A Valentine’s Day Marriage (well, HP buys Vertica)

on February 15, 2011
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The trend towards consolidation in the global Decision Management / Analytics / Data Management space continues. This time, HP has bought Vertica, on Valentine’s Day, maybe following the guidance given by Carole-Ann in her earlier post.

Vertica is a significant acquisition for HP – they specialize in managing BI centric queries against vast amounts of data in real-time, or near real-time if you want to be pedantic about it. The acquisition makes sense for HP, of course, since it makes their data-centric offerings all the more attractive, and will create additional traction for their large data warehouses. It will also strengthen HP’s ability to support the now required real-time intelligence gathering from high frequency events and big data, two dimensions enterprise applications are starting to have to confront following the lead of the e-commerce and social consumer web applications.

Vertica was created by Dr Stonebraker, a well-known database specialist who, in addition to Vertica, gave us Ingres, Illustra, StreamBase. He  is still very active, and one of the founders of VoltDB. Vertica focused on a relatively different (in a commercial sense) approach to databases than the usual RDBMS implementations: columnar (or column-oriented) databases, which offer significant simplicity and performance benefits for the types of queries Business Intelligence requires. Of course, as time went by and requirements from customers piled on, Vertica gradually introduced a hybrid model, combining the advantages of row-oriented and column-oriented databases.

With VoltDB, Dr Stonebraker and his Vertica co-founding serial entrepreneur partner will continue innovating. They are pushing a new approach that competes with the NoSQL world in terms of scalability yet does not compromise on the full ACID transactional integrity, and continues leveraging SQL.

It is with a little bit of concern that I see these consolidations take place. On one hand, it’s great to see a major player embrace new technologies or approaches, validate them and make them mainstream. At the same time, and I say this having lived through the experience more than once, the absorption into larger organizations tends to suffocate the creativity of those who are at the core of these innovations – it is very difficult for a large organization to deal with all its constraints and create the right environment for innovation to flourish. I would be less concerned if innovation were less important in the Decision Management space I care about. Carole-Ann wrote about this earlier: innovation matters. The need for innovation is there, the industry is slowing down in its delivery of the promises made.

There are still a number of innovative players, and some mid-size ones which have been able to keep their innovative edge. I hope to be able to comment on more of these in the near future!

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