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Structure Data and the Competitive Landscape

Structure Data 2014 was another excellent Gigaom event. To anyone who has ever been to one, this is no surprise. Here’s my pick of the most interesting sessions and related news.

Intel and its Hadoop distribution strategy

Strange as it may sound, Intel has its own Hadoop distribution. Or at least it did up to a few days ago. So one of the things Intel’s Boyd Davis, Intel’s VP Data Center Group was asked about was to explain the rationale for entering this space. He mentioned a number of things there – some rather generic, including Intel’s background in the open source space with important contributions to Linux and Android, some more specific, as for example the fact that the Hadoop market is an important one and is going to be even more important – so obviously Intel wants a piece of that, i may add.

Still, you may wonder, does the world really need yet another Hadoop distribution? And is Intel really in place to compete there? Perhaps not. Which is why i thought that what was given as one of their goals in entering this space, “keeping it balkanization-free” really did not make any sense. It’s a paradox – how exactly does another distribution contribute towards avoiding balkanization? Because Intel are the good guys, as opposed to anyone else, or because their distribution is such an authoritative one that will be the de-facto standard?

Nothing wrong with changing strategies when it makes sense. Source: Queensland Police Service

Well, neither one actually.  Which is why the announcement of joining forces with Cloudera -both on the technical and the business level- which came about a week later made so much more sense. Piece of the market – check. Avoid balkanization – check. It would be even better if only they had not gone to such length to justify the opposite of course, but they’re not the first and probably won’t be the last.

New Relic enters the business analytics space – using its own database

The announcement was actually made on stage at Structure Data, and it is important for two reasons.

New Relic CEO Lew Cirne on stage at Structure Data. Source: Gigaom, Jakub Mosur

First, it makes absolute sense and signifies an important step for the company. New Relic is among the leaders in application monitoring, so the ability to combine different application metrics in real-time to derive business insight is a natural extension of its offering. So it’s not just about application monitoring anymore, and given the userbase New Relic has and its technical capability, if i was an analytics vendor i would be seriously concerned about this new contender.

The second reason why i found this important is the fact that New Relic is using its own database for Insights. Reportedly, one that was developed by their CEO from the ground up specifically for this purpose. I find this rather impressive, and i also think it signifies an important trend. The database space has been one of incumbents for a long time. Building a database is not for the faint of heart, so the ones with a headstart there were feeling relatively safe.

The Big Data era however seems to be bringing disruption not only to the way business is done and IT is run, but also to the database market. As the need for storage and analytics is becoming pronounced and widespread, databases that go beyond the traditional one-size-fits all are emerging. What is probably the prime example and the driver of this trend is Hadoop, as what started out as a batch processing system is evolving to be a contender in the database space, but the associated mind-shift and emphasis on data makes prospective clients more willing to look beyond traditional database solutions.

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