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Welcome to my BeyeNETWORK blog! Please join me often to share your thoughts and observations on new analytic platforms, BI and data management. I maintain a vendor-focused practice that uses primary research, briefings, case studies, events and other activities that stimulate ideas as a source for commentary on strategy and execution in the marketplace. I believe the emergence of a new class of analytic platforms, and emerging data management and advanced tools herald a next step in the maturity of information technology, and I'm excited to be present for its emergence. I hope my blog entries will stimulate ideas that will serve both the vendors creating these new solutions and the companies that will improve their business prospects as a result of applying them. Please share your thoughts and input on the topics.



January 2010 Archives

Informatica has announced another, long-rumored acquisition: Siperian, thus continuing a steady march toward a comprehensive portfolio play. In 2009, its strong growth path made it the clear independent leader in data integration.  With Release 9, its vision of a data integration platform grew to providing a comprehensive approach to everything from data discovery services to data quality. While growth slowed during a tough year for the economy overall, Informatica grew revenue in every quarter, and made key acquisitions in 3 successive quarters (Applimation, AddressDoctor and AgentLogic) and began to make significant moves into the cloud via partnerships with Amazon, Salesforce and others. Agent Logic added event detection and processing to support real-time alerting and response. As 2010 begins, this latest move is synergistic from the outset; Rob Karel points out in his excellent blog post that "Siperian MDM technology...already is deeply integrated with Informatica's identity resolution and postal address technology. In addition...Siperian MDM customers [are] using Informatica for data integration and data quality, meaning there is a lot of existing experience and know-how on integrating Informatica's portfolio with Siperian."



Posted January 29, 2010 7:56 PM
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After 27 years of steady growth, Austin, Texas-based Pervasive (PVSW) has become a $47M annual run rate software provider. Its portfolio includes a "zero admin, light footprint database" (the former BTrieve, now PervasiveSQL), data integration software (for SaaS and on premises applications), and data synchronization products for such apps as salesforce.com, Quickbooks and Microsoft Dynamics CRM. In 2009, it began leveraging its DataRush processing engine as a product, providing a solution for companies that want to take advantage of multicore architectures to drive dramatically enhanced performance on much smaller footprints, for programming data services tasks such as aggregation, de-duplication, cleansing, integration, matching and sorting, as well as data mining and predictive analytics.


Posted January 26, 2010 11:31 AM
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ADBMS vendor SAND Technology's report on its 2009 fiscal year seemed to offer little reason to change my earlier skeptical position on the firm. Its 2009 revenue was essentially flat at $7 million (Canadian dollars throughout). Cost of sales, R&D, and SG&A - and the firm's net loss - were also nearly unchanged. And yet, there are changes going on, and they are positive signs, especially for a year in which the IT market will rebound. Net income for SAND's fiscal 2010 first quarter was $553,253 on revenues of $2,485,464 - a substantial turnaround from a net loss of $989,850 on revenues of $1,223,928 for fiscal Q1 2009. One quarter is not a trend, but it is a good sign.

For more, click here.

Disclosures: SAND Technology is not a client.

Posted January 21, 2010 10:15 AM
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(Co-authored with Charles King of PUND-IT, Inc.)

Microsoft and HP announced a new investment of $250M into their Frontline Partnership, designed to deliver integrated stacks supporting applications from Microsoft's Exchange and SQL Server and beyond into the cloud. As part of this effort, the companies plan to deliver solutions built on what they defined as a "next generation infrastructure-to-application model" which will help speed implementation, eliminate IT management complexities and lower overall costs by automating manual processes. With this strategic partnership, HP and Microsoft will also collaborate on an engineering road map for joint products including data management machines using the new SQL Server MPP database option when it is announced, pre-packaged application solution bundles, comprehensive virtualization offerings and integrated management tools.

To achieve these ends, the pair intends to collaborate in the design of pre-optimized solutions for Microsoft's SQL Server and Exchange, virtualization and datacenter management. They will also develop SMB Smart Bundles which will be sold through their 32,000 common Frontline channel partners. In addition, Microsoft and HP will promote these mutual efforts by citing one another as "preferred partners" in virtualization and datacenter/IT infrastructure management solutions and scenarios. As a result, Microsoft and HP said their customers will enjoy increased business efficiency, improved application performance, enhanced operations and investment protection.

The Pitch

Microsoft and HP hope to find solutions, sales and safety via collaborative efforts and mutual self-promotion.

Mission Accomplished?

Readers should be forgiven if Microsoft and HP's new announcement elicits a sense of déjà vu. After all, the two companies have worked closely for years, share tens of thousands of common customers and channel partners, and have long supported one another's best interests. The partnership has been in place for over 20 years and has been well regarded. But this latest announcement suggests that the pair's already considerable collaboration is deepening monetarily via their combined $250 million investment, technologically through the code-level system integration/optimization they plan and strategically with their new, mutual preferred partner status.

How important or notable are these elements? That varies. While a quarter of a billion dollars spent over three years is hardly chump change, it does qualify as small potatoes for a pair of companies whose combined annual revenues are well north of $150 billion. The technological collaboration is more interesting, since it will occur at a fundamental code-level. The real question--and one that will not have concrete answers for some time to come--is just what sort of granular system benefits will result from those efforts.

Equally intriguing to us is the pair's plan to confer preferred partner status on one another. In a way, this move was highly predictable. For well over a year, vendors that own an entire datacenter stack of hardware, middleware, virtualization and management technologies (i.e. IBM and, more recently, Oracle/Sun) have begun focusing on developing datacenter solutions optimized for specific applications and workloads.

More recently, creative collaborations including Cisco, EMC and VMware's VCE Coalition demonstrated how vendors with more specialized offerings could effectively play the same game. The new Microsoft/HP new partnership fits firmly in this latter category, and provides some competitive remediation for both companies: HP's software stack is riddled with holes when compared to IBM's and Oracle's; Microsoft has no enterprise hardware play at all.

But while the effort could well provide both companies new benefits and opportunities, it is also likely to result in significant challenges, especially concerning their other critical partners. How will Dell, IBM, etc. react to Microsoft's declared preference for HP? Should VMware go out of its way to support HP when the company is promoting Microsoft's Hyper-V virtualization platform? Just as important, how will the thousands of Microsoft and HP channel partners who earn their daily bread by integrating and optimizing SQL Server, Exchange and other Microsoft solutions feel about those processes being incorporated into manufacturing?

In the SMB market, the value-add is often the degree to which those partners handle installation and integration. Today's message seemed to imply that much of this business might go to HP's services organization in the more simplified world of fully integrated SKUs offered as a single purchase. The specific focus of the announcement on Exchange and SQL Server deployments strikes directly at the heart of two of the most lucrative solutions offered by Microsoft's channel partners, and suggests that many may find themselves increasingly competing with HP.

Certainly the two vendors' partners have a formidable array of resources at their disposal. Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Group VP Allison Watson was already prepared with a crisp, actionable message. Her pitch: As a result of the deepened alliance with HP, Microsoft partners will be able to deliver solutions faster and more easily. Can they improve their margins in the process? That will depend on what HP will charge for similar implementations, one assumes.

Watson's message points to tools for easily sizing systems running SQL Server either for transaction processing or for business intelligence. It has also offers links to HP Insight orchestration templates for HP's BladeSystem Matrix and white papers. Assets in place like Microsoft Sales University will accelerate partners' ability to get tools and training--free--that ensure their ramp is as fast as possible. Still, HP's teams in the field will likely have the inside track, so the underlying message is clear: move fast, or be left behind.

Overall, we consider Microsoft and HP's new partnership an intriguing collaboration that could broaden and deepen the two companies' ongoing efforts. If it performs as advertised, it could also deliver significant dividends to the pair's business customers. Certainly it provides a partial competitive answer to the full-stack stories of their large competitors and other collaborative partnerships. But we remain uncertain and wary of how so exclusive a relationship will sit with and play among the industry and channel partners critical to Microsoft and HP's overall success.

As for delivering the new "applications" model, this announcement fell far short. The only applications mentioned were Microsoft's SQL Server, Exchange and System Center (the latter of which will be integrated with HP Insight), already focal points for the Frontline Partnership. Microsoft's business applications for CRM, ERP, etc were not mentioned. And building credibility for pre-integrated infrastructure solutions, even for relatively simple SMB deployments, will require discussion of other applications from other vendors. As interesting and promising as Microsoft and HP's announcement was its scope is far narrower than the companies' "Next Generation Application to Infrastructure" messages imply.

© 2010 PUND-IT, Inc. and IT Market Strategy. All Rights Reserved

Posted January 14, 2010 10:32 AM
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Sybase has quietly racked up a string of successful growth years, riding its pioneering status in commercial analytic databases (ADBMS) and holding on to its loyal base in everyday DBMS after being elbowed aside by Oracle a decade ago. Its steady market performance has not been driven by dramatic innovations: Sybase has seemed to lag the Big Three (Oracle, Microsoft and IBM) in new feature/function. But it has innovated: IQ has grown into a key revenue source, and Sybase RAP has established itself as one of the more succesful event processing offerings, with a string of Wall Street customers creating a new class of applications.

In the current (5-year-old) major release level of its flagship Adaptive Server Enterprise (ASE) product, Sybase has added user-defined SQL functions, support for plugin Java Runtime Environment (JRE) and JVM components, xml tables, SQL statement replication, new statistical aggregate functions, and a shared disk cluster edition. And now, Sybase is about to add new in-memory database capabilities and step up its support for external storage management. I've spent some time recently with the Sybase team to discuss their plans for the upcoming 15.5 release (currently available in a developer version), and found palpable excitement about the possibilities of their new work.

One of the most obvious opportunities is to think about the role of I/O and disk storage in performance. Much of a database's code line is spent logging, writing to disk, managing buffers, optimizing access strategies, and ensuring ACID properties for transactions. ACID properties (Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation and Durability) have been the hallmark of DBMS thinking since the earliest days of computing for transaction processing. But the assumptions they were designed for are not universally necessary - not all actions taken with data are transactional, and persistence may already be assured for non-transactional data elsewhere. Moreover, computing architectures have changed dramatically since the earliest days of transactional theory, and much of the thinking was designed for worst case scenarios occurring in system designs constrained by technology and economics that have since changed.

In-memory databases have been shown to create a substantial uplift in performance, but adoption has lagged. The shift in processor architectures to 64-bit is hardly new; decades have passed since MIPS and DEC introduced 64-bit microprocessors into mainstream computing, followed by Sun, IBM and HP. But software architectures that leveraged the opportunity lagged; operating systems took a long time to exploit the possibilities of a theoretical address space measured in terabytes. Even with the limitations of today's systems and the cost of memory (which is continuing to fall rapidly), this is exciting stuff. But it's been over a decade since Solaris 7 arrived in 1998, following on DEC's Alpha-based OSs. And while Unix and Linux variants running on 64-bit architectures arrived, databases continued to be slow to re-architect for the new paradigm: DBMS vendors ported their products to run there, but didn't dramatically re-engineer the parts of the codeline that could profitably take advantage of the new environment.

Many database products have complex features and options that can (in fact, must) be managed to achieve optimal performance, by relaxing assumptions and changing processing defaults where it is possible to do so. But the arcana associated with this has been the province of specialists - like those who tune the systems used for TPC benchmarks, or the top-notch staff at financial institutions responsible for trading systems. Sybase is exploiting the opportunities in a different way, by creating (rather than acquiring) a product whose codeline has been explicitly designed for in-memory use, and configured for two specific use cases where it is appropriate: one for data that does not need to be persisted at all ( a completely in-memory, no-disk instance) and one with "relaxed durability." In this way, Sybase expects to dramatically expand the number of customers who can take advantage of the high-performance opportunity - and reach a new group of customers who may not have been considering ASE for many of their new projects.

Sybase has taken a different path here: instead of acquiring in-memory technology, like IBM's SOLID DB or Oracle's TimesTen, it has built an in-memory version of its existing code, reductively, ensuring compatibility and ease of interoperation much more rapidly than its competitors. This will make it far easier for its customers to build applications that leverage multiple persistence profiles in different database instances. In an age where many applications depend on look-aside processing, compliance management, and similar out-of-transactional band activities, this could be a powerful new attractor for modern workloads. Databases that are kept in memory for lookup purposes can be recreated automatically at startup from "templates," so assumptions about their recovery can be completely different. Database elements like tables, stored procedures, datatypes, etc., are included; Sybase's TSQL and all APIs are supported immediately. Management, monitoring, and the like will also be seamless from the product's release, because no retrofitting will be required and no interim skill acquisition will be required for customers.

Another major step forward in systems architectures has been the growth of smart storage and associated management software, a requisite in a world where data volumes continue to explode and managing data is a task that goes on outside, as well as inside, the DBMS. Sybase's customers, like those of its competitors, have heterogeneous environments with multiple database products and storage options. Recognizing that external storage management is frequently chosen, Sybase has partnered with IBM to leverage Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM)'s  ability to work with multiple DBMSs and store across multiple types of disk and tape storage. Sybase's Backup Server will integrate with TSM to hand this off.

These are solid steps forward, and should allow Sybase to continue to move forward on its successful growth path. While they are neither dramatic enough nor likely to be marketed aggressively enough to push Sybase into the top revenue tier, they are well-designed to allow the company's steady growth to continue and even accelerate. Sybase has picked up market share in the past few years, but larger changes are afoot as the rise of open source, cloud computing, appliances, and proliferating analytics workloads change business and deployment models in the decade ahead. And Sybase's "Unwired Enterprise" positioning around mobility, as powerful as it has been, hasn't been connected to the ASE story here. New strategies will be needed from all the vendors as they confront the industry transitions ahead. Dramatic innovations at the edge will continue to nip at the heels of the largest players, picking off carefully targeted use cases. I'll talk about many of them in the months ahead.

Posted January 8, 2010 10:43 AM
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