Diary of an Asian Swing: Day 3

This was a day of transition. No meetings in Hong Kong, so after a leisurely breakfast and a look at the news, I settled down for a rare session of uninterrupted writing. It was still Sunday back home, so the email was relatively caught up and I could focus. Finished first drafts of some Gartner Magic Quadrant DW DBMS content and sent them off to colleagues for review and assembly into our eventual document.

This MQ is my second, and I’m really enjoying the process this time now that I’m not trying to figure out what happens next. I’m especially pleased with the process of combining interview data from customer interviews and analysis of our inquiry traffic – hundreds for each of the four authors – with surveys we conducted specifically for the report.

Mark Beyer built a fantastic link for feeding survey criteria measured by numeric scores from customers directly into relevant cells on our underlying spreadsheet. We had already done some collective scoring of our own in those cells, and the new exercise showed us how customers read the same issues. And it moved some of the scores significantly, with some vendors doing better than we expected in some areas, and others getting hammered. When a sizable number of survey respondents highlight an issue like support as a serious weakness, one has to take notice.

Several hours of uninterrupted time, a luxury that made the work move quickly, gave way to a decision about what to do with a free afternoon. I decided to use it for more work, so instead of an excursion I headed to the airport hours ahead of schedule to work in the attractive Cathay Pacific lounge. But I was surprised by a helpful check-in agent who told me there was an earlier flight I could get onto. As a result, I arrived in spectacular Singapore late in the evening instead of well into the night, and was in my hotel for a good night’s rest before early morning meetings the next day.

And of course, working on the place – even without wi-fi – was just as good as working in the lounge. So I had the chance to complete a new draft of a forthcoming Hadoop Pilot Best Practices piece and send it off to a collaborator. A good day indeed.

Diary of an Asian Swing: Day 1

I’ve never been a diarist. But as an exercise, I’m going to document this trip: two weeks on the road to Asia and Australia. Almost all work, though there is one day of weekend and recovery time built in.

Friday, Nov 2. Cathay Pacific flight to Hong Kong. Business class. Comfortable, well-appointed cabin. Friendly, courteous staff.

Learned system, table, storage, seat. NO WIFI! OMG. 14 unconnected hours – that’s what stimulated the idea to blog. Otherwise I would have been tweeting a lot. Which is fun, but this will be a change. Let’s start with some entertainment and settle in….

Video presentation of Sir Paul McCartney’s Kisses on the Bottom. Diana Krall. John Pizzarelli. Joe Walsh! It’s delightful – commentary, moments of studio play, tenderness. No real edge, but that’s not what it’s about. Luscious melody, beautiful jazz harmonies. Diana is a sideman here and a brilliant one. McCartney is who he is – always a touch too smooth and a touch too sweet, but it works so well here. Wonderful selection of songs and I love his own Valentine one.

Next up is a video piece about the Who’s Quadrophenia. Clearly part of Townshend’s current campaign to remind the world of his brilliant work – and well done. A good narrative sprinkled with revelatory bits about Moon, and Daltrey, and the terrible chaos they endured. Live performance footage and some nice stuff at the control board with Pete and the engineers highlighting dimensions of the music.

Now, it’s time to get to work – pick some music for background, get the computer out. Found Xuefei Yang – guitarist, playing Bach. Lovely tone, tempos, clarity. Don’t know her. Will fix that. And now to work – Magic Quadrant writing.

Wait. First a survey by Cathay Pacific. Why not?

A few Magic Quadrant hours reviewing interviews, surveys, briefing content, and our own scoring and it’s on to writing up a draft for one of the vendors and sending it off for my colleagues to comment and collaborate on the content.

Now, a break. I’ve earned one. Stretch the legs, a few exercises…

Treated to a reboot of the airplane’s computer system. Red Hat, it turns out. A parade of system level messages marched across the screen, unfathomable to anyone unfamiliar with Linux. The darkness, and eventually, a blessed progress bar, followed by the return of the flight map. We’ve passed over Siberia and the Gulf of Shelekhova; now we’re over the Sea of Okhotsk, only 6 and a half hours to go.

A moment to update this diary and a little reading – music choice Wynton Marsalis & Eric Clapton. Really? Didn’t know about this one. Would love to look it up on the net, but NO WIFI. Oh well, a little Time magazine, and then some Hadoop Operations by Eric Sammer.

Eric’s book is highly recommended – lucid, well written and doesn’t demand extraordinary technical depth to understand. Find it here: http://www.amazon.com/Hadoop-Operations-Eric-Sammer/dp/1449327052/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1351944059&sr=1-1&keywords=hadoop+operations 

Arrived on time. Hong Kong continues to impress: efficient, clean, modern as I remembered. Nice hotel. Good wifi. Sent off MQ writeups to colleagues and synchronized all the email I did while offline. Time to crash. Day One is done.

IBM Fills Out Netezza Lineup With High Capacity Appliance

In the months since IBM closed its Netezza acquisition, the data warehouse appliance pioneer has been busy, if the announcements at this week’s Enzee are any indication. An enthusiastic crowd – 1000 strong – heard CEO Jim Baum deliver the news: new hardware, software and partnerships.The biggest news was The Appliance Formerly Known As Cruiser, now known as the Netezza High Capacity Appliance (HCA). A wag made up some t-shirts bearing the acronym TAFKAC and did quite well. IBM is aiming to push the size perception for Netezza higher. How high? Half a PB in a rack. You can scale it to 10PB.

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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

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

IBM Acquires Netezza – ADBMS Consolidation Heats Up

IBM’s bid to acquire Netezza makes it official; the insurgents are at the gates. A pioneering and leading ADBMS player, Netezza is in play for approximately $1.7 billion or 6 times revenues [edited 9/30; previously said “earnings,” which is incorrect.] When it entered the market in 2001, it catalyzed an economic and architectural shift with an appliance form factor at a dramatically different price point. Titans like Teradata and Oracle (and yes, IBM) found themselves outmaneuvered as Netezza mounted a steadily improving business, adding dozens of new names every quarter, continuing to validate its market positioning as a dedicated analytic appliance. It’s no longer alone there; some analytic appliance play is now in the portfolio of most sizable vendors serious about the market. Read more of this post

EMC Buys Greenplum – Big Data Realignment Continues

EMC’s acquisition of Greenplum, announced today as a cash transaction, reaffirms the obvious: the Big Data tsunami upends conventional wisdom. It has already reshaped the market, spawning the most ferment in the RDBMS (and non-R DBMS via the noSQL players) space in years. When I first posted on Greenplum over a year ago, I said that

Open source + capital has created an intriguing new model of rapid innovation in “mature” markets, and the database space – like BI – is not a done deal. It is indeed possible to escape the gravity well, if you execute. Greenplum is getting it done, and is among the new stars to watch.”

Why the open source reference? Greenplum uses a parallelization layer atop PostgreSQL (like Aster, another of the new breed of ADBMS.)

Now EMC has written the next chapter in that story. In the process, it adds a new piece (after literally dozens of others in the past few years) to its own portfolio, which already includes unstructured data (via Documentum) and virtualization (via VMWare), layered in among the industry-leading storage and information management pieces. Disruptive? You bet. Is EMC finished? I doubt it. Candidates? BI tools, ETL, MDM, data integration come to mind. Losers? At least one big one. Read on. Read more of this post

Sybase SQL Anywhere 12 Extends Mobile Leadership

In my coverage of SAP’s Sybase acquisition, I noted that SQL Anywhere is a best kept secret among more than 20,000 developers who relish its ease of embedding and minimal database administration. Now Sybase is about to release its next version, SQL Anywhere 12, with ambitions to add to its claimed ten million users worldwide using SQL Anywhere-powered applications. Geospatial features, key to mobile applications, will feature prominently. Read more of this post

Sybase Database Value to SAP – Long Term and Short

It’s not what you think – the hidden jewel for the near term may just be SQL Anywhere. Read on. Disclosure: I worked at Sybase in the last millennium, when it hit the wall at $1B the first time and bounced. Over the next few years, Oracle dramatically outdistanced itself, in large part, as it turned out, because of the massive opportunity presented by SAP. Thousands of huge installs atop the Oracle DBMS, and not one with Sybase. Why? Because of a technology disagreement. SAP wanted row-level locking. Sybase’s answer: “Let us tell you why you’re wrong to want it.” Leaving aside the lesson to be learned from that one, let’s talk about how much the newly acquired Sybase database portfolio does for SAP. I’m leaving the best for last, because all the chatter has been about ASE and IQ, but read to the end.

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SAP – Sybase: Synergies? Suspect So.

SAP announced today that it will acquire Sybase for $65.00 per share, representing an enterprise value of approximately $5.8 billion. The announcement says that “customers will be able to better harness today’s explosion of data and deliver information and insight in real time to business consumers wherever they work so they can make faster, more informed decisions.” But the vision goes beyond that: the combined companies will be able to deliver the ability to act on those decisions, anywhere. The combination of SAP’s substantial share of its customers’ transactional systems with Sybase’s mobile expertise in messaging and application development tools for mobile devices affords extraordinary opportunities that are not lost on management. Following the public press event, I chatted with Vishal Sikka, SAP’s CTO, and Dr. Raj Nathan, EVP and CMO of Sybase. We covered some of the opportunities on the table and SAP’s plans for its new assets. Read more of this post