That Exciting New Stuff? Yeah… Wait Till It Ships.

A brief rant here: I am asked with great frequency how this RDBMS will hold off that big data play, how data warehouses will survive in a world where Hadoop exists, or whether Apple is done now that Android is doing well. There is a fundamental fallacy implicit in these questions.

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Microsoft Leaps Late, Lags with SQL Server PDW

Microsoft chose a user group meeting, Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS), for the rollout of its long-awaited, and late, SQL Server 2008 R2 Parallel Data Warehouse (note, yet again, how foolish it is for vendors to trap themselves with dates in product names.) PDW is late to market; there are other MPP DBMS players there already, and Microsoft is behind in functionality compared to some of them. Some of the most eagerly–awaited features are evidently not slated for the first release. It’s also far behind its originally planned ship date following the acquisition of DatAllegro in 2008. Read more of this post

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

Oracle’s Exadata Refresh Ups Ante on Technology and Selling Strategy

The Exadata marketing story is unrelenting, and Oracle backed it with plenty of happy customers for analysts to query at Open World this year. The stories were compelling; I’ll mention a few below. In the analyst pitch, we were shown a couple of dozen logos – good for a still relatively new high-end, long sales cycle, longer still production ramp up, product. The numbers are not Teradata rates yet, but CEO Larry Ellison claims a $1.5B pipeline.  Whether you believe it or don’t, he’s telling the world – and if he misses by much, Wall Street will spank the stock, so personally I doubt that he’s pushing too far past his real expectations. The big news, of course, was a refresh of the product itself, as Oracle gets deeper into the power of leveraging hardware and software design together. Read more of this post

Database Benchmarks – The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Yes, I know – not everyone believes database benchmarks are useful. My position is that there is value in benchmarks’ role in helping engineers wring out bottlenecks, bugs and performance impediments in their products. Berni Schiefer, Technical Executive , Information Management Performance and Benchmarks for DB2, MDM and SolidDB, recently told me that “every time we run [TPC-C] we are astonished at how effectively it hammers every element of the system. We always find bugs, room for tuning. It’s the nastiest, most punishing combination there is.” Read more of this post

Microsoft Murky on Cloud Licensing

By Laura DiDio, ITIC

Microsoft did a very credible job at its TechEd conference in New Orleans last week, laying out the technology roadmap and strategy for a smooth transition from premises-based networks/services to its emerging Azure cloud infrastructure and software + services model.

One of the biggest challenges facing Microsoft and its customers as it stands on the cusp of what Bob Muglia, president of Microsoft’s Server & Tools Business (STB) unit characterized as a “major transformation in the industry called cloud computing,” is how the Redmond, Wash. software giant will license its cloud offerings. Read more of this post

Microsoft’s Parallel DW – Still Waiting

Microsoft’s SQL Server Parallel Data Warehouse (PDW) has been eagerly awaited for a long time. It still is. Though much of the news at the BI Conference running in parallel with TechEd in New Orleans (discussed here) was generally quite good, the PDW story was much less so. It’s late, and it’s not all there. Read more of this post

Oracle Exadata: Early Signs Promising

Exadata is looking good. In the past few months, I’ve had the chance to talk to several early adopters of Oracle Exadata V2, some in connection with a sponsored white paper Oracle has just published. It’s still early, but I see this product as a milestone, regardless of its commercial success. That is still to be determined, although I wouldn’t bet against it. How it will be affected by Oracle’s execution of the Sun acquisition is another open question, and the recent surprise layoffs, which showed that either the announced expectations were laughably off base or Ellison’s early announcements about  hiring plans were less than candid, don’t bode too well for the near term. Rob Enderle made some strong and provocative points in his guest post here. Read more of this post

Microsoft Plays Where’s Waldo? With BI – Good Idea

In April, I was critical of the BI messaging I heard from Microsoft – as told, it was long on benefit adjectives and short on architectural clarity. But things have changed since then, and the Combined Tech Ed/Business Intelligence Conference made that very clear. Do I see more clarity because I now know more of the detail, and have internalized my own narrative? Likely. But it would be outrageously self-centered of me to think that was all. The fact is, the story is being told better, and there is much to tell. It needs to be told well because it’s complex behind the “simple” descriptions that underlie Microsoft’s ultimate value proposition: BI should be an easily consumed, context-aware service available to everyone, not a separate offering. Microsoft is tackling the continuing grand challenge of BI – expanding usage beyond the 20% of potential users that are BI consumers today. Read more of this post

Is Microsoft the New Safe Harbor?

The following is a guest post from Ray Wang of Altimeter Group. I wrote a different title, but otherwise this is as it appears on his blog.

Clients Now See Microsoft As The Neutral Vendor, Hence All The Questions

Just less than 3 years ago, Microsoft was still perceived as part of the “evil” empire.  Business leaders worried about the complicated and expensive licensing and pricing structures.  IT leaders bemoaned the lock-in and proprietary and often buggy software.  But in a reversal of fortune, customers now worry about Google lock-in, fret over Oracle’s quest to dominate IT through M&A, wonder how hardware vendors will become software providers and vice versa, and remain in shock as Apple’s proprietary and closed approach over takes Microsoft’s market cap.

In conversations with 71 business and IT leaders, the perception on Microsoft has definitively shifted.  In fact, more than 74.6% (53/71) see Microsoft as the neutral and trusted supplier.  With an aging and retiring workforce that grew up on IBM and SAP, the next generation of IT leaders increasingly will exert their leadership and run to their comfort zone of Microsoft and Oracle.  (Note: Don’t expect this to last as the next generation of IT leadership comprises of millennials and digital natives who will try to move everything to open source and the cloud.)  Consequently, Microsoft’s technology offerings receive a renewed interest and reinvestment among customers, partners, and critical OEM’s.  Among this group, many are attending TechEd 2010 in New Orleans, LA.  Key questions they will be asking include: Read more of this post

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