What is Apple's huge data warehouse for?

What is Apple's huge data warehouse for?

Summary: Why is Steve Jobs standing in front a huge data warehouse just weeks after patching a huge privacy hole in iOS?

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Why is Steve Jobs standing in front a huge data warehouse just weeks after patching a big privacy hole in iOS?

Steve Jobs' morning keynote at Apple's World Wide Developers Conference included some shots of the new North Carolina data center - including this one:

Photo courtesy of Macworld

Photo courtesy of Macworld

These are Teradata data warehouse systems: massive, high-performance storage systems sold to enable:

. . . the analytical performance you need . . . to intelligently process all types of analytical and business intelligence queries.

Translation: they aren't storing your music.

How massive? There are a couple of Teradata products that use this rack. The larger one, the Extreme Data Appliance is expandable to over 4,000 nodes and over 180,000 TB of capacity. In the picture it looks like there are at least 28 racks with a fully configured capacity of over 8,000 TB.

That's just one row of machines.

Geospatial services Another feature of the Teradata database:

Geospatial analysis: Built-in geospatial functions and analysis allow geospatial relationships (e.g., distance, within an area or territory) to be used with other business factors and all of the data in the data warehouse.

Very handy for the location aware services that iCloud provides. And valuable for retailers and manufacturers who want deep insight into their customer's buying habits and geographical spread.

The Storage Bits take There's more to the Apple data center story than we know today. Teradata is the industry standard for large data warehouses and they aren't cheap.

Seeing a large, commodity-based, cluster storage system would not have surprised me. After all, that's what Google and Amazon use.

But Apple - as usual - is charting a different course. The iCloud service may be free, but Apple is positioned to make good money from it by selling data on user behavior to others.

This doesn't mean you need to fear that your privacy will be compromised by iOS 5. But until we know how Apple anonymizes these massive data streams, the fear can - and should - remain.

Comments welcome, of course. $30 for the next version of Mac OS X? Redmond - start your copiers!

Topics: Apple, CXO, Data Centers, Data Management, Enterprise Software, Hardware, Operating Systems, Software, Storage

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24 comments
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  • RE: What is Apple's huge data warehouse for?

    This is a joke... only 28 racks ?????
    If Ballmer were were to stand beside all his racks, it would be more than 28,000...
    owlnet
    • Nice trolling

      @owlnet
      but you don't honestly think that one photo of one room shows the entirety of Apple's data center do you?
      use_what_works_4_U
  • It is all just camera perspective

    Those are 12"x12" tiles on the floor :)
    noagenda
    • he's tanding in front of a projected image.

      @noagenda ..not a pict of him in the facility..
      doctorSpoc
  • Come on it's simple

    <i>the analytical performance you need . . . to intelligently process all types of analytical and business intelligence queries.</i> <br><br>And your songs, buying habits, anything Apple related will be stored and queried through this, all for Apple's business purposes.<br><br>And you're right, its just one row of machines.<br><br>Any idea what the other rows look like? Chances are they look like Google's data center, I can see why Jobs would take this row of machines to show off - they "look cool", i.e. Apple=Stylish <br><br>If they showed the rest of the systems, the ones storing music and data what would go through people's head?<br><br>They wouldn't be equating Apple with stylish, that's for sure.
    Will Pharaoh
    • RE: What is Apple's huge data warehouse for?

      @Will Pharaoh
      There was a report that Apple also bought several petabytes of Isilon's cluster storage. Isilon makes scalable NAS storage that would make sense for music.

      But you don't need 500,000 sq ft for that either.
      Robin Harris
      • Many companies in Apple's current position plan for the future.

        @Robin Harris
        Right now Apple has the cash on hand to purchase more then they currently need.

        It is less expensive the the alternative, that being having to build a second datacenter, then addind the infrastructure to connect them all in the future.
        Tim Cook
  • While I agree

    Apple is postioning itself for a strong "data farming" business that seems like a radical departure from it's usual core business. IMHO it is a "distinguishing feature" of Apple in that it is not in the data farming business.
    oncall
  • I'm reminded of an Alanis Morissette song...

    Isn't it Ironic, don't ya think?<br><br>The same people that wanted you to think differently, and released a 1984 commercial against '1984'...<br><br>Now, want everyone to own the same exact device, they want to house everyone's data, and warehouse and mart everyone's behavior.<br><br>...and yeah, I really do think...
    UrNotPayingAttention
  • RE: What is Apple's huge data warehouse for?

    Geospacial analysis. Makes me think that Apple will be using that location data they have been capturing to provide Google like directed advertising to their customers. They know everything about their customers already so it is a good move to make millions of dollars in ad revenue.
    justinkearney
    • RE: What is Apple's huge data warehouse for?

      @justinkearney <br>Maybe. But Jobs didn't seem too keen on advertising during the keynote yesterday. Apple historically keeps advertising other people's stuff to a minimum: no crapware; no stickers; no Intel Inside. <br><br>App makers might buy the info. That would make sense. OTOH, iAd could use a boost and this would turbocharge it.
      Robin Harris
  • RE: What is Apple's huge data warehouse for?

    Online gaming
    Gr8Music
  • RE: What is Apple's huge data warehouse for?

    Is it me or none of these machines are Macs ?
    Silex
    • RE: What is Apple's huge data warehouse for?

      @Silex Of course none of these machines are Macs!
      wjameskirk
  • Umm, we're talking hundreds of millions of users ...

    ... you need serious computing horsepower to do ANYTHING on that scale. Obviously, Apple needs clusters for storing data ... but there's a lot of business-like logic that needs to go along with things, too, to keep things humming along for those hundreds of millions of users. Heck, even just authentication is a big enough job at that level. Plus there's keeping track of your purchases and history, pushing out the data, maybe even some of the geo-fence computations for oh-so-important reminders to pick up milk after you leave work.

    And, no doubt Apple picked a photo of the serious hardware to show that they've implemented serious infrastructure to handle their service. If they showed a shot of cobbled-together storage systems, they might not instill as much confidence.

    Besides, it's a well accepted practice to buy the biggest, best servers you can afford when you do a project now, because they need to last as long as possible. It just so happens that Apple can afford some really awesome equipment. Wouldn't you buy those things if you could?

    To me, any concerns over Apple using top-of-the-line hardware is just FUD -- folks are looking for some kind of conspiracy plot.

    Folks this is pretty simple: Apple wants to sell hardware -- iPhones, iPads, iPods and Macs. Apple has always said that by tightly controlling both the hardware and the software, they can make a better mousetrap. iCloud is just the newest piece of that puzzle, but really, it's just a big extension of iOS and OS X. And judging by how people are voting with their wallets, Apple's strategy is making sense to several million consumers. So, investing a billion or so in a data center is a great investment if it helps attract $20 billion in new hardware sales. It's a cost of business. A means to an end.

    BTW, Apple owns more land adjacent to this data center, and is apparently all set to build a mirror of it on that land. So the Teradata and Isilon folks should be thrilled!
    jscott69
  • Apple's getting ready for the future, and, it's a future that's not

    solely dependent upon the mobile gadgets which have brought them to being the wealthiest IT company.<br><br>They know that, with more and more competition in the mobile market, that they need to branch out and become more than just the "cool gadgets" company. <br><br>With iCloud getting underway, I predict iSearch within one or two years. Those applications required a lot of storage, and hence, the massive warehouse systems.

    BTW, I predicted iCloud (not exactly with that name), when Apple first announced what the iPad's capabilities were going to be more than a year ago, and before they became available for sale. A "storage-less" gadget would guarantee that the gadget maker would need to provide a cloud solution for storage.
    adornoe
  • OMG, it's a a DATABASE

    Hey guess what ZDNet is also running a database system capable of geospatial analysis - you know like Oracle, Mysql, PostgreSQL, DB2, any major database really - and able to "intelligently process all types of analytical and business intelligence queries."

    Maybe we should be afraid of ZDNet?
    gkpm
    • Are you smart enough to detect a difference between ZDNet and cloud

      computing and/or cloud storage, as being implemented by Apple and Microsoft and others?

      Hint: People's personal data is not store on ZDNet (other than Ids), and people do not depend upon ZDNet for application data. Furthermore, ZDNet is redundant, in that, whatever services it provides, are also provided by many other similar websites.
      adornoe
  • RE: What is Apple's huge data warehouse for?

    A facility like that is not even pocket change for Apple. They have somewhere around $65 billion in cash.
    Jesster
    • RE: What is Apple's huge data warehouse for?

      @Jesster Sure, it was no problem for them to finance it, but it still costs a lot of money to build and operate. They have to make back that money somehow. Businesses don't intentionally throw that kind of money down a rathole.
      zackers