Several players with customer counts at 300 or less
Not everything in the Gartner DW MQ report focuses on big, mainstream forces. Alongside mega-vendors like IBM, Oracle, SAP and Microsoft, or veteran DW-focused vendors like Teradata, the report includes several vendors with relatively small customer counts. The report says that 1010Data has "over 250" customers and Infobright "claims to have 300 customers." And those numbers are on the high side of small with Actian (formerly Ingres) weiging in at "over 65" customers, ParAccel claiming "over 60," Calpont at "about 50 named customers" and the report explaining that Exasol "reports 38 customers in production and expects to have 50 customers by January 2013."
I'm not saying this to be snarky, but this is an important reality check. Many of us in the press/blogger/analyst community, myself included, somtimes assign big-vendor-gravitas to companies that actually have very few customers. Sometimes the tail wags the dog in this startup-laden industry, and readers should be aware of this.
That said, while ParAccel only claims "over 60" customers, one of its investors is Amazon, which licensed ParAccel's technology for its new Redshift cloud-based data warehouse service.
Multiple "form factors"
Another trend pointed out by Gartner is the vareity of deployment/procurement configurations (or -- to use Gartner's term -- "form factors") that DW products are available in. The options offered by vendors include straight software licenses, reference architectures, appliances, Platform as a Service (PaaS) cloud offerings, and full-blown managed services, where vendors provision, monitor and administer the DW infrastructure. And, in the case of non-cloud options, vendors may base their pricing on number of servers, processor cores or units of data (typically terabytes). Sometimes they even let customers decide which model works best.
Many vendors offer several of these form factor and licensing options, and Gartner implies that the more such options a vendor offers, the better. Those that offer only one option may disqualify themselves from consideration by customers. Those that offer several, and especially those that allow customers the agility to move between deployment and pricing models, tend to score higher in customer satisfaction.
Speaking of models, Gartner makes special mention that HP and Oracle offer industry-specific DW data models and that Microsoft, through certain partners, does as well. Gartner sees this as an important feature in vendors' data warehouse offerings. I would agree...data models can quickly convey best practices and serve, at the very least, as useful points of departure for accelerating DW implementations.
HCatalog for matadata management
HCatalog, originally introduced by Yahoo/Hortonworks and now an Apache incubator project in its own right, acts as a metadata repository designed to unify storage and data management for Hadoop stack components like Hive, Pig and the Hadoop MapReduce engine itself. On the DW side of the world, ParAccel and Teradata are each integrating with HCatalog as a way to integrate Hadoop data into the DW design, rather than merely connecting to and importing that data. This would seem to indicate good traction for HCatalog, and perhaps we will see such support spread more ubiquitously next year.
Microsoft on the upswing
I think it's important to point out Gartner's coverage of Microsoft in this year's DW MQ report. Microsoft was in the Leaders Quadrant last year, but at its very lower-left corner, whereas this year it's smack in the center of that quadrant. Last year, the Redmond-based software giant led with its Fast Track data warehouse, based on its SQL Server Enterprise product. Its MPP data warehouse appliance, SQL Server Parallel Data Warehouse (PDW) had little momentum, and few customers.
I once served on Microsoft's Business Intelligence Partner Advisory Council, and was initially unimpressed with the PDW product. It struck me at the time as a product created to give Microsoft credibility in the Enterprise-grade database game and provide peace of mind for customers, and less of a product that was actually designed to generate siginificant unit sales.
But things have turned around. A year later, the product is up to its third "appliance update" (and much better aligned with non-PDW editions of SQL Server) and a bona fide version 2.0 of the product is due later this year. Gartner says PDW has been adopted by 100 new customers over the last 18 months, and is likely to accelerate further, as Dell's PDW-based appliance gains momentum.
Gartner also cites the xVelocity in-memory technology, present in PowerPivot, as well as the 2012 release of SQL Server Enterprise, and the tabular mode of SQL Server Analysis Services, as an important advance for the company, and even gives mention to StreamInsight, Microsoft's little known Complex Event Processing (CEP) engine.
The next version of PDW will include the new PolyBase component, which integrates PDW's MPP engine with data nodes in the Hadoop Distributed File System (HDFS) to provide true parallelized, non-batch, SQL query capability over Hadoop data.
And the next major version of SQL Server Enterprise will include an in-memory transactional database engine, code-named Hekaton. Add to that the ability to license SQL Server outright, obtain DW reference architectures for it, buy various SQL Server-based appliances, and to use SQL Server in the Amazon and Microsoft clouds (in Infrastructure as a Service or PaaS configurations) and the product's trajectory would seem to be upward.
What's it all mean?
No matter what you may think of the merits of Gartner's influence in the technology market, there's no denying that influence exists. The DW MQ report is extremely important and seems especially methodical, well-thought out, and insightful this year. Analysts Mark A. Beyer, Donald Feinberg, Roxane Edjlali and Merv Adrian have produced a report that everyone in the field should read.