Tag Archives: bbbt

Teradata Aster at the BBBT. Is a technology message sufficient?

Last Friday’s visitors to the BBBT were from Teradata Aster. As you’ve noticed, I tend to focus on the business aspects of BI. Because of that, this blog entry will be a bit shorter than usual.

That’s because the Teradata Aster folks reminded me strongly of my old days before I moved to the dark side: They were very technical. The presenters were Chris Twogood, VP, Product and Services Marketing, and Dan Graham, Technical Marketing.

Chris began with a short presentation about Aster. As far as it got into marketing was pointing to the real problem concerning the proliferation of analytic tools and that, as with all platform products, Aster is an attempt to find a way to address a way to better integrate a heterogeneous marketplace.

As with others who have presented to the BBBT, Chris Twogood also pointed out the R and other open source solutions aren’t any more sufficient for a full BI solution managing big data and analytics that are pure RDBMS solutions, so that a platform has to work with the old and the new.

The presentation was then handed over to Dan Graham, that rare combination of a very technical person who can speak clearly to a mixed level audience. His first point was a continuation of Chris’, speaking to the need integrate SQL and Map Reduce technologies. In support of that, he showed a SQL statement he said could be managed by business analysts, not the magical data scientist. There will have to be some training for business analysts, but that’s always the case in a fast moving industry such as ours.

Most of the rest of the presentation was about his love of graphing. BI is focused on providing more visual reporting of highly complex information, so it wasn’t anything new. Still, what he showed Teradata focusing upon is good and his enthusiasm made it an enjoyable presentation even if it was more technical than I prefer. It also didn’t hurt that the examples were primarily focused on marketing issues.

The one about which I will take issue is the wall he tried to set between graph databases and the graph routines Aster is leveraging. He claimed they’re not really competing with graph databases which was, Dan posited, because they are somehow different.

I pointed out that whether graphs are created in a database, in routines layered on top of SQL or in Java, or were part of a BI vendor’s client tools only mattered in a performance standpoint, that they were all providing graphical representations to the business customer. That means they all compete in the same market. Technical distinctions do not make for business market distinction other than as technical components of cost and performance that impact the organization. There wasn’t a clear response that showed they were thinking at a higher level than technological differences.


Teradata has a long and storied history with large data. They are a respected company. The question is whether or not they’re going to adapt to the new environments facing companies with the explosion of data that’s primarily non-structured and having a marketing focus. Will they be able to either compete or partner with newer companies in the space.

Teradata is a company who has long focused on large data, high performance database solutions. They seem to clearly be on the right path with their technology and the implications are that they are in their strategic and marketing focus. They built their name focused on large databases for the few companies that really needed their solutions. Technology came first and marketing was almost totally technically focused on the people who understood the issue.

The proliferation of customer service and Web data mean that the BI market is addressing a much wider audience for solutions managing large amounts of data. I trust that Teradata will build good technology, but will they realize that marketing has to become more prominent to address a much larger and less technical audience? Only time will tell.

Cloudera at the BBBT: The limits of Open Source as a business model

Way back, in the dawn of time, there were ATT and BSD, with multiple flavors of each base type of Unix. A few years later, there were only Sun, IBM and HP. In a later era, there was this thing called Linux. Lots of folks took the core version, but then there were only Redhat and a few others.

What lessons can the Hadoop market learn from that? Mission critical software does not run on freeware. While open source lowers infrastructure costs and can, in some ways, speed feature enhancements, companies are willing to pay for knowledge, stability and support. Vendors able to wrap the core of open source up in services to provide the rest make money and speed the adoption of open-source based solutions. Mission critical applications run on services agreements.

It’s important to understand that distinction when discussing such interesting companies as Cloudera, whose team presented at last Friday’s BBBT session. The company recently received a well-publicized, enormous investment based on the promise that it can create a revenue stream for a database service based on Hadoop.

The team had a good presentation, with Alan Saldich, VP Marketing, pointing out that large, distributed processing databases are providing a change from “bringing data to compute” to “bringing compute to data.” He further defined the Enterprise Data Hub (EDH) as the data repository that is created in such an environment.

Plenty of others can blog in detail about what we heard about the technology, but I’ll give it only a high level glance. The Cloudera presenters were very open about their product being an early generation and they laid out a vision that seemed to be good. They understand their advantages are the benefits of Cloud and Hadoop (discussed a little more below) but that the Open Source community is lagging in areas such as access and control to data. It’s providing such key needs to IT that will help their adoption and provide a revenue stream, and their knowing that is a good sign.

I want to spend more time addressing the business and marketing models. Cloudera does seem to be struggling to figure out how to make money, hence the need more such a large investment from Intel. Additional proof is the internal confusion of Alan saying they don’t report revenues and then showing us only bookings, while Charles Zedlewski, VP Products, had a slide claiming they’re leading their market in revenue. Really? Then show us.

They do have one advantage, the Cloud model lends itself to a pricing model based on nodes and, as Charles pointed out, that’s a ““business model that’s inherently deflationary” for the customer.  Nodes get more powerful so the customers regularly get more bang for the buck.

On the other side, I don’t know that management understands that they’re just providing a new technology, not a new data philosophy. While some parts of the presentation made clear that Cloudera doesn’t replace other data repositories except for the operational data store, different parts implied it would subsume others without giving a clear picture of how.

A very good point was the partnerships they’re making with BI vendors to help speed integration and access of their solution into the BI ecosystem.

One other confusion that Cloudera, and the market as a whole, seems to be clearly differentiating that the benefits of Hadoop come from multiple technologies: Both the software that helps better manage unstructured data and simple hardware/OS combination that comes from massively parallel processing, whether the servers are in the Cloud or inside a corporate firewall. Much as what was said about Hadoop had to do with the second issue, and so the presenters rightfully got pushback from analysts who saw that RDBMS technologies can benefit from those same things and therefore minimizing that as a differentiator.

Charles did cover an important area of both market need and Cloudera vision: Operational analytics. The ability to quickly massage and understand massive amounts of operational information to better understand processes is something that will be enhanced by the vendor’s ability to manage large datasets. The fact that they understand the importance of those analytics is a good sign for corporate vision and planning.

Open source is important, but it’s often overblown by those new to the industry or within the Open Source community. Enterprise IT knows better, as it has proved in the past. Cloudera is a the right place at the right time, with a great early product, the understanding as to many of the issues that are needed in the short term. The questions are only about the ability to execute both on the messaging and programming sides. Will their products meet the long term needs of business critical applications and will they be able to explain clearly how they can do so? If they can answer correctly, the company will join the names mentioned at the start.

Kalido: A solution in search of the message?

I had the fortune to see Kalido presentations twice in two days. First, was the Qlik road show event on Thursday and second was the Boulder BI Brain Trust call on Friday.

Kalido provides a streamlined way to create and manage data warehouses. The key seems to be a strong data modeler linked to the engine, providing a more graphical way to define processes and link that to the automatic creation of the physical data layers and data warehousing management. According to their case studies, the result is a significant savings in time to deploy and manage warehouses. As they pointed out in the BBBT presentation, the deployment savings is a clear and compelling argument but the longer term saving in ongoing operational costs is one they haven’t yet successfully attacked.

That ties in to the issue of their major message to the Qlik audience and on their web site: “No ETL!” As anyone who understands their technology knows, and as they pointed out in their BBBT presentation, ETL is one component of their solution. The presenter on Thursday tried to claim it’s not ETL, it’s ELT, because they use a temporary data store to more quickly extract information from operational systems, but that’s not going to cut it. ETL is still performed even if in a slightly different order. IT people will understand that and laugh at the claim while most BI business users won’t know what that means and the rest won’t care as it’s not a major concern to those people trying to get information out of the warehouse.

Operational costs matter to both IT and the business line managers. As many IT centers internally “bill” divisions for costs, that will still have an impact and matter to both sides more than a specious ETL message.

More importantly, the ability to change your business model and have it rapidly be reflected in the data warehouse is of strong value to the decision makers. The ability to eliminate 6-9 months of rework before a change is done only to see the changes now be out of date has a clear and compelling message for business decision makers. The ability to rapidly satisfy business users in changing markets while using less IT resources is valuable to the IT organization.

So why does the message seem to be missing a great market focus opportunity? One possible answer is found on their executive team page. Rather, it’s what’s not found. A company that wants to leave the startup phase and address a wider market would do well to emphasize marketing with the same importance as engineering and professional services. Products aren’t enough, you have to create messages that address what interest stakeholders. Kalido seems to have a very good product, but they aren’t yet able to create messages to address the wider market.