Thursday, 30 December 2010

2010 Review: a BI-DW Top 5

This post is written completely 'off the cuff' without any fact checking or referring back to sources. Just sayin'…

Top 5 from 2010

5) Big BI consolidation is finished
  There were no significant acquisitions of "Big BI" vendors in 2010.  Since Cognos went to IBM and BO went to SAP, the last remaining member of the old guard is MicroStrategy. (It's interesting to consider why they have not been acquired but that's for another post.)  In many ways the very definition of Big BI has shifted to encompass smaller players. Analysts, in particular, need things to talk about and they have effectively elevated a few companies to Big BI status that were previously somewhat ignored, e.g., SAS (as a BI provider), InformationBuilders, Pentaho, Acuate, etc.  All of the major conglomerates now have a 'serious' BI element in their offerings and so I don't see further big spending on BI acquisitions in 2011.  The only dark horse in this race seems to be HP and it's very unclear what their intentions are, particularly with the rumours of Neoview being cancelled; if HP were to move I see them going for either a few niche players or someone like InformationBuilders with solid software but lacking in name recognition.

4) Analytic database consolidation began
  We've seen an explosion of specialist Analytic databases over the last ~5 years and 2010 saw the start of a consolidation phase amongst these players. The first big acquisition of 2010 was Sybase by SAP; everyone assumed Sybase's IQ product (the original columnar database) was the target but the talk since then has been largely about the Sybase mobile offerings. I suspect both products are of interest to SAP; IQ allows them to move some of their ageing product lines forward and Mobile will be an enabler for taking both SAP and Business Objects to smartphones going forward.
  The banner acquisition was Netezza by IBM. I've long been very critical/sceptical of IBM's claims in the Data Warehouse / Analytic space. Particularly as I've worked with a number of DW's that were taken off DB2 (onto Teradata) but never come across one actively running on DB2. I'm a big Netezza fan so my hope is that they survive the integration and are able to leverage the resources of IBM going forward.
  We also saw Teradata acquiring the dry husk of Kickfire's ill-fated MySQL 'DW appliance'. Kickfire's fundamental technology appeared to be quite good but sadly their market strategy was quite bad. I think this a good sign from Teradata that they are open to external ideas and they see where the market is going. The competition with Netezza seems to have revitalised them and given them a new enemy to focus on. A new version of Teradata database that incorporated some columnar features (and an 'free' performance boost) could be just the ticket to get their very conservative customers migrated onto the latest version.

3) BI vendors started thinking about mobile
  Mobile BI became a 'front of mind' issue in 2010. MicroStrategy has marketed aggressively in this space but other vendors are in the hunt and have more or less complete mobile offerings. Business Objects also made some big noise about mobile but everything seemed to be demos and prototypes. Cognos has had a 'mobile' offering for some time but they remained strangely quiet, my impression is that their mobile offerings are not designed for the iOS/Android touchscreen world.
  Niche vendors have been somewhat quiet on the mobile front, possibly waiting to see how it plays out before investing, with the notable exception of Qlikview who have embraced it with both arms. This is a great strategic move for Qlikview (who IMHO prove the koan that 'strategy trumps product') because newer mobile platforms are being embraced by their mid-market customers far faster than at Global 5000 companies that the Big BI vendors focus on. Other niche and mid-market vendors should take note of this move and get something (anything!) ready as quickly as possible.

2) Hadoop became the one true MapReduce
  I remain somewhat non-plussed by MapReduce personally, however a lot of attention has been lavished on it over the last 2 years and during the course of 2010 the industry has settled on Hadoop as the MapReduce of choice.  From Daniel Adabadi's HadoopDB project to Pentaho's extensive Hadoop integration to Aster's "seamless connectivity" with Hadoop to Paraccel's announcement of the same thing coming soon and on and on.  The basic story of MapReduce was very sexy but in practice the details turned out to be "a bit more complicated" (as Ben Goldacre [read his book!] would say).  It's not clear that Hadoop is the best possible MR implementation but it looks likely to become the SQL of MapReduce. Expect other MapReduce implementations to start talking about Hadoop compatibility ad nauseum.
  All of this casts Cloudera in an interesting light. They are after all "the Hadoop company" according to themselves. It's far too early for a 'good' acquisition in this space however money talks and I wonder if we might see something happen in 2011.

1) The Cloud got real and we all got sick of hearing about it
  I'm not sure whether 2010 was truly the "year of the Cloud" but it certainly was the peak of it's hype cycle.  In 2010 the reality of cloud pricing hit home; the short version is that a lot of the fundamental cost of cloud computing is operational and we shouldn't expect to see continuous price/performance gains like we have seen in the hardware world.  Savvy observers have noted that the bulk of enterprise IT spending has been non-hardware for a long time but the existence of cloud offerings brings those costs into focus.
  Ultimately, my hope for the Cloud is that it will drive companies toward buying results, e.g., SaaS services that require little-to-no customisation, and away from buying potential, e.g. faster hardware and COTS software that is rarely fit for purpose. The cycle should go something like: "This Cloud stuff seems expensive, how much does it cost us to do the same thing?" > "OMG are you frickin' serious, we really spend that?!" > "Is there anyone out there that can provide the exact same thing for a monthly fee?".  Honestly, big companies are incredibly bad at hardware and even worse at software. The Cloud (as provided by Amazon, et al) is IMHO just a half step towards then endpoint which is the use of SaaS offerings for everything.

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