On my second day at TDWI, I was in meetings all day – events like this are a great opportunity for analysts to catch up with many of the companies they follow at one time, and this particular one was packed with sponsors. Congrats to the folks who sell sponsorships – they had a packed exhibit hall, and a lot of very interested attendees. I got a chance to chat at a few booths (all buzzing), ask a few attendees some real-world questions (and was asked some surprising ones myself), and get a sense of the workload in the trenches (heavy and growing.)
I was delighted to talk to the booth team for Xtreme Data, enthusiastic and hopeful for the time ahead. With Kickfire’s departure, Xtreme Data’s hardware-based optimizations have a fairly open window until Teradata decides what to say about its plans for its new acquisition. Dell’s booth was hopping too, as cognoscenti debated the meaning of its 3Par acquisition. 1010 Data held court for small but very intense crowds and Microsoft was showing a pretty demo of its parallel data warehouse. (They are getting very practiced at that, given the long wait.) Sybase IQ’s team reveled in its leading role as the most widely installed columnar database.
ParAccel held a luncheon the first day showcasing its customer – and a very happy one – FIS. It’s a tale of aggressive vendor efforts to make the customer happy, and a product that exceeded expectations. As ParAccel continues its restructuring of management and message, there is a palpable change – even Curt Monash is saying friendly things on twitter, and no doubt will respond to the company’s increasingly evidence-driven website, with new case studies popping up. I chatted with Barry Zane on the second day about some of the new plans (under NDA for now) and will be doing a sponsored case study with (another) anonymous customer. These are interesting exercises – some firms just don’t want to be identified, and it makes sense for vendors to use analysts for a little extra credibility.
As good as the news was for ParAccel was, it was just that flat for HP on the product side. Good news? I had a breakfast meeting with a very happy HP services customer who built a wonderful data warehouse that is making a huge difference. Bad news? The database was IBM DB2 (prominently featured on the floor with its Smart Analytics Systems, and pleased about its new TPC-C benchmark record as well). I’m not hearing NeoView wins, and worse, I’ve had two separate rumor reports that I can’t confirm about returned machines. HP’s steadfast refusal to buy surrounding software, unwillingness to acquire a modern database (available for not much more than a golden parachute costs), and/or do some real marketing has continued to hold it back. There’s no sign that will change, and Mark Hurd was arguably the key sponsor of BI at HP – his departure may finally bring a willingness to face reality on the product side. Meanwhile, the former Knightsbridge team is doing great work and building out effective vertical IP. Perhaps it’s time to read the writing on the wall, and play to strength.
Vertica, meanwhile, had lots to talk about. It proudly waves the flag of MPP plus columnar storage, and now close to 200 customers, the company continues to separate itself from the pack. With more use case data, Vertica has begun to shift from the very technical sell of its first couple of years to a more “what problems we solve” approach.
Not that the technology, maturing in response to customer needs, is not continuously evolving. Flexstore in version 3.5 let Vertica group columns and rows, and now improved manageability allows it to move data within a node to various storage tiers within that node, leveraging memory. Assign most frequently used columns into flash (get boost in concurrency as well – that’s memory and CPU); there are benefits for SORTS and JOINs (assign temp space and enhance intermediate materialization to flash tier and minimize latency.) Programmability with SQL solves significant customer problems as well, as in Vertica’s single pass sessionization in SQL, not MapReduce – “we solved a customer problem,” said Colin Mahony, VP, Products and Business Development. He shared some (yes, NDA) plans coming soon, and pointed to the continued effort on revamping the console GUI as evidence of broad R&D commitment.
Other excellent meetings with Endeca, Information Builders, Tibco Spotfire, and others rounded out a very full day, finished off by a dash to the airport. I left with a few final hallway conversations in my ears – “what’s the story with this row vs. column thing?” “Does a data warehouse have to have a star schema?” “We just keep it in a spreadsheet.” – that reminded me that this is a learning event. In my session perhaps 3/4 of the room said they were attending their first TDWI Executive Summit. Yet another reminder not to live in the future. There is plenty to do right here in the present.