Solving the Real-Time Big Data Problem: A Spotlight Q&A with Fred Gallagher of Actian

Originally published October 3, 2012

This BeyeNETWORK spotlight features Ron Powell's interview with Fred Gallagher, GM of Actian’s Vectorwise. Fred is responsible for managing the business activities for this breakthrough product. Ron and Fred discuss how the Vectorwise analytical database enables real-time analysis of big data.
Fred, for those in our audience who are not familiar with Actian, could you give us some history and background. You seem to be acting like a startup but you do focus on the enterprise.

Fred Gallagher: Actian is a data management company. We have a very rich history in data management. We own the Ingres database, and Ingres has over 10,000 customer deployments worldwide in dozens of countries. We have companies that are running mission-critical as well as business-critical applications on the Ingres database. We have two other initiatives in the company, which might be the startup you're referring to. One is Vectorwise, which is the fastest database for analytics and reporting. The other is Action Apps, which is a new category that we announced that allows companies to take action on their data as it changes.

What enterprise problems are you addressing with Vectorwise?

Fred Gallagher: With Vectorwise, many of our customers are interested in solving what I call the real-time data problem. What that really comes down to is real-time access to data so that people can solve business problems in the moment. That comes across as a technical benefit, but there are a number of use cases in terms of specific industries or horizontals – for example, in retail, being able to determine what items are selling today so there's no out of stockage in the retail outlet.

From a customer perspective, what type of feedback are you getting from those that are using Vectorwise?

Fred Gallagher: The feedback is great. Folks are very excited about the performance of the product, but there's another aspect of the product that is around value or affordability. We allow companies to start with a small initial footprint and then invest further in Vectorwise as they grow and expand their business. The affordability of scaling as your business grows is a key benefit. The other benefit, of course, is the great performance that provides companies with the ability to move their business forward in terms of making faster decisions.

How are your customers using Vectorwise and what do you see as the value proposition?

Fred Gallagher: Let me give you a couple of examples. We have a customer, a social networking company called Badoo. Badoo is the fastest growing social network with over 150 million members in their network. They're using Vectorwise to analyze their network and determine the effectiveness of campaigns that their marketing team is putting in place in terms of effective cross-selling and monetizing these advertisements. Vectorwise allows them to define the value of a particular customer, or sets of customers, on a real-time basis. Previously it would have taken a considerable investment in hardware and a lot of smart people to figure out this customer value equation. Now they can do it on a relatively simple server and in a very short amount of time.

There are a lot of products focused on “big data.” What do you feel makes Vectorwise so unique?

Fred Gallagher: Yes, there are a number of companies that are focused on big data, but it’s our technology that makes us unique. We have rewritten the core of the database engine to take advantage of vector processing, and that provides tremendous performance. For example, we have a customer, Medical Data Vision, that has a 100-X performance increase. That's the functional benefit, and it allows them to access and query the data in real time. From that perspective, we set ourselves apart with regard to data velocity and data variety. Vectorwise customers can now address things in a higher velocity type environment and address the different data types.

That seems to be a very bold claim. Are there any benchmarks that compare you to the competition?

Fred Gallagher: The Transaction Processing Council (TPC) sets the standard in the industry for database benchmarking. The TPC-H is a benchmark that we've run with our hardware partners, probably eight or nine times. We're ranked at the top in several different dimensions of the benchmarks. It's not just that we're number one. In one test, we're two times higher than the next best product. In another, we're close to three and half times higher. That's a big deal because I don’t think there’s ever been that type of increase in those benchmarks before.

The benchmarks are one thing, but what’s most important is what the performance looks like when a customer takes his data and brings it into Vectorwise. They're seeing numbers that are in the 10, 50, 100 times performance range, and that allows people to move their business forward in ways they hadn’t thought of before.

You mentioned your partners. Could you talk about some of your partners?

Fred Gallagher: We have the partnership with Lenovo Corporation. Lenovo is working with us on the Vectorwise Data Mart Appliance that allows customers to seamlessly deploy a data warehouse. It is all configured and ready to go. They just plug it in and start loading and querying data. That's a great effort and we're pleased to be working with Lenovo.

Another key partner that we have is Rackspace. We’ve worked with Rackspace to deliver Vectorwise Cloud, and we announced that partnership this past quarter. We have a number of proofs of concept and pilots going on where customers can get started much faster. Again, it all comes down to speed, both with an appliance and with Vectorwise Cloud. Speed wins and so it’s speed of deployment, speed of access to queries, and speed of getting real-time access to data to solve business problems. The common theme that we see with both Rackspace and Lenovo is the time to deployment benefit.

Well, you bring up a very big trend – cloud based computing. Could you talk about the types of customers and industries you're servicing that are in the cloud-based space?

Fred Gallagher: We have customers in the e-commerce and social media areas, where there’s a lot of talk about big data and Hadoop. Some of the social media, networking companies or e-commerce companies are collecting their data in a Hadoop environment, and that's a great place to store the data. But what they want to do is really understand how they might monetize that data in a very short window of time. So they'll integrate Hadoop into Vectorwise and then be able to analyze what's going on with a set of customers in a very narrow window, which is very important in terms of advertising and in e-commerce or retail where the key is to be able to market and sell to customers when they're in a buying mode.

The biggest issue with Hadoop is how to gain value from it. Where do you see Actian taking Vectorwise in the future?

Fred Gallagher: We'll extend the Vectorwise capabilities to integrate more datasets. We've started by integrating with Hadoop. We'll expand our connectors from Vectorwise and Ingres to other sources to enable companies to take advantage of real-time analysis of data as it’s changing. We’ll bring more capabilities and different packages to the market so that customers can ask questions of the data and not really have to focus on exactly where the data is from a technical perspective. From a general perspective, they know that they want to query Salesforce or Twitter data. Knowing if that data is coming from an Ingres database or a Vectorwise database is not as important to the customer as knowing what they want to analyze, and what actions or events are important to them. That’s how people make decisions at a company, and we want to provide the platform and the capabilities that would allow them to do that.

So are your Action Apps more focused on the business users or the IT side of the business?

Fred Gallagher: You have the right idea, Action Apps are targeted to meet the needs of business users. I look at it this way, we sell two database products – Ingres and Vectorwise. Our Actian business does have Action Apps that we'll be delivering. Action Apps provide an API for folks to create their own applications that would be running on our platform.

Fred, thank you for providing our readers with very useful information about Actian and Vectorwise.

  • Ron PowellRon Powell
    Ron, an independent analyst and consultant, has an extensive technology background in business intelligence, analytics and data warehousing. In 2005, Ron founded the BeyeNETWORK, which was acquired by Tech Target in 2010.  Prior to the founding of the BeyeNETWORK, Ron was cofounder, publisher and editorial director of DM Review (now Information Management). Ron also has a wealth of consulting expertise in business intelligence, business management and marketing. He may be contacted by email at rpowell@wi.rr.com.

    More articles and Ron's blog can be found in his BeyeNETWORK expert channel. Be sure to visit today!

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