September 8, 2011

Aster Data business trends

Last month, I reviewed with the Aster Data folks which markets they were targeting and selling into, subsequent to acquisition by their new orange overlords. The answers aren’t what they used to be. Aster no longer focuses much on what it used to call frontline (i.e., low-latency, operational) applications; those are of course a key strength for Teradata. Rather, Aster focuses on investigative analytics — they’ve long endorsed my use of the term — and on the batch run/scoring kinds of applications that inform operational systems.

Also, Aster no longer focuses much on the general internet industry where it got its earliest sales, its continued success at LinkedIn and a recent win at an (NDA) fairly-big-name internet new account Razorfish notwithstanding. That said, the first target market Aster did share with me was “digital marketing optimization,” which includes “marketing optimization” (duh), search engine optimization (SEO), clickstream analysis, and the like. Also, Aster is going after “data scientists” in general, and that’s a term I’m still seeing used most frequently in the internet area.

I’m seeing ever more granularity as companies break down internet-related market segments. DataStax showed me a chart last week of 15 different market segments it had sold into, and at least 14 were in some way internet-related.

Rather, if Aster is to name three industries in which it has pleasingly strong sales traction, it would say manufacturing (which in Teradata lingo includes resource extraction), financial services (including insurance), and retail. A cynic might note that that breakdown, like many similar ones, adds up to fairly large swaths of the economy and the computer market, but never mind that part. (Other firms might have thrown in telecommunications and health care as well, to get even more coverage.

Two of Aster’s other favorite application areas are social network analysis/influencer identification and — which is analytically very similar — fraud detection/prevention. Taken together, that’s a whole lot of graph analysis. And I note with interest that the influencer identification stuff does NOT seem to be concentrated in telecom, which is the traditional sector one would imagine it being used in; all those call records are a lovely source of graph edges. Rather, the influencers seem to be identified from sources such as social media and credit card data .

Once again, this kind of thing gives me privacy jitters.

The match between Aster’s favorite industries and application areas is pretty much as you might expect — fraud in financial services, influencer analysis in retailing (and probably consumer financial services too), and digital marketing in both. As for manufacturing, the opportunities there seem to be focused on machine-generated data. That would be at least in high-tech manufacturing (I bet especially in flow-oriented stuff such as semiconductor fab) and oil/gas. Smart grid opportunities don’t seem to have arisen yet for Aster the way they have for a couple other vendors.

As for general Aster business trends, I think they’re good, while Aster would perhaps want to portray them as very good. Aster named a couple of impressive joint Teradata/Aster wins under NDA, but only a couple. Ramping up sales headcount is proving challenging, and some sales leadership turnover probably hasn’t helped. I do believe Aster’s spin that this is a matter of somebody being promoted quickly to a bigger job, and am optimistic about the current team — still, such moves tend to have at least short-term cost.


One Response to “Aster Data business trends”

  1. Bob Smithers on September 9th, 2011 12:49 pm

    Curt – I enjoyed this post, very informative..interesting.

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