Hadoop vs Data Warehouse: Apples & Oranges?

by   |   July 31, 2014 5:30 am   |   9 Comments

Many Hadoop experts believe an integrated data warehouse (IDW) is simply a huge pile of data. However, data volume has nothing to do with what makes a data warehouse. An IDW is a design pattern, an architecture for an analytics environment. First defined by Barry Devlin in 1988, the architecture quickly was called into question as implementers built huge databases with simple designs as well as small databases with complex designs.

In 1992, Bill Inmon published “Building the Data Warehouse,” which described two competing implementations: data warehouses and data marts. Gartner echoed Inmon’s position in 2005 in its research “Of Data Warehouses, Operational Data Stores, Data Marts and Data Outhouses.” Both are oversimplified in the following table.

Integrated Data WarehousesData Marts
Subject orientedSubject oriented
Time variantTime variance and currency
PersistentVirtualization option

“Subject oriented” means the IDW is a digital reflection of the business. Subject areas contain tabular data about customers, inventory, financials, sales, suppliers, accounts, etc. The IDW contains many subject areas, each of which is 250 to 5,000 relational tables. Having many subject areas enables cross-organizational analysis – often called the 360-degree view. The IDW can answer thousands of routine, ad hoc, and complex questions.

In contrast, a data mart deploys a small fraction of one or two subject areas (i.e., a few tables). With only a few tables, data marts answer far fewer questions and are poor at handling ad hoc requests from executives.

Integration in a data warehouse has many aspects. First is the standardization of data types. This means account balances contain only valid numbers, date fields have only valid dates, and so on. Integration also means rationalizing data from multiple operational applications. For example, say four corporate applications have Bill Franks, William Franks, W. J. Franks, and Frank Williams all at the same street address. Data-integration tools figure out which is the best data to put in the IDW. Data cleansing corrects messed-up data. For example, repairs are needed when “123 Oak St., Atlanta” is in the street address but the city field is blank. Data integration performs dozens of tasks to improve the quality and validity of the data. Coupled with subject areas, this is called “a single version of the truth.”

Does Hadoop Have What it Takes?

Hadoop was engineered to rely on the schema-on-read approach, in which data is parsed, reformatted, and cleansed at runtime in a manually written program. But Hadoop (and Hive) have limited to no ability to ensure valid dates and numeric account balances. In contrast, relational database management systems (RDBMS) ensure that input records conform to the database design – called the schema. According to Dr. Michael Stonebraker, “This is the best way to keep an application from adding ‘garbage’ to a data set.”

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The current rage in the Hadoop community is SQL-on-Hadoop. Those who have committed to open-source Apache are playing catch-up to databases by adding SQL language features. SQL-on-Hadoop offers are a subset of the ANSI 1992 SQL language, meaning they lack features found in SQL 1999, 2003, 2006, 2008, and 2011 standards. Therefore, the business user’s ability to perform self-service reporting and analytics is throttled. This, in turn, throws a substantial labor cost back into IT to develop reports in Java.

Additionally, the lack of a database foundation also prevents SQL-on-Hadoop from achieving fast performance. Missing from Hadoop are robust indexing strategies, in-database operators, advanced memory management, concurrency, and dynamic workload management.

A consistent – sometimes angry – complaint from Hadoop experts is the poor performance in large table joins, which the SQL-on-Hadoop tools do not fix. Remember those subject areas above? Some subject areas have two to 10 tables in the 50-1,000 terabyte range. With a mature analytic database, it is a challenging problem to optimize queries that combine 50TB with 500TB, sort it, and do it fast. Fortunately, RDBMS vendors have been innovating the RDBMS and cost-based optimizers since the 1980s. A few Apache Hadoop committers are currently reinventing this wheel, intending to release a fledgling optimizer later in 2014. Again, self-service business user query and reporting suffers.

Hadoop, therefore, does not have what it takes to be a data warehouse. It is, however, nipping at the heels of data marts.

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How Many Warehouses Has Hadoop Replaced?

As far as we know, Hadoop has never replaced a data warehouse, although I’ve witnessed a few failed attempts. Instead, Hadoop has been able to peel off a few workloads from an IDW. Migrating low-value data and workloads to Hadoop is not widespread, but neither is it rare.

One workload often offloaded is extract-transform-load (ETL). Technically, Hadoop is not an ETL solution. It’s a middleware infrastructure for parallelism. Hadoop requires hand coding of ETL transformations, which is expensive, especially when maintenance costs pile up in the years to come. Simple RDBMS tasks like referential integrity checks and match key lookup don’t exist in Hadoop or Hive. Hadoop does not provide typical ETL subsystem features out-of-the-box, such as:

  • Hundreds of built-in data-type conversions, transformers, look-up matching, and aggregations
  • Robust metadata, data lineage, and data modeling capabilities
  • Data quality and profiling subsystems
  • Workflow management, i.e., a GUI for generating ETL scripts and handling errors
  • Fine grained, role-based security


Because migrations often come with million-dollar price tags, there is not a stampede of ETL migrations to Hadoop. Many organizations keep the low-value ETL workload in the IDW because:

  • The IDW works (it ain’t broke, don’t fix it)
  • Years of business logic must be recoded, debugged, and vetted in Hadoop (risk)
  • There are higher business value Hadoop projects to be implemented (ROI)


Nevertheless, some ETL workload migrations are justifiable. When they occur, the IDW resources freed up are quickly consumed by business users.

Similarly, Hadoop provides a parallel platform for analytics, but it does not provide the analytics. Hadoop downloads do not include report development tools, dashboards, OLAP cubes, hundreds of statistical functions, time series analysis, predictive analytics, optimization, and other analytics. These must be hand coded or acquired elsewhere and integrated into projects.

Hadoop Was Never Free

Where does this leave the cash-strapped CIO who is still under pressure? According to Phil Russom of The Data Warehousing Institute: “Hadoop is not free, as many people have mistakenly said about it. A number of Hadoop users speaking at recent TDWI conferences have explained that Hadoop incurs substantial payroll costs due to its intensive hand coding normally done by high-payroll personnel.”

This reflects the general agreement in the industry, which is that Hadoop is far from free. The $1,000/terabyte hardware costs are hype to begin with, and traditional vendors are closing in on Hadoop’s hardware price advantage anyway. Additionally, some SQL-on-Hadoop offerings are separately priced as open source vendors seek revenue. If you want Hadoop to be fast and functional, well, that part is moving away from free and toward becoming a proprietary, priced database.

Hadoop Jumps in the Lake

Mark Madsen, President of Third Nature, gives some direction on Hadoop benefits: “Some of the workloads, particularly when large data volumes are involved, require new storage layers in the data architecture and new processing engines. These are the problems Hadoop and alternate processing engines are equipped to solve.”

Hadoop defines a new market, called the data lake. Data lake workloads include the following:

    • Many data centers have 50 million to 150 million files. Organizing this into a cohesive infrastructure, knowing where everything is, its age, its value, and its upstream/downstream uses is a formidable task. The data lake concept is uniquely situated to solve this.


    • Hadoop can run parallel queries over flat files. This allows it do basic operational reporting on data in its original form.


    • Hadoop excels as an archival subsystem. Using low-cost disk storage, Hadoop can compress and hold onto data in its raw form for decades. This avoids the problem of crumbling magnetic tapes and current software versions that can’t read the tape they produced eight years earlier. A close cousin to archival is backup-to-disk. Again, magnetic tape is the competitor.


    • Hadoop is ideal for temporary data that will be used for a month or two then discarded. There are many urgent projects that need data for a short time then never again. Using Hadoop avoids the lengthy process of getting data through committees into the data warehouse.


  • Hadoop, most notably YARN from Hortonworks, is providing the first cluster operating system. This is amazing stuff. YARN improves Hadoop cluster management but does not change Hadoop’s position vis-à-vis the data warehouse.


Apples and Oranges

Bob Page, the VP of Development at Hortonworks, weighed in on the Hadoop versus IDW debate: “We don’t see anybody today trying to build an IDW with Hadoop. This is a capability issue, not a cost issue. Hadoop is not an IDW. Hadoop is not a database. Comparing these two for an IDW workload is comparing apples to oranges. I don’t know anybody who would try to build an IDW in Hadoop. There are many elements of the IDW on the technical side that are well refined and have been for 25 years. Things like workload management, the way concurrency works, and the way security works – there are many different aspects of a modern IDW that you are not going to see in Hadoop today. I would not see these two as equivalent.”

Hadoop’s success won’t come as a low-priced imitation of a data warehouse. Instead, I continue to be bullish on Hadoop as we witness the birth of the data lake with predictable birthing pains. Over the next couple of years, the hype will quiet down and we can get to work exploiting the best Hadoop has to offer.

Dan Graham Picture

With over 30 years in IT, Dan Graham joined Teradata Corporation in 1989, where he was the senior product manager for the DBC/1012 parallel database computer. He then joined IBM, where he wrote product plans and launched the RS/6000 SP parallel server. He then became Strategy Executive for IBM’s Global Business Intelligence Solutions. As Enterprise Systems General Manager at Teradata, Dan was responsible for strategy, go-to-market success, and competitive differentiation for the Active Enterprise Data Warehouse platform. He currently leads Teradata’s technical marketing activities.

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  1. Sidney Minassian
    Posted August 6, 2014 at 6:33 am | Permalink

    Great article Dan.

    Three things really stood out for me given what we’re seeing in market:

    1- ‘No one technology will be able to handle all workloads’. Hadoop-based Data Lakes and Data Warehouses will co-exist, each solving different problems. Case-in-point, here in Australia one of Teradata’s largest customers also has one of the largest Hadoop implementations.

    2- ‘Hadoop is Free’ is absolutely a misconception. Customers need to consider total costs which include hardware, (additional) software, security, governance, architecture, integration, maintenance and skilling-up people – not only Administrators on how to setup, implement and manage a big data platform, but also skilling up business users with querying and reporting tools that can take advantage of the Data Lake.

    3-‘Birthing pains’ with implementing Data Lakes is real… but hey, you’ll end up with a valuable addition to your family once you get through it.

  2. Pranab Ghosh
    Posted August 6, 2014 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    I have worked on number of projects where Hadoop/Hive has not replaced legacy database and data warehouse systems.

    However, the task of running queries and generating reports on large volume data has been offloaded to Hadoop/Hive. The primary motivator has been unacceptable latency and/or high cost of legacy systems.

  3. sergey sheinblum
    Posted October 20, 2014 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Dan.
    hadoop and real time DW (in ways we understand DW by kimball or inmon) is myth – agree.
    1. hadoop is storage and ability to process data in batches.
    2. there is no algorithm to support real time distributed parallel query, except map reduce. Map reduce is slow and does not support real time by design (batch execution).
    3. all current buzz about real time DW on Hadoop is very questionable and can’t be aligned neither with cost nor with solid engines (code base) of relational dbs.
    4. approach for development/design,maintenanceof different solutions built on Hadoop (including in memory structures to speed up distributed query or distributed processing execution) is COMPLETELY DIFFERENT FROM DW on relational models.
    as well as cost to maintain is much higher than anticipated or priory got used with relational dbs.

    5. hadoop or any other DFS or graph key-value (tupple ) storage system is only one of many Software packages to be CONSIDERED FOR DW (processing,querying and integrating) at any company to work with large volumes of data.
    6. COMMON misconception at IT shops about hadoop: it is ‘software engine to support data processing and data manipulation/querying’. it is not -just a file system (not advanced) to provide cheap storage of data files, not secure unless data is incripted.
    7.Cost to support distributed solutions is exponentially growing with new features/data implementations.
    8. apples and oranges – when job descriptions are saying HADOOP DW architect…- it makes me smile as hadoop knowledge can help only as 1/100 for skill set needed to build DW on hadoop…
    as well as data scientist (analytics/math expert) on hadoop – this is complete nonsense, as hadoop MAP Reduce hardly can support simple linear algebra iterations or recursions algorithms , not mentioning statistical formulas…buzz…buzz…buzz…

  4. Martyn Jones
    Posted March 3, 2015 at 4:04 am | Permalink

    Good piece, but there really was no need to ‘improve’ DW by adding persistence.

  5. Anil Kumar Nayak
    Posted February 26, 2016 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    Hadoop can never replace DW as both have different capabilities, that is certain. But by combining Hadoop with DW, the required business need can be fulfilled.

  6. Anil Sequeira
    Posted March 22, 2016 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    Hadoop is evolving and the technology is getting better. It was not built to replace data warehouse but as a potential alternative to do analytics.

  7. Posted June 1, 2016 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    Hive with tez implementations has helped us to build bigger fact tables “Quick” and with very good performance for SQLs. It is a competitor for EDW Marts and users can query using TOAD.
    Hbase gives split second performance if you seek a single record from millions from the “pre sorted and arranged” data in the clusters

  8. Ellie Tong
    Posted February 2, 2017 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    Hi Dan,

    I came across your article on the topic i’m currently researching. I’ve been asked to transform our data warehouse system to hadoop datalake and i’m finding it difficult to do so. Has your view on the subject changed since this article was last written? Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

  9. Posted August 26, 2017 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    Hi,I log on to your new stuff named “Hadoop vs Data Warehouse: Apples & Oranges?” like every week.Your humoristic style is awesome, keep doing what you’re doing! And you can look our website about daily proxy.

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