warehouses based on earlier technologies. On the other hand,  the “… IBM PureData System shields DBAs from the complications of data management and business users enjoy immediate access to their data as soon as their new system is installed”.

Several success stories validate the inherent advantages of speed delivered with simplicity:

“With the IBM PureData System for Analytics, we can reduce the time to analyze complex GIS data from days to minutes — a more than 98 percent improvement.” 

  • Steve Trammell, Strategic Alliances Marketing Manager, Corporate Alliances and IT Marketing at Esri

“Premier Healthcare Alliance has benefited from PureData System for Analytics in four ways. Its simpler administration, faster query response time, faster load times, as well as in database analytics”

  • Todd Wilkes, Vice President for Enterprise Solution Development for the Premier Healthcare Alliance.


There might be nostalgic appeal to watch football from historic, but retrofitted venues, just as there is inertia in standing pat with first generation data warehouse technology. But for the best business payback and time-to-value, the simply fast PureData System for Analytics is designed for your success.

About Rich Hughes,

Rich Hughes has worked in a variety of Information Technology, Data Warehousing, and Big Data jobs– and has been with IBM since 2004.  Hughes earned a Bachelor’s degree from Kansas University, and a Master’s degree in Computer Science from Kansas State University.  Writing about the original Dream Team, Hughes authored a book on the 1936 US Olympic basketball team, a squad composed of oil refinery laborers and film industry stage hands.  Hughes is an IBM Marketing Program Manager for Data Warehousing, and you can follow him on Twitter at @rhughes134.


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