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Hadoop According To Hortonworks: An Insider's View

Shaun Connolly, Hortonworks VP of corporate strategy, dishes on Hadoop 2.0., competition with Cloudera and the threat of big data commoditization.
IW: Cloudera clearly has a different strategy of building value on top of Hadoop. Can Hortonworks deliver enough value supporting foundation-sanctified software?

Connolly: We're part of the Apache Foundation and we're also part of the OpenStack Foundation. Those community models are important because they enable a lot more people to participate, and that drives the technology forward. Our fundamental belief is that the more people get involved, it doesn't slow things down, it results in higher quality technology. That's why we do things like the Stinger initiative, rallying the Apache community around more performance and SQL compliance. We reached out to Facebook, Microsoft and others who have engineers actively coding to help the Stinger initiative to achieve those goals. It isn't just Hortonworks.

What's our value? It's providing that type of leadership around things like Apache Knox for security, Apache Falcon for data lifecycle management. It isn't just Apache Hadoop, the project, much like it isn't just about Linux kernel. It's about the variety of data services and operational services that come in around Hadoop.

If we were going after this market as if we wanted to be the next Oracle for big data, then, yes, we would probably be doing commercial extensions of Hadoop and trying to differentiate ourselves that way. We think Hadoop's opportunity is much broader than that. When you see the likes of Microsoft telling the world that the Hortonworks Data Platform for Windows on-premises is the Hadoop you want, and that it's compatible with the Azure HD Insight Service, that pulls the technology into the market at a much faster pace than if we did everything ourselves or created commercial extensions to Hadoop.

IW: Intel is talking about putting Hadoop software on chips. Does that hint that Hadoop is becoming very standardized, commodity type technology?

Connolly: That's really a great question about Intel's strategy. We've seen some of their engineers working on some of the Hadoop projects, like HBase and security, but how does that translate into an Intel offering that is credible and how much they can push down onto the chip? I don't have that answer. Intel commits a lot to Linux, but an operating system is vastly different than a distributed data processing system. If Hadoop can take advantage of security features and other things that are built into chips, that's good. But it remains to be seen how that plays out.

IW: There were rumors that Intel was interested in buying Hortonworks, just as there were rumors that Microsoft took a run at the company last year. What is the end game for Hortonworks?

Connolly: Let me address that very specifically because there has also been speculation about our funding. Our series A round raised $23 million. Series B raised $25 million and the latest round, concluded in June, raised $50 million. We are running the company with the goal of becoming the dominant force in the next-generation data platform space. With the latest round of funding, our goal is to begin to get to cash-flow neutrality and profitability. That's how you prepare yourself to have the option to become a publicly traded company.

As far as acquisitions are concerned, rumors make for good Silicon Valley reality TV and discussion, but there have been no real offers for Hortonworks. People talk and stuff gets printed. The Microsoft acquisition assertion is patently false. It never happened. The Intel rumor came in advance of our latest funding round. Maybe somebody's signals got crossed and they made up that story.

At the end of the day, we're well capitalized and we're executing very well. Our goal is to drive Hortonworks as an independently run company. Acquisitions happen all the time, but we're not in the business to position ourselves to sell the company. There's a bigger opportunity than a quick-flip scenario.