Kickfire: Released for all the right reasons, but with the worst timing?

Kickfire: Released for all the right reasons, but with the worst timing?

Summary: Kickfire's hardware-accelerated MySQL appliance blows the doors off monster Oracle database servers in equivalent TPC-H benchmarks in a tiny fraction of the cost, space, storage and power usage.  Last week, during their press briefings the future of the company looked bright indeed.

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Kickfire's hardware-accelerated MySQL appliance blows the doors off monster Oracle database servers in equivalent TPC-H benchmarks in a tiny fraction of the cost, space, storage and power usage.  Last week, during their press briefings the future of the company looked bright indeed. There's only one problem -- Oracle is about to own MySQL.

Last week, startup Kickfire briefed analysts and press on the official launch of their first product, the Kickfire MySQL Appliance. I had a chance to talk with Karl Van Den Bergh, Kickfire's VP of Marketing and Alliances, about the product's technology roadmap as well as the partnerships they were going to be announcing at the MySQL Conference and Expo this week. One of the partnerships they announced on monday was a co-marketing agreement with Sun Microsystems, MySQL's owner, to sell the product to Sun's customers.

Click on the "Read the rest of this entry" link below for more.

The partnership announcement, excepting all other major industry news this week, would have seemed to spell success and a great future for the company, not to mention as a great way for Kickfire and MySQL to get into the burgeoning data warehousing market for databases under 10 Terabytes, which represents a $5 billion dollar a year business according to recent figures released by IDC. Up until this week, MySQL data warehousing was expected to be a $500M market per year in and of its own.

Of course, Sun Microsystems had also just announced they were going to be acquired by Oracle, MySQL's biggest competitor, who's low-hanging fruit that Kickfire was about to start picking with Sun's blessings.  Oracle buying Sun is analagous to putting a fox convention in Kickfire's henhouse. I can only imagine the words out of Jonathan Schwartz's mouth to Kickfire's CEO, Bruce Armstrong: "Sorry partner, we just threw you under the bus."

Also Read: Kickfire -- MySQL Data Box for the Rest of Us

I first started following Kickfire around the same time last year, when the company made its debut during the last MySQL Expo. The technology is indeed impressive -- if you've got a decision support application with a SQL database under 3TB in size, there isn't a hardware and software platform in that can match it on price and performance. To put it in perspective, imagine getting the same horsepower out of a $15,000 budget compact car that you would get out of a $150,000 exotic sports car -- with 1/10th the fuel consumption and taking up 1/10th of the parking space.

Kickfire is able to crank out those huge TPC-H numbers due to it's Query Processing Module -- a specially designed processor with dedicated cache (64GB RAM worth) combined with altered MySQL code that allows it to perform database operations much  faster than a commodity x86 server -- in some cases, hundreds of times faster that would otherwise require a system that costs ten times as much.

But with Oracle purchasing Sun along with MySQL, presumably in order to "buy the books" and Sun's MySQL customer base, it's not hard to predict  how well Kickfire's $35,000 hardware-accelerated Linux box for will fare with Oracle's sales team when it is competing with the company's flagship Oracle 11g DBMS, which starts at $10,000 per licensed CPU, and runs on Sun's -- soon Oracle's -- SPARC and Opteron-based Solaris servers.

While reptiles are known to eat their own offspring, Larry Ellison probably isn't going to be so hot on cannibalizing Oracle 11g and Oracle BI sales with Kickfires that cost 1/10th of the price and partner integrates with Open Source competition from Talend, PentaHo and Jaspersoft. You can make a bet that Larry is going to make it awfully difficult for Kickfire to get the support and cooperation it needs from the company, and will do his best to weasel out of the deal, even if it means ending up in court.

Well, what should Kickfire do? For starters, I'd start looking at porting the SQL processor integration to other Open Source databases, such as PostgreSQL, as well as forming relationships with companies like Monty Program AB, led my MySQL founder Monty Widenius, who is working on an independent Open Source fork of MySQL. MariaDB. Heck, I might even consider extending Monty and his team a generous employment offer, and giving MariaDB some real sponsorship and Larry Ellison the middle finger.

Is Kickfire doomed to sudden infant startup syndrome at the hands of Oracle? Will it become a takeover target by one of Oracle's competitors? Or should it simply switch gears, a la Wile E. Coyote, and go to Plan Monty AB? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

Topics: Open Source, Banking, Data Centers, Data Management, Enterprise Software, Oracle, Software

About

Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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15 comments
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  • TPC-H numbers, not TPC-C numbers

    TPC-C is an OLTP benchmark, while TPC-H is a DSS/DW benchmark.
    jswanhart
    • Corrected, thanks.

      I wrote the piece at midnight, typo.
      jperlow
  • myKickAsS(QL) Plan

    Oracle proposes to buy Kickfire, lock stock and Query Processing Barrel.
    Invites entire company to expenses-paid weekend to discuss the plan ...

    1. Customers have a choice of $500,000 (Oracle DB + SUN hw) + $250,000 (running costs) OR $600,000 (KickFire) + $15,000 (running). Hey we saved customers $135,000, what do they care about our margin?

    2. The Oracle Cloud Computing Database service (codename KICKASS) just got 20% cheaper than all the competition (and the margin jumped up to 800%, should be 8000% when we port it to T2 CPUs).

    3. We support Open Source and Green Computing.

    People not invited: M$ who will want an x86 SQL Server 2010 version of TPM; IBM who will want a zSeries DB2 version (shoulda bought SUN when you had the chance, losers); the antitrust and monopolies commission - no worries; once ORACLE has Kicked Ass we will license the patented QPM design to M$ and IBM for a big cut, er, reasonable fee ;-)

    No redundancies at Kickfire. Is this Friday/Saturday/Sunday/Monday good for making a bunch of you guys multi-millionaires?
    jacksonjohn
    • My only problem with your theory

      Is that Larry is probably thinking of this right now, so you'd better patent it.
      jperlow
      • Outlandish guess

        Suppose you were fundamentally a database company and you found that some pipsqueak start-up was about to introduce a technology which would put you and all your major global competitors out of business ...

        ... but that they relied on a third-party technology which could be bought for next to nothing ...

        ... would you, or would you not, buy that third party and welcome the pipsqueak with open arms so that you could dominate the entire market together?

        Or would you try to kill the golden goose? (Your proposal.)

        Remember Houdini's secret was to make the most elaborate show of peripheral events ... to distract the audience while the trick worked in plain (distracted) sight.

        The acquisition of Kickfire, in contrast to SUN, will barely rate a mention. That's why some people end up with all the cash!
        jacksonjohn
      • Unfortunately ...

        ... he is a working billionaire and I am a retired IT has-been ;-)
        jacksonjohn
  • RE: Kickfire: Released for all the right reasons, but with the worst timing?

    Hi Jason,

    Thanks for the great post. We have been asked this question many times, particularly here at the MySQL conference. Here?s a few of our thoughts on why we actually think this could be a good thing for Kickfire:

    1) MySQL was going nowhere fast at Sun, in spite of being the bright spot of their business, because the company never got databases. Oracle = databases. If nothing else, MySQL is now at a better run company that gets its core business.

    2) Oracle knows it can't kill MySQL. IMO, they will try to leverage MySQL as a seeding strategy for their Oracle database. What this means is that they will keep MySQL focused on the lower end of the market and make it very easy to migrate to Oracle. Kickfire is focused on the lower end of the market. In fact, we are the only data warehousing vendor exclusively focused on the ?mass market.? Our recent product launch touches on this subject: http://tinyurl.com/cqxeql.

    3) The consensus seems to be building that Oracle will keep, not divest, Sun?s hardware to start going head-to-head with IBM. As a newly minted hardware vendor, Oracle will be looking to differentiate its hardware on its databases. How about a SQL chip that runs databases 10-100X faster than general-purpose hardware?

    You can see other comments here on the implications for MySQL under Oracle in this Wall Street Journal blog that appeared today: http://tinyurl.com/chlmbg.
    kavanden
  • RE: Kickfire: Released for all the right reasons, but with the worst timing

    I'd buy a Kickfire if it supported PostGRES
    jeremy@...
  • RE: Kickfire: Released for all the right reasons, but with the worst timing

    "To put it in perspective, imagine getting the same
    horsepower out of a $15,000 budget compact car that
    you would get out of a $150,000 exotic sports car ?
    with 1/10th the fuel consumption and taking up 1/10th
    of the parking space."

    That is called a motocycle :)
    dank953@...
  • RE: Kickfire: Released for all the right reasons, but with the worst timing

    Sounds like the Cobalt acquisition by Sun in 2000. Same
    argument by the Sun salesforce - why should we spend our
    time selling a $1K box when we can sell a $5-10K instead?
    Appliances are very useful for the vast majority of small
    businesses; I hope the Kickfire folks can find a way to salvage
    this. I think a PostgreSQL appliance would be a smart way to
    go...
    Bruce Timberlake
  • RE: Kickfire: Released for all the right reasons, but with the worst timing

    OK here is the thing no one has noted. You can indeed
    sell more expensive and cut this out but you are
    missing the point of the appliance. This is for non
    fortune 500 organisations who make up the bulk of the
    available market. The people who cannot pay that kind
    of cost. Those who can have already been seperated
    from their $ and the market is now stagnant. This
    provides a way to get into the pockets of those who
    couldn't pay the freight previously - about 75% of the
    space. The only question now is how greedy they will
    be, and that will depend on their market analysis. Is
    60% of the space @$X K bigger than 45% of that same
    space @ $2X K? Or how can we screw the most out of
    this. The answer to this question is going to drive
    the prophetic utterance of the Oracle.
    leigh@...
  • RE: Kickfire: Released for all the right reasons, but with the worst timing?

    Hey - doesn't the smart money license or acquire the technology they need to improve their product line? Sun just got a big leg up in performance at the low and mid-end of the db segments, and if they and Oracle are any good at integration and implementation, they find a way to integrate the technological underpinnings into the big systems and get them to sing too.
    All three competitors pooling their resources can make the superior product. Just gotta want to do it.
    daves1646
  • RE: Kickfire: Released for all the right reasons, but with the worst timing?

    Larry E. will do what ever he wants to, after all HE paid the money...

    Maria is crash-safe MyISAM thus not an SQL server but storage engine. Many folks mix this probably since plugable storage engines are MySQL specific, as far as I know.

    I personally wish KickFire all the best as they deserved it.
    tonci100
  • Sparc and Opteron Servers - no Intel?

    Sun was releasing a Nehalem based server.
    DevGuy_z
  • RE: Kickfire: Released for all the right reasons, but with the worst timing?

    Even if you are right and the partnership with Sun/now oracle is over, which I would not assume at all....even so, that doesn't mean leaving the mySQL market.

    mySQL is open source, if you don't trust oracle, trust that mySQL is still GPL licensed software.

    That means Oracle cannot end mySQL, and you do not need to go after mySQL forks with different names, people understand the name mySQL, obviously you stay in the mySQL market, until the name changes to something else.



    rdupuy11