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2/16/2011
02:29 PM
Doug Henschen
Doug Henschen
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HP's Half Step Back Into Data Warehousing

Vertica acquisition fills a big gap, but it also raises questions about Hewlett Packard's alliances and broader ambitions.

There's plenty of news in the data warehousing market this week, but the lead story is clearly Hewlett Packard's planned acquisition of Vertica.

Vertica's rivals are going about their business at The Data Warehousing Institute (TDWI) annual World Conference in Las Vegas this week -- SAP's Sybase unit talking up its strong showings in the recent Gartner Magic Quadrant and Forrester Wave reports, Kognitio announcing an MDX connector to support OLAP analysis, and Infobright debuting a database upgrade and fast data-loading option. More on that later.

The HP-Vertica deal has broader implications for data warehousing practitioners and vendors alike, even though HP isn't being particularly open or detailed about its ambitions.

The terms of the Vertica acquisition, set to close in the second quarter, were not disclosed. The deal is no shock in that it's another in a recent string of consolidations in data warehousing, with Sybase (and its Sybase IQ data warehousing product) acquired by SAP, Greenplum acquired by EMC and Netezza acquired by IBM all within the last year. But the deal raises plenty of questions about HP's big-picture strategy, implications for partners, and next acquisition candidates.

The key executive HP quoted in its press release on the Vertica deal is Shane Robison, executive vice president and chief strategy and technology officer. But he's not talking. Requests for an interview were denied and questions met with e-mailed responses by an HP spokesperson.

Vertica's Strengths

Among about a dozen independent vendors remaining in data warehousing, Vertica has a lot to offer HP. The company's column-store database delivers high data compression for efficient storage and fast querying in analytic applications. It's also low maintenance, able to get up and running quickly and maintain performance with less tuning than required by conventional relational databases, such as those from Oracle, IBM and Microsoft.

The database architecture also supports massively parallel processing on industry standard hardware, such as that offered by HP, so it can scale out to handle hundreds-of-terabyte, big-data deployments. Scalability has helped Vertical score high-end digital marketing and e-commerce customers such as AOL , Twitter, and Groupon.

8 Big Data Deployments In Detail
(click image for larger view)
Slideshow: 8 Big Data Deployments In Detail

Vertica has been innovator, introducing options including in-memory and flash-memory analysis for faster querying. It introduced Hadoop MapReduce connectivity to support customers interested in so-called NoSQL analysis of non-standard data and low-cost storage and data processing options. Vertical was also among the first to venture into cloud-based deployment options, and HP said this will support its Cloud Service Automation solution.

What's more, Vertica was already partnered with HP, and many of its more than 300 customers run on HP hardware. The database is compatible with HP servers and storage options and it will be a simple matter to configure optimized analytic appliances on HP hardware.

What Vertica is not, at least in real-world deployments thus far, is an enterprise data warehouse (EDW) capable of supporting thousands of users and mixed query loads simultaneously. Workload management features were recently added to the database to try to plug that gap, but the product is used almost entirely for analytic data marts.

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