HP has another go

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Kognitio was hoping that the release of its Pablo product would be the highlight of the first day at the TDWI conference in Las Vegas. However, it was eclipsed by the announcement that HP is to acquire Vertica.

It is important, in such instances, to get one’s priorities right, so I will begin with Pablo. Put simply, Pablo is an extension to WX2 that allows you to build very large (multi-terabyte) OLAP cubes, in memory, without physically instantiating those cubes. This is a big advantage: it can often take hours to (re)build a cube and many companies have dozens, hundreds and even thousands of cubes, all of which makes the whole environment unresponsive and unwieldy. Using WX2 should make a lot of this pain go away. The cubes generated by WX2 support MDX so you can use Excel or any other MDX compliant tool to manipulate the data. What will be interesting to watch is how Kognitio’s marketing changes to support Pablo: data marts and complex analytics are typically sold to very different people from the ones who buy cubes and slice-and-dice.

So, what about HP and Vertica? Having failed miserably with NeoView HP has announced that it is to acquire Vertica. From a Vertica perspective this explains why the company has been so uncommunicative over the last six to nine months and also why it has gone through three marketing managers in the same period. However, it does appear to have been continuing to grow its customer base at a significant rate, with something like 300 in all, which would put it second only to Netezza (IBM) in terms of new boy success rates.

The big difference between Netezza and Vertica, of course, is that IBM has a track record of successfully selling into the database market and HP doesn’t. And when I say this I am not just talking about NeoView: look at Allbase, for example, which once upon a time was a pretty decent database.

I have to say that I am not sanguine about this. It is likely that a significant proportion of Vertica’s staff will not like the big company environment offered by HP (no reflection on HP here, the same would apply to IBM, Oracle or whoever) and will leave. HP needs to retain key development staff as well as experienced salespeople. Frankly, I would leave Vertica alone for 18 months, much as IBM will do with Netezza. This would give time for HP’s existing sales force to work out the distinction between HP’s partnership with Microsoft and all those recently announced appliances on the one hand, and Vertica on the other. You could, of course, position Vertica to support in-database analytics (an analytics platform—the terminology that seems to be all rage) and leave the Microsoft appliances for enterprise data warehousing and OLAP but I wonder how many HP salespeople (outside of the NeoView group at any rate) really understand the distinction between these.

Of course, HP’s new CEO is a software man. But HP is like a tanker: it takes a long time to turn. Whether Leo can manage that remains to be seen. The success or failure of Vertica will be a key performance indicator.