Here is a quick review of tens years of data warehouse database competition… and a peek ahead…

Maybe ten years ago Netezza shook up the DW DBMS market with a parallel database machine that could compete with Teradata.

About six years ago Greenplum entered the market with a commodity-based product that was competitive… and then added column store to make it a price/performance winner.

A couple of years later Oracle entered with Exadata… a product competitive enough to keep the Oracle faithful on an Oracle product… but nothing really special otherwise.

Teradata eventually added a columnar feature that matched Greenplum… and Greenplum focussed away from the data warehouse space. Netezza could not match the power of columnar and could not get there so they fell away.

At this point Teradata was more-or-less back on top… although Greenplum and the other chipped away based on price. In addition, Hadoop entered the market and ate away at Teradata’s dominance in the Big Data space. The impact of Hadoop is well documented in this blog.

Three-to-four years ago SAP introduced HANA and the whole market gasped. HANA was delivering 1000X performance using columnar formats, memory to eliminate I/O, and bare-metal techniques that effectively loaded data into the processor in full cache lines.

Unfortunately, SAP did not take advantage of their significant lead in the general database markets. They focussed on their large installed base of customers… pricing HANA in a way that generated revenue but did not allow for much growth in market share. Maybe this was smart… maybe not… I was not privy to the debate.

Now Oracle has responded with in-memory columnar capability and IBM has introduced BLU. We might argue over which implementation is best… but clearly whatever lead SAP HANA held is greatly diminished. Further, HANA pricing makes it a very tough sell outside of its implementation inside the SAP Business Suite.

Teradata has provided a memory-based cache under its columnar capabilities… but this is not at the same level of sophistication as the HANA, 12c, BLU technologies which compute directly against compressed columnar data.

Hadoop is catching up slowly and we should expect that barring some giant advance from the commercial space that they will reach parity in the next 5 years or so (the will claim parity sooner… but if we require all of the capabilities offered to be present there is just no way to produce mature software any faster than 5 years).

Interestingly there is one player who seems to be advancing the state of the art. Greenplum has rolled out a best-in-class optimizer with Orca… and now has acquired Quickstep which may provide the state-of-the-art in bare metal columnar computing. When these come together Greenplum could once again bounce to the top of the performance, and the price/performance, stack. In addition, Greenplum has skinnied down and is running on an open source business model. They are very Hadoop-friendly.

It will be interesting to see if this open-source business model provides the revenue to drive advanced development… there is not really a “community” behind Greenplum development. It will also be interesting to see if the skinny business model will allow for the deployment of an enterprise-level sales force… but it just might. If Pivotal combines this new technology with a focus on the large EDW market… they may become a bigger player.

Note that was sort of dumb-luck that I posted about how Hadoop might impact revenues of big database players like Teradata right before Teradata posted a loss… but do not over think this and jump to the conclusion that Teradata is dying. They are the leader in their large space. They have great technology and they more-or-less keep up with the competition. But skinnier companies can afford to charge less and Teradata, who grew up in the days of big enterprise software, will have to skinny down like Greenplum. It will be much harder for Teradata than it was for Greenplum… and both companies will struggle with profitability for a while. But it is these technology and market dynamics that give us all something to think about, blog about, and talk about over beers…