Big Data acquisitions: All about the enterprise

A look at five big data acquisitions over the last five months shows enterprise is the connective tissue.
Written by Andrew Brust, Contributor

In October of last year, I wrote about 14 different big data acquisitions that had taken place. In that article, I grouped the deals and picked out some trends. In some cases, the acquiring companies were building out their clouds. In another case, a traditional data warehouse vendor added big data technology to its stack. In another instance, private equity stepped in; open source companies went commercial in a couple more. To round things out, a financial risk management company and a media company each acquired analytics technology companies of their own.

Also read: 14 Big Data acquisitions and why they happened

Since I wrote that article, several other deals have been announced. Microsoft scooped up Metanautix in December, SAP bought Roambi in February, and Tableau acquired HyPer in March. Just last month, Teradata announced it bought UK firm Big Data Partnership, and Workday announced it would acquire Platfora.

Also read: Microsoft acquires big-data analytics vendor Metanautix
Also read: Tableau buys HyPer, to add R&D center in Munich
Also read: Workday plans for Platfora revealed

Before going further, and in the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that in addition to my work with ZDNet, I am Senior Director of Market Strategy and Intelligence at Datameer, an erstwhile competitor of Platfora's. With that in mind, I'm going to talk about the Workday-Platfora deal only at a high-level.

Let's look at the following five deals. At first blush, they will each seem pretty different from one another, but there's a broad theme that ties them together.

Microsoft's acquisition of Metanautix would seem to be around the latter company's "Quest" product, and its ability to provide a uniform SQL interface to a great many data stores. Like Google's Dremel technology, as well as Apache Drill, Quest provided a SQL-on-Anything gateway that could have obvious utility within the entire Cortana Intelligence Suite. Quest could query documents and files, in addition to databases. So, with a little imagination, one could even see it being used to power "bot" interfaces to Microsoft Office.

Buying the company also let Microsoft re-hire someone who was among Google's data cognoscenti: Metanautix CEO Theo Vassilakis. The original Dremel paper was co-authored by Vassilakis while he was at Google, prior to starting Metanautix. Vassilakis is now Azure Data Partner Development Manager at Microsoft; he also worked for Microsoft Research before his tenure at Google.

Tableau gets HyPer
Microsoft isn't the only company to acquire an engine and hire some talent in the process. Tableau's acquisition of HyPer gives it access to key in-memory hybrid OLAP/OLTP database technology that it may wish to use to make its product faster. That said, it also may have been an aqui-hire, in an effort to build out an engineering presence in Europe (HyPer was a German company).

SAP roams by
SAP's acquisition of Roambi has some interesting inner loops to it. The company was founded as MeLLmo by a team that included co-founders of Xcelsius, a data visualization company and product that Business Objects acquired in 2006. SAP announced its acquisition of Business Objects in 2007 and closed the deal in 2008, bringing Xcelsius under the SAP umbrella.

Under SAP ownership, Xcelsius seems to have been put out to pasture, having morphed into something called SAP Crystal Dashboard Design. But the Roambi acquisition would appear to be SAP's second chance at the Xcelsius/MeLLmo team's data viz technology.

Roambi was focused exclusively on delivering data visualization on mobile devices. The output was beautiful, but the niche opportunity less so. SAP didn't disclose terms of the deal, but there were rumors that it was an asset buy and that the sale price was quite low. Meanwhile, if you think about SAP's flagship ERP business, having a great mobile visualization story -- and grabbing it for a bargain price -- makes a lot of sense.

The ERP-analytics plot thickens
That theme of adding visual analytics to Enterprise software would seem to carry over to the Workday-Platfora deal as well. Analytics can be most powerful when its embedded -- so for a major software company to want to own and embed significant analytics IP seems quite logical. Zendesk's acquisition of BI software vendor BIME Analytics, which I covered in my October article, would seem to fit into this grouping as well.

Teradata wants service
Teradata's acquisition of London-based Big Data Partnership seems a bit less straightforward. Of course, Teradata has already done a number of deals; I covered three of them in my October article. An earlier Teradata acquisition, in late 2014, was of big data consultancy Think Big Analytics, and the Big Data Partnership deal fits in with that very nicely. In fact, Big Data Partnership has been formally folded into Think Big.

Why would Teradata execute a services play not just once, but twice? Ultimately, it would seem to come down to Enterprise sales. Implementing big data -- and doing it successfully -- is still hard, and experienced consulting shops/Systems Integrators (SIs) can make enterprise customers feel a lot more confident moving forward with it. That puts them in the perfect position to recommend tools and technologies. So, having a manageably small, but geographically distributed, services organization can be very helpful to Teradata indeed.

Enterprise starship
Looking back on the various deals we've discussed here, it seems the common thread for all but one of them is the enterprise. Whether the enterprise cloud, in the case of Microsoft Azure, enterprise software, in the case of SAP and Workday, or enterprise consulting and sales, in the case of Teradata, four of the five deals we've looked at seem to have enterprise stamped all over them.

Software companies that want growth have to become companies that serve the Enterprise. So why doesn't the Tableau-HyPer deal really fit the pattern? I'm not sure, but I do think a lack of enterprise focus at least partially explains why Tableau has missed its earnings targets for three consecutive quarters now.

Also read: Tableau posts mixed Q2 results but continues to attract new customers

Maybe Tableau's next play should target the enterprise too.

Correction: this post originally stated that Tableau had missed its revenue targets for three consecutive quarters. It was updated to state that it missed its earnings targets over that period.

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