Sharks Smell Oracle Big Data Blood?

Central to the evolution of the business intelligence story is predictive analytics, and a shift in the use of this technology is underway for all BI megavendors. Gartner expects big data to drive $34 billion in global IT spending this year. According to Teradata CTO Stephen Brobst, a Boeing jet generates 10 terabytes of information per engine every 30 minutes of flight. Likewise, it is estimated that the number of devices connected to the internet – currently 9 billion – will reach 50 billion by the end of the decade. These devices will churn out chunks of data, most of which are unstructured (videos, images, audio). Although predictive analytics falls under business intelligence (some disagree), it differs from traditional BI in that BI encompasses reports, visualizations, scorecards, and dashboards, while predictive analytics uses machine learning algorithms to predict the likelihood of outcomes. Businesses that use predictive analytics can reduce risk, cut costs, and realize savings.

Oracle has been sharply criticized in recent weeks because it acted too late with its big data strategy and its demise is foreseeable. These are some of the headlines of the last few weeks…

“Oracle’s database empire faces mortal threat from SLI”

“Cracks in the Oracle Empire”

“Oracle is in big trouble: big data is to blame”

“IBM’s new big data solution could hurt Oracle’s new sales”

“Big data, not bad sales execution, is a real threat to Oracle”

Few deny that the BI landscape has changed, but naming Oracle among the BI megavendors seems artificial. It commemorates the attacks on Oracle during the Database Wars of the 90’s. I started working with Oracle Database right out of graduate school in 1990 and have been following my path ever since. So I have the luxury of looking back at these events to know what happened in the past. Therefore, offer a completely different narrative. The scourging of Oracle is untenable on several levels, not least because Oracle outperformed Microsoft and IBM in last year’s software market revenue growth, according to IDC data. SAP’s revenue grew the most at 5.1 percent, followed by Oracle at 3.9 percent. So despite claims that the company will end up in the dustbin of history, Oracle has a healthy business. I can recall five major crises that Oracle has overcome over the past 23 years, and the almighty Oracle has proven time and time again that it is a strategic player, a master of brinkmanship, able to withstand hurricanes and emerge victorious can. The speed with which it responded to its remarkably ambitious venture that brought SUN under its wing is case in point.

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Oracle recently added new items to its big data appliance bundle to help companies launch their first big data initiative. The new additions are Oracle Big Data Appliance X3-2 Starter Rack and Appliance X3-2 In-Rack Expansion. The rack can be expanded up to 18 nodes, giving organizations the ability to scale their deployments to meet their needs. The Oracle Big Data software stack includes Oracle NoSql Database, Oracle Linux, Hotspot Java Virtual Machine and Cloudera Hadoop. The company also offers the X3-2 Starter Rack extension as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). Oracle has added new capabilities to its Endeca data discovery software and the Oracle Business Intelligence Foundation Suite. Users can access a wider range of data sources including social media sites, Hadoop deployments, and spreadsheets. Endeca and the Oracle Business Intelligence Foundation Suite run on Oracle Exalytics In-Memory Machine, Oracle’s Business Analytics Server. The new plug-in for Microsoft Office enables the export of Oracle dashboards to Microsoft Excel. In addition, users can analyze data in Excel using BI Foundation visualizations.

The point I am making here is that the winds of change will affect BI megavendors equally, be it IBM, SAP or Microsoft. IBM’s crown jewel, PureData, or SAP’s darling, HANA, won’t rank against Oracle, as Oracle has the tools in its arsenal to put it on the same footing. In addition, Oracle enjoys ample leeway to forge new alliances and/or spend its funds on acquisitions, as IBM did. Behemoth IBM has spent $16 billion on analytics acquisitions. The question is what will the landscape be like when the dust settles, and where will Oracle be when big data revenues start to bubble? The advent of big data technology hasn’t brought any significant revenue so far, but if we take Tableau’s fantastic IPO this month as a barometer, the future of analytics looks bright. Currently, the broader business intelligence market is maturing into the diagnostic (discovery) phase, and prescriptive analytics has a vanishingly small market share.

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The open source predictive analytics companies like Pentaho and JasperSoft will not be able to meet the confusing demands of the large enterprises. Amazon is a threat with its estimated $798 million in revenue from AWS in 2012, but then again, the clouds hanging over megavendors aren’t limited to Oracle. Tens of startups have sprung up in recent years hoping to cash in on their chips when Big Data is in full swing. Though Oracle’s plans are kept under wraps, considering its past moves, it’s not hard to guess how it will play its chess pieces in the years to come. I know some of the acquisition candidates I list are odd bedfellows, but I’m just weighing the pros and cons through the prism of technical relevance: Fusion-io, Platfora, Splunk, Sisense, 10gen, Cloudera, MapR, Hortonworks , Enigma, Ayata, Attunity, Continuuity, Imfochimps, Rackspace and Rightscale. My picks: Fusion-io, Platfora, Sisense, and Rackspace.