Netezza has scaled its Performance Server, a data warehousing appliance for BI analytics to support a petabyte of data.

Systems capable of that scale will be available beginning mid-2008, according to Netezza. The increased performance will be made possible in part through the company's recently announced Compress Engine, for advanced compression, according to Netezza. The new systems will also support multi-terabyte per hour data-loading, the company said.

Netezza has regularly announced performance improvements since launching its appliance in 2002. That initial version could handle up to six terabytes of data, according to the company. That leapfrogged to 27TB in 2004 and 100TB in 2005, Netezza said.

"We have a number of customers who are now at or approaching that upper range," said Phil Francisco, the company's director of product marketing.

Francisco said the new systems will preserve the company's existing pricing model. Low-end systems start below US$200,000 and scale up from there, with support coming at additional cost, he said.

Richard Winter, a consultant with Winter Corp said the BI market was ripe for more powerful data-crunching products. "Every time you turn around you see another industry that's facing a tidal wave of data and they need to understand what this data is saying," he said. "Many of them have data volumes in this range that they haven't been able to afford to analyse, as much as they'd like to. ... [Netezza] can deliver that analytic capability, and at a very attractive price."

James Kobielus, an analyst with Forrester Research, said Netezza is now aiming for the highest end of the data warehousing market, going after the likes of Teradata.

"Being able to scale up to a petabyte in context of an NPS deployment will go a long way toward getting Netezza in that inner circle of vendors," he said.

The company may face certain problems of perception when attempting to poach such vendors' customers, however. "Their chief challenge is the fact that they're a startup," Kobielus said. "They're definitely not as old and mature as the IBMs and Teradatas."

Netezza also may have limited appeal to customers that would prefer a one-stop shopping approach for their BI-data warehousing needs. Instead, Netezza has partnered with BI vendors such as Business Objects.

In addition, heightened competition may be around the corner for the firm, according to the analysts.

"Over the course of the year you'll also see some appliance-type offerings from the major players like Teradata and Oracle," Winter said. "They'll compete down the road."

Kobielus said he sees Microsoft making a particularly strong push in coming months.

"I am confident Microsoft will have some really important announcements this year," he said. "Definitely look out for those guys."