Software // Information Management
Commentary
2/15/2011
10:55 AM
James Kobielus
James Kobielus
Commentary
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Innovation Transforms Data Warehousing

Technical differentiation continues to narrow among leading vendors. The next Forrester Wave will see a push into cloud-based data warehousing.

Forrester Research has just updated the "Forrester Wave for Enterprise Data Warehousing (EDW) Platforms" after a grueling, eight-month process of revisiting the criteria, scales, and weights associated with differentiating features.

The EDW market has evolved considerably in the two years since we published the first installment of the Wave. (InformationWeek readers can download the latest update here -- free guest registration required if you are not a current Forrester customer.)

What's new? For starters, more vendors made the crucial inclusion criterion of having at least 100 customers with in-production EDW deployments. The field this time around included all seven vendors in the 2009 Wave, plus Greenplum (now part of EMC) and Vertica.

Big-brand EDW mergers and acquisitions consolidated the original seven down to five, as IBM acquired Netezza and SAP purchased Sybase [Editor's note: Hewlett Packard announced on Monday that it has reached an agreement to acquire Vertica]. Bear in mind that, as these acquisitions were reasonably recent, we chose to evaluate the acquired vendors' offerings separately from their new parents' pre-acquisition EDW offerings in this latest Wave.

(It's worth noting that neither IBM nor SAP has slightest intention of discontinuing their pre-acquisition EDW portfolios -- if anything, they're both now evolving those product families even more aggressively post-acquisition.)

Another interesting development is that most of the vendors this time around ended up in the leaders group. This befits a segment where most vendors significantly strengthened their positions through new product platform rollouts, extensive feature enhancements, order-of-magnitude leaps in price-performance, aggressive go-to-market and partnering strategies, and deep investments in R&D. Leading vendors were packed into a tighter cluster, illustrating the fact that, though they are all innovating on all fronts, the technical differentiators among them continue to narrow.

In reviewing the findings from this Wave, I urge you not to read too much into the final scores and the rankings. This was an extraordinarily strong field of vendors, all of whom, Forrester is confident, are in this market for the long haul and will accelerate the pace of innovation that continues to transform this space. You should consider this latest Wave a complex snapshot of an industry that now sits poised at the start of the still-nascent era of cloud EDW.

No, Forrester is not ready to declare cloud EDW a mature market segment. Only a handful of vendors who were in the Wave -- and a few who weren't in the Wave -- offer what might be considered enterprise-grade EDW cloud/SaaS/managed subscription services. But all of the vendors in the Wave have put a high priority on evolving their offerings to support more robust cloud-based deployments. What that means in practice is that EDW vendors are rapidly innovating so that their solution portfolio can address three core features for EDW in the cloud:

Extreme scalability: The cloud EDW must support scale-out through shared-nothing, massively parallel processing. It must be modularly deployable from optimized hardware/software appliances, incorporate optimized storage layers, and support dynamic resource provisioning, query optimization, and workload management.

Extreme flexibility: The cloud EDW must be fluid, elastic, adaptive, and virtualized. It must support private, public, and hybrid deployment. It must enable data to be transparently persisted in diverse physical and logical formats and to an abstract, seamless grid of interconnected memory and disk resources, with sub-second delivery guarantees to a growing range of downstream applications. It must ensure application service levels ensured through an end-to-end, policy-driven, latency-agile, distributed-caching and dynamic query-optimization memory grid.

Extreme affordability: The cloud EDW must support flexible packaging, pricing, and licensing models, supporting ever lower-cost acquisition, integration, and administration costs through "pay as you go" subscription-based usage models.

Our research on this Wave showed that this vision of EDW market evolution in indeed coming to pass. In fact, we predict that it will be mainstream by the middle of this decade, much as appliances, a nouveau theme when we published the first EDW Wave in early 2009, are now an article faith for business EDW practitioners and vendors everywhere.

I look forward to your feedback on this updated Wave and to addressing your inquiries on all things EDW.

James Kobielus is a senior analyst at Forrester Research. Write him at jkobielus@forrester.com.

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