Well, it's finally started to happen: the first of the data warehouse appliance vendors has fallen under the hammer, in this case with Microsoft announcing its intention to acquire DATAllegro. What are the implications of this?
To begin with it's really good news for DATAllegro. It should also be good news for the company's customer base which will now have a major vendor to support them and develop the product going forward. It's also good news for Microsoft, which will at last have a serious presence at the high end of the data warehousing market and a roadmap for taking its existing customer base (who should also be pleased) forward. In particular, I understand that the intention is to replace the existing Ingres database that powers DATAllegro with SQL Server 2008 so that DATAllegro provides a massively parallel platform for SQL server users going forward.
Conversely, it's bad news for Ingres, bad news for Oracle, bad news for IBM, bad news for Teradata and bad news for HP, all for obvious reasons. As for the other appliance vendors: they will not be too happy either. In particular, we now have to consider who can survive on their own, who might be acquired, who might do the acquiring, and who is going to disappear. As for the first question the answer is probably only Netezza. In the case of the second the only standout answer is that Sun is likely to buy Greenplum.
Do I think that Oracle, IBM, Teradata or Sybase is a potential acquirer? Well, certainly not Sybase, which announced its own appliance early in the summer and I don't really see any of the others being particularly interested though Dataupia might (and might is probably the operative word) be of interest to Oracle or IBM. SAP is a theoretical possibility but it seems more likely that it will wish to remain independent. Which leaves the likes of Hitachi, Fujitsu-Siemens and EMC. Hitachi already has a reseller agreement with EXASOL (Hitachi resells it in Japan) while EMC has partnerships with several vendors including both ParAccel and Sensage (an event rather than a data warehousing vendor but as it is column-based it could always be developed suitably). However, it remains debatable whether any of these companies want to get involved. The only other possibility that I can see would be if Vertica's support for cloud computing was of interest to the likes of Amazon (unlikely) or Google (now that's a scary thought!). So the short answer is that one or two more vendors might get acquired but otherwise they will have to struggle on on their own, which means that they are all under threat, which isn't going to help them win new business.
A further thing to bear in mind is that Microsoft has only just announced its acquisition of Zoomix, the data quality vendor. Now, SQL Server 2008 already has data quality capabilities built into SQL Server Integration Services so why does Microsoft feel the need to acquire another product in that space? Could it be that it is planning to build a high end data warehousing stack? If that is the case then it is notable that it has recently announced a partnership with Kalido, which has to be a candidate for acquisition, but Microsoft will still need a suitable data integration tool. The obvious thought might be for Microsoft to buy Informatica but in that case why acquire Zoomix given that Informatica has advanced data quality capabilities of its own? So, who's got an ETL (extract, transform and load) tool that isn't a data quality specialist? Well, there are various low end products around but there's only one that will support the sort of high performance you would need for data warehouses measured in hundreds of terabytes, and that's Ab Initio. Given that Ab Initio doesn't talk to analysts I have no idea whether it would even consider an offer but it's food for thought.
Whatever will happen this acquisition will certainly set some cats amongst the pigeons.