When I drafted a list of key analytics-sector issues in honor of look-ahead season, the first item was “execution of various big vendors’ ambitious initiatives”. By “execute” I mean mainly:
- “Deliver products that really meet customers’ desires and needs.”
- “Successfully convince them that you’re doing so …”
- “… at an attractive overall cost.”
Vendors mentioned here are Oracle, SAP, HP, and IBM. Anybody smaller got left out due to the length of this post. Among the bigger omissions were:
A (lingering) issue for SAP and Oracle alike
As I noted in January of this year, integration of business intelligence into operational apps is making very slow progress. Even so, it’s a huge part of the apparent strategy at SAP and Oracle alike, as well it should be. Much of the benefit from automating routine desk work has already happened. The areas ripest for exploitation are the ones where analytics are part of the equation.
Given the lack of tangible progress, why do I think this is a genuine area of Oracle and SAP emphasis? Three reasons of many are:
- Why else did SAP buy Business Objects?
- If they’re not trying to integrate operational apps and analytics, why else does SAP’s emphasis on HANA make sense?
- Without business intelligence in the picture, how does Oracle’s integrated-stack story promise any direct user benefits?*
*As opposed to IT concerns — integration, administration, TCO (Total Cost of Ownership), etc.
After so many years of disappointment, I’m not going to forecast 2012 as a pivotal year for the integration of business intelligence into operational applications. But if one of SAP or Oracle ever does get a significant BI/operational app integration advantage over the other, it could be a major competitive advantage in those application market segments that are still up for grabs. It also is an opportunity for both vendors to gain BI market share in their respective application customer bases.
A more urgent issue for SAP
SAP has put huge amounts of credibility on the line for HANA, the integration of two different and not particularly mature in-memory database technologies. So far, it is difficult to find evidence that HANA is robust enough for widespread adoption. Whether or not SAP can fix that is a huge open question, which could have significant impact on the course of several technology areas: applications, business intelligence, in-memory DBMS, and maybe even hardware.
Based on current information, which is admittedly partial, I’m a short-term pessimist on HANA. Longer-term, I’m on record as saying that traditional databases will eventually wind up in RAM. SAP will surely get that technology right some day, whether or not the way it does so has anything to do with present-day HANA code.
Four more issues for Oracle
Oracle’s ambitions are near-endless, and so also therefore is its list of execution challenges. Four in the analytics area that I find particularly interesting are:
- True hybrid columnar DBMS. I was guessing that Oracle, like Teradata, would announce true hybrid columnar the week of Oracle OpenWorld. I was wrong. But if Oracle can’t bring out true hybrid columnar DBMS functionality relatively soon, Exadata will lose credibility as a competitor to more specialized analytic DBMS.
- Oracle Exalytics. With Exalytics in the mix, Oracle’s technology stack has HANA-like potential. But will Exalytics even ship in 2012? (I think so.) Will it be good for much in the first release? (I’m skeptical.)
- Oracle’s Big Data Appliance. I’m skeptical both about Oracle’s NoSQL product — a favorable InfoWorld review notwithstanding — and Hadoop appliances. But if I’m wrong, and Oracle can successfully embrace/extend the new non-relational paradigms, then it really might regain control over the evolution of data management.
- Oracle’s Endeca acquisition — will Oracle prove me wrong and integrate Endeca effectively into its overall analytic product line? If it does, we might finally see effective text (and eventually speech) navigation of enterprise software. (But as with all Oracle issues cited here, this is something that probably won’t amount to much in 2012 even if it does later go well.)
Three issues for IBM
Like Oracle, IBM is a huge company with many ambitions and hence many execution challenges. The biggest of those is surely: How effective can IBM be at selling outside its existing customer base? I don’t hear as much competitively about IBM DataStage, IBM SPSS or now IBM Netezza as I did when their vendors were independent companies. Even Cognos may not be much of an exception to the rule, although it has its own large customer base outside of IBM’s traditional one. (To lesser extents , the same is of course true of Netezza and numerous other IBM acquisitions.)
Another general issue for IBM is substantively integrating its various product lines, at least to the extent that makes sense. DB2/Netezza integration sounds good, but even that is a matter more of product marketing (the admirable part of that discipline) more than of actual technology. Other integrations (e.g. Cognos/DB2 in various bundles) have tended toward the dubious side.*
*I’m still waiting for IBM to get back to me with examples of how Cognos/DB2 joint tuning amounts to anything. It’s been more than a year, so I’m glad I didn’t hold my breath.
In a somewhat narrower vein, I wonder: Will IBM be able to gain traction for InfoSphere Streams? And if so, when and where will the traction be?
Will HP screw up Vertica?
Vertica has a very attractive product offering. It’s perhaps the most scalable analytic DBMS outside of Teradata, running on the hardware of your reasonable choice. It’s also the one I recommend most often to clients in the 1-50 terabyte range.
So far HP doesn’t seem to have done much to leadfoot Vertica. (About all I’ve heard from competitors is that Vertica seems to have faded somewhat in the financial services market, and there could be multiple explanations if that is indeed true.) But if HP Vertica does somehow manage to botch things, opportunities will open up for a range of columnar analytic DBMS competitors.