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.
I've talked to plenty of customers who have considered both column-store and row-store databases for the same application. AOL and Provisio, for example, both considered column-store and row-store, and the latter replaced a Microsoft SQL Server deployment with ParAccel, a column-store competitor to Vertica.

HP's alliance with SAP would seem to be unshakable, but it can't be sitting well in Walldorf, Germany, that HP is buying the arch rival of Sybase's Sybase IQ product. Vertica has been going after Sybase customers and openly criticizing Sybase's IQ product for years.

One slam Vertica has used in recent years has been to site Sybase IQ's lack of support for massively parallel processing (MPP). But that recently changed when Sybase added an MPP option. Sybase, like Vertica, has also been working on supporting faster data loading, mixed query workloads and larger numbers of users. Sybase's progress toward handing EDW deployments was specifically cited by Gartner in its recent Magic Quadrant report on data warehousing vendors.

Infobright is another vendor working on the historic drawback of column-store databases: slow loading speeds. Infobright introduced a Distributed Load Processor option this week to speed loading to up to one terabyte per hour. Fast loading is essential to deliver near-real-time analysis of data, and it's a challenge Vertica addressed in 2009 with its FlexStore feature.

Kognitio's introduction of an MDX connector for OLAP will appeal particularly to shops using Microsoft Analysis Services for online analytical processing. The connector will effectively eliminate the need to build cubes as the Kognitio database itself will serve up multidimentional data for fast analysis.

Will Vertica respond? These are the kinds of choices HP will have to make that may put it in closer competition with Microsoft offerings.

Divided Loyalties

Where Microsoft and Sybase are concerned, the loyalties of HP customers, not to mention HP salespeople, are likely to be tested. Historically customers choose the database first and the hardware second, but appliances are blurring those lines. Make no mistake, there will be deals in which HP-Vertica and Microsoft and HP-Vertica and Sybase, and SAP company, will be competing for the same customers.

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As for HP's broader ambitions, the spokesperson offered only a broad statement about "continued investment in enterprise information optimization," noting he couldn't get into specifics in a pre-earnings quiet period.

I wouldn't expect HP to divulge any detailed plans, but the acquisition of Vertica is only a half step back into data warehousing. To compete with the likes of IBM, Oracle and Teradata, HP will have to somehow address the mixed-query, high-user-number EDW market it gave up on -- if, indeed, it intends to compete at the top end of the market.

And beyond databases and appliances, HP must also address the gaping holes in data integration, data quality, business intelligence and analytics portfolios. For that, we'll have to wait for yet more acquisitions.

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