Hadoop Distributions And Kids’ Soccer

The big players are moving in for a piece of the big data action.  IBM, EMC, and NetApp have stepped up their messaging, in part to prevent startup upstarts like Cloudera from cornering the Apache Hadoop distribution market. They are all elbowing one another to get closest to “pure Apache” while still “adding value.” Numerous other startups have emerged, with greater or lesser reliance on, and extensions or substitutions for, the core Apache distribution. Yahoo! has found a funding partner and spun its team out, forming a new firm called Hortonworks, whose claim to fame begins with an impressive roster responsible for most of the code in the core Hadoop projects. Think of the Doctor Seuss children’s book featuring that famous elephant, and you’ll understand the name.

While we’re talking about kids – ever watch young kids play soccer? Everyone surrounds the ball. It takes years to learn their position on the field and play accordingly. There are emerging alphas, a few stragglers on the sidelines hoping for a chance to play, community participants – and a clear need for governance. Tech markets can be like that, and with 1600 attendees packing late June’s Hadoop Summit event, all of those scenarios were playing out. Leaders, new entrants, and the big silents, like the absent Oracle and Microsoft.

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IBM’s IOD Showcases DB2, Informix, InfoSphere. Now, About Marketing….

It was hard to decide where to look first in Las Vegas this year at IBM’s flagship information management event. Coming as it did on the heels of a massive, sprawling Oracle Open World, it was also overwhelming, but distinguished itself immediately by its focus. Whereas Oracle has smashed together hardware systems, apps, middleware, java and development, systems management and database into a bewildering multi-site show, IBM continues to run separate events for Websphere, Rational, Tivoli, and Lotus. No single IBM event trumpets “we’re the biggest,” and they don’t take over the towns they’re in; the content seems a bit more manageable. And as an attendee who hopes to get a broad view, I’m happy with that. However, as I’ll discuss below, Oracle is winning the messaging war nonetheless.

There was indeed talk of systems at IoD this year, as Smart Analytics Systems got a refresh and some added units on x-based platforms. Flash memory additions to the x-based 5600, bundling InfoSphere and Cognos along with an updated Linux release, provide the basis for a good story along with more cores, memory and storage. A similar story is possible for the POWER-based 7700, which also added the new Blue Darter solid state disk (SSD.) And the z audience gets the 9600, with its sidecar, the transparent offload to the Smart Analytics Optimizer. Yes, IBM has a column-based database, with innovative storage tweaks and an optimizer that knows when to use it and when not to. Great promise there.

So what’s wrong with this picture? Try this: ask 10 IT people what Exadata is, and what Smart Analytics Systems are. Ask them who makes the offerings, and what they do. Go ahead…I’ll wait….

Back? OK. Here’s what I learned, after doing that experiment at 3 events attended by IT people (data people, in fact.) 8 of 10 I asked knew Oracle makes Exadata and it’s a wicked fast platform for data. 4 of 10 knew who makes the other one, and fewer knew why. On visibility and buzz, game Oracle.

There is much more to talk about, and visibility and buzz are not everything. IBM’s numbers continue to be good, and nobody in Armonk is complaining. But the IBM Software brand needs to get more attention, more investment, and a tighter, more focused story. The good news? Conversations I’ve been having suggest that it will in 2011, and it’s about time. Read more of this post

IBM Software Results Continue To Validate Strategy

Another strong year from IBM demonstrates that its relentless software portfolio build-out has succeeded in its goal of grabbing ever more customer logos, share of wallet, and partners. Growth is a complex challenge at this scale – every acquisition brings revenue, but also staff and technology integration challenges, more complexity for Marketing and Sales to deal with. Add to that the difficulties of the economy, and the magnitude of the investment IBM’s biggest customers make – and how easy it would be for their careful shaving of a few points off their spending to have massive impact – and it would be easy to stumble. Read more of this post

Cognos Showcases Strong Momentum, Ambitious Plans

IBM’s Cognos analyst event this week in lovely Ottawa, Canada showcased strong evidence of progress and continuing momentum for one of the  largest software acquisitions of recent years. An international group of analysts listened to a series of discussions that highlighted key developments:

  • The launch of Cognos Express, aimed at mid-market buyers
  • New Analytic Applications that continue to expand the portfolio and IBM’s increasing commitment to this new form of applications
  • Internal integration of Cognos within IBM proceeding and gaining momentum
  • New Performance Blueprints continuing to roll out
  • Upcoming product plans, with numerous launches planned at the Information on Demand conference in October
  • The planned SPSS acquisition, pointing the way to new opportunities  Read more of this post

IBM’s Smart Analytics System: More Than An Appliance?

When is an appliance not an appliance? When it’s more. On July 28, IBM’s Software Group and Systems and Technology Group (i.e., the hardware folks) hosted an analyst event to introduce the Smart Analytics System.The discussion began with a series of conversations about the value of “workload optimization,” or the effective tuning of processors, storage, memory and network components with software used for information management.  Not controversial, but hardly news. IBM claims to be raising the bar, though, with the promise of a system that is already tuned, and attuned to the needs of its purchaser, at a level far beyond appliances that other vendors have delivered: appliances, if you will, not only predesigned for specific use cases, but customized for specific instances of those use cases. It’s no accident that IBM never called the Smart Analytics System an “appliance.” Extending the Smart brand here is a powerful move, and IBM appears poised to make good on its promise. Read more of this post

GoldenGate Software Buy a Win for Oracle

Oracle today announced it is buying GoldenGate Software for an undisclosed sum, likely a couple of hundred million dollars. To revisit some facts from an earlier post, Goldengate had been in business 15 years, with some 500 customers, 4000 solutions deployed, and strong partnerships with Oracle, Teradata and Ingres on the database side, and Microstrategy and Amdocs in the app and BI space. Their message revolved around 3 key attributes of their changed-data-based replication technology: heterogeneity, real-time (log-based) performance, and high-volume transactional support. Read more of this post

Can GoldenGate Software Continue to Grow Transactional Replication?

GoldenGate Software may not be a well-known name, except in circles where transactional replication is a hot topic, but after 15 years in business, they have assembled a sizable base of some 500 customers, with 4000 solutions deployed, and partnerships with vendors as diverse as Teradata and Ingres on the database side, and Microstrategy and Amdocs in the app and BI space. Their message revolves around 3 key attributes of their changed-data-based replication technology: heterogeneity, real-time (log-based) performance, and high-volume transactional support (committed only.) And despite their notoriously closed-mouthed approach to their finances, it’s fair to say that they are generating tens of millions of dollars in revenue yearly (Hoover’s says $9.7M in 2007, but I believe that’s very low), so it’s evident the marketplace is interested. The big question is whether GoldenGate will invest to sustain and grow sales, or watch larger competitors competitors take their market away, now that they’re on the radar. Read more of this post

InfoSphere Streams Is A Game Changer

IBM has made it clear that InfoSphere Streams, the commercialized part of the System S research project that has been underway for some years, is a priority, and they are committing substantial investments to it.  In fact, the release was hurried a bit, as I noted in my (hopefully) humorous post about naming for complex event processing (CEP) and related technologies. At a major financial analyst meeting in May 2009, CEO Sam Palmisano called it out as an IBM opportunity, and Software Group honcho Steve Mills listed it as one of four themes within his topline Information Agenda message. That kind of push makes things happen. Read more of this post

IBM Acquires Exeros – Information Agenda Gets A Boost

IBM has taken another key step in its Information Agenda strategy, improving customers’ ability to analyze, understand and remediate existing data by acquiring Exeros. There is a fundamental business problem that grows with data volume: an understanding gap. As new development, acquisition and integration of multiple systems takes place, meaning and process understanding are often obscured or lost entirely. At the edge, this is manifested when new BI efforts attempt to find data and its meaning. Exeros Discovery is a leading solution to that problem. My good friend Jim Kobielus of Forrester has provided some excellent background in his blog here. Some other firms are also pursuing this kind of BI-related analysis; Balanced Insight comes to mind, and I’ll blog about them soon. IBM’s ambition is broader than that, and acquiring Exeros is a key enabler of its vision. Read more of this post

IBM InfoSphere Now Supports Informix and z

IBM’s InfoSphere Data Warehouse has been a steady growth asset. As IBM has created and acquired pieces of the infrastructure and progressively created a more complete, end-to-end offering, it has continued to add new customers to (and from) one of the largest installed bases in the world. In reviewing 2008, IBM CFO  Mark Loughridge asserted compound growth of 18% since 2006. For 2008 the claim is 100 more transactions, and 50 InfoSphere customers new to DB2 while in Q4 “distributed (non-mainframe) DB2″grew at 30% growth in constant currency terms. Read more of this post

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