7
Feb

NoSQL is, for better or worse, inevitable

 

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthThe following comments are based on a literal definition of the NoSQL acronym, “Not Only SQL”. So readers are advised not to interpret my comments as an endorsement of “NoSQL databases” (MongoDB, DocumentDB, etc).

A lot has been written over the last few months on the promise – or illusion of one – represented by NoSQL databases. This commentary focuses on the experience of enterprise consumers who have failed to obtain the results they expected from their efforts to implement a new approach to addressing data and working with it. The consistent thread running through these presentations is an assessment about the quality of the technology – not ready just yet – for prime time. For readers not familiar with this debate, a recent research report from Forrester claimed 42% of enterprise consumers of off the shelf “NoSQL” databases are challenged by them. Reference is made to the Forrester report in an article titled Database drama: Relational or NoSQL? How to find the best choice for you

Perhaps this assessment is accurate. But what if it really doesn’t matter? What if these consumers have no choice but to use other approaches than simply SQL to get at the results they require? In 2015 for prominent consumer brands, this is the case. Just 20 years ago Procter and Gamble, Clorox, Church & Dwight and their peers all looked to television and radio advertising, and print as their promotional playgrounds. Nielsen, Harris and other polling organizations could service this big business market segment with periodic reports, data visualizations, and even predictions produced by algorithms.

But in 2015 retail customers find their entertainment content online. Over the top video does not look to be leaving the scene anytime soon. Cloud SaaS social media options continue to magnetize their interest and speak to their needs with greater accuracy based on personalization technology already in use almost everywhere.

So how does Procter and Gamble crunch these numbers? Do they collect online chatter into columnar database structures for processing via SQL queries? Not likely. In fact it is highly unlikely the Procter and Gambles of the world are even touching online chatter any more. It makes more sense for them to simply consume the predictive product offered by facebook and/or another social media ISV. Sure they will likely look to Oracle, Microsoft, SAP and IBM to run the operation because they have the on-premises infrastructure and RDBMS repositories big consumer brands still need to put together with the massive volume of unstructured data their promotional efforts are producing in the cloud. But without NoSQL methods of addressing so-called “dark data” it is not likely we would be seeing Twitter, facebook, LinkedIn reporting the kind of increases in revenue, and even profit of the last couple of weeks.

Here is another important point to consider when evaluating whether or not NoSQL data structures make sense as a long-term solution for big business, or not: Twitter, facebook, LinkedIn, Google, Amazon and Microsoft all have developed their own version of big data solutions – clusters of servers in a peer computing architecture. Google claims to have invented NoSQL as a method of addressing lots of data. Microsoft has DocumentDB. They are all using analytics developed for unstructured data along with SQL to product the business intelligence the brands need to survive.

Until another medium emerges to challenge online content publishing over Ethernet networks with variants of hypertext NoSQL is simply inevitable.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2015 All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

9
Dec

Hadoop attracts support from Microsoft and Intel

The Apache Hadoop project “develops open-source software for reliable, scalable, distributed computing” (quoted from the “What is Apache Hadoop?” section of the site). So it makes sense for Microsoft and Intel to enthusiastically support the project. Microsoft is deeply committed to its cloud, IaaS effort, Azure, and one of the prime revenue generators for Intel is its Data Center Business. Azure and Intel’s Data Center business are both all about lots and lots of computer servers. The former consumes servers, while the latter provides the CPUs driving them.

As I wrote in the previous post to this blog, it’s likely a majority of the enterprise consumer segment of the tech reader community maintains a questionable understanding of the notion of “big data”. But, when correctly understood, it should not be a stretch for readers to understand why the Apache Hadoop project (or its OpenStack competitor) are positioned at the very core of this technology trend.

Microsoft and Intel are not the only mature ISVs looking to benefit from big data. IBM and EMC are two other champions with solutions on the market to add value for enterprises looking to implement Hadoop.

Intel ostensibly understands the ambiguity of the notion of “big data”, and the imperative of providing the enterprise business consumer with a clearer understanding of just what this buzzword is really all about. A section of the Intel web site, titled Big Data, What It Is, Why You Should Care, and How Companies Gain Competitive Advantage is an attempt to provide this information.

But Intel’s effort to educate the consumer, in my opinion, falls into the same swamp as a lot of the other hype before it can deliver on its promise. The amount of data may be growing exponentially, as the opening of the short Intel animation on the topic contends, but there are a lot of mature ISVs (Oracle, IBM, Microsoft, etc) with relational database management systems, designed for pricey big server hardware, which are capable of providing a columnar structure for the data.

Even when “unstructured data” is mentioned, the argument is shaky. there are solutions for enterprise consumers like Microsoft SharePoint (specifically, The Term Store service), which are designed to build a method of effectively pouring text data into an RDBMS, for example SQL Server (the terms are added to SQL Server and are used to tag the text strings identified in unstructured data).

I am not arguing for the sole use of traditional RDBMSs, with SQL tools to manage a data universe experiencing exponential growth. Rather, I think big data proponents (and Hadoop champions) need to perform a closer study on what the real benefits are of clustering servers and then articulate the message for their enterprise computing audience.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

10
Nov

Online conversations become even more valuable data as consumers implement new analytics designed to work with big data

On October 29, 2014, IBM and Twitter announced a partnership. Under the terms of this partnership, Twitter will provide IBM with data. In turn, IBM will permit customers to use its IBM Watson Analytics to work with Twitter data.

The Twitter data is often referred to as the “fire hose”. According to Statistic Brain, an average day sees some 58,000,000 Tweets. So it should be fair to say any effort to collect this volume of information, and, then, to analyze it, falls into the big data and analytics category.

So just who would be interested in the Twitter “fire hose”, and why? Reading further in the IBM press release one finds a clue: “The first joint solution will integrate Twitter data with IBM ExperienceOne customer engagement solutions, allowing sales, marketing, and customer service professionals to map sentiment and behavior to better engage and support their customers.” A brief look at IBM’s web site for its ExperienceOne service reveals a data analytics offer targeted to Chief Marketing Officer (CMOs), who usually lead “marketing, merchandising, sales, and customer service” (quoted from the ExperienceOne web site).

For an ISV like IBM to offer data collection, analytics, and even predictive analytics solutions, and the services required to successfully implement them, to a target market of CMOs from Lines of Business (LoBs), represents a major shift in focus from IBM’s familiar market of CIOs and enterprise IT organizations. In turn, the ExperienceOne offer stands as a testimony as to how the path by which technology innovation enters the enterprise has shifted away from the CIO and over to leaders from LoBs. Bottom line, this deal is a further indicator of why CIOs and their enterprise IT organizations are playing much more catch up than used to be the case in the past. It also can be interpreted as an indicator of a bigger enterprise need for Enterprise Device Management (EDM) and Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions.

In this writer’s opinion the IBM Twitter partnership is a milestone in the evolution of the value of online user data. The daily production of enormous volumes of unstructured data from Tweets becomes a commodity, which Twitter can profit from in an entirely different manner than other social media sites have been able to achieve in the past. One can argue Facebook is doing much the same thing. But there is no IBM in the middle of how Facebook interacts with its customers. The data collection, warehousing, analytics, and, finally, predictive analytics capabilities a player like IBM brings to the process substantially elevates the potential represented by the Twitter fire hose for the CMOs who will ultimately consume it.

There is certainly room for firms competing with IBM to attempt to apply the same structure (with, presumably, Twitter competitors) for consumers with, perhaps, similar objectives in mind. The important point for anyone following the businesses owning the data (meaning Twitter and its competitors) is the likely need to factor in a higher valuation, should this IBM Twitter partnership pay off.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

15
Oct

ISVs debut cloud, SaaS solutions to satisfy consumer appetite for Analytics and Data

On Monday, October 13, 2014, Salesforce.com announced the debut of a new cloud, SaaS solution named “Wave”. Back on September 16, 2014, IBM announced “Watson Analytics”, once again, a cloud SaaS, but, this time, a freemium offer. So it’s safe to say Analytics for the masses has become a new competitive ground for big, mature ISVs to contend for more market share.

A couple of points are worth noting about the Salesforce.com press release:

  1. GE Capital is mentioned as already using Wave. Given GE’s own recent PR campaign around its own data and analytics effort, one must wonder why the business finance component of the company opted not to use the home grown solution ostensibly available to it
  2. Informatica is mentioned as an “ecosystem” partner for Wave and released its own press release, titled Informatica Cloud Powers Wave, the Salesforce Analytics Cloud, to Break Down Big Data Challenges and Deliver Insights

The Wave announcement follows, by less than a month, IBM’s announcement of a freemium offer for “Watson Analytics”, and Oracle’s “Analytics Cloud”. Both of these offers are delivered via a cloud, SaaS model. So it’s likely safe to say enterprise technology consumers have demonstrated a significant appetite for analytics. The decision by Salesforce.com, IBM, and Oracle to all deliver their solutions via a cloud, SaaS offer speaks to the new enterprise computing topology (a heterogeneous computing environment) and the need to look to browsers as the ideal thin clients for users to work with their data online.

An ample supply of structured and unstructured data is likely motivating these enterprise tech consumers to look for methods of producing the kind of dashboards and graphs each of these analytics offers is capable of producing. With data collection methods advancing, particularly for big data (unstructured data), this appetite doesn’t look to abate anytime soon.

ISVs with solutions already available, principally Microsoft with its suite of Power tools for Excel (PowerBI, PowerPivot, etc), may also be participating in this “feeding frenzy”. It will be interesting to see how each of the ISVs with offers for this market fare over the next few business quarters.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

14
Oct

General Electric Steps Into Big Data and Analytics

October 8, and 9, 2014 were a very busy two days for the Public Relations team at General Electric. No less than 4 press releases were published about the first steps this very mature — not to mention very large — business has stepped into big data and analytics.

Consider, for example, how the big data and analytics business at General Electric ramped up to over $1Bil in sales: October 9, 2014, Bloomberg publishes an article written by Richard Clough, titled GE Sees Fourfold Rise in Sales From Industrial Internet. Clough reports “[r]evenue [attributed to analytics and data collection] is headed to about $1.1 billion this year from the analytics operations as the backlog has swelled to $1.3 billion”.

Early stage ISVs looking with envy at this lightning-fast entry should consider how scale, along with a decision to acquire IP via partnerships and acquisitions (rather than opting to build it in-house), and picking the right market made this emerging success story a reality. Let’s start by considering these three points in reverse order:

  1. Picking the right market: GE opted to apply its new tech to a set of markets loosely collected into something they call the “Industrial Internet”. These markets include Energy (exploration, production, distribution), Transportation, Healthcare, Manufacturing and Machinery. Choosing these markets makes complete sense. GE is a leader in each of these already. Why not apply new tech to old familiar stomping grounds?
  2. Leverage partnerships and acquisitions to come to market in lieu of rolling your own: Leading players in each of the markets GE opted to enter expressed burning needs for better security and better insight. Other players in each of the markets (Cisco, Symantec, Stanford University and UC Berkeley) all stand to benefit from the core tech GE brings to the table, so persuading them to partner was likely to have been a comparatively easy task. The most prominent segment of the tech (very promising security tech for industrial, high speed data communications over TCP/IP, Ethernet networks) understandably, came into the package from wurldtech, a business GE opted to acquire
  3. Scale: With GE’s production run rate of turbines, locomotive engines, jet engines, and other complex, massive industrial machinery, the task of finding a home for the millions of industrial sensors required to feed the analytics piece of the tech with the big data it desperately needs, does not look to have been a difficult task. Product management, appropriately, looked into its own backyard to find the consumers required to ramp up to scale in very fast time.

In sum, GE’s entry into this market, if the “rubber hits the road” and metrics bear out claims, looks to be a case study early ISVs should memorize as they plan their tech marketing strategy.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

17
Jun

As More Enterprise Businesses Embrace Hadoop, Intel Stands to Benefit

Of the 42 members of Hadoop’s Project Management Committee, 8 are directly affiliated with Cloudera®, and another with Intel®. Patrick Hunt, an Engineer at Cloudera appears to have played a key role in the development of a keyword search feature for Hadoop, which is not a trial achievement for a database like Hadoop, which is designed for unstructured data. Intel has an investment in Cloudera. Therefore, Intel should benefit as more organizations choose to proceed with unstructured data, and Hadoop as its repository.

Some prominent online businesses, including:

  • Amazon
  • eBay
  • facebook
  • Twitter
  • and Spotify

have made major commitments to Hadoop.

Readers are recommended to review Who uses Hadoop? to familiarize themselves with the size of an average Hadoop implementation. Of course, very large repositories of data like these require a lot of CPU resources for processing. As the leading manufacturer of server CPUs, Intel benefits from all of this need for computing power, regardless of whether an organization implementing Hadoop runs it on the Apple OS X O/S, Ubuntu, or another Linux flavor. The recommended hardware for each of these is Intel.

The tools offered by Cloudera for managing Hadoop data repositories are designed to provide enterprise businesses with familiar features and procedures. Since most of these enterprise data centers are already full of Intel hardware, Cloudera can be seen, perhaps, as another method Intel can leverage to maintain its position in these same installations.

What bearing does all of the above have on discussions about large data centers, a need for better power management, and the likelihood of hardware OEMs building solutions on the ARM architecture capturing substantial share? Given the importance of Hadoop to the leading cloud, IaaS vendor — Amazon, as well as to Microsoft Azure it doesn’t appear likely server cores running ARM architecture will quickly become the standard in these environments any time soon.

Further, Intel is certainly not standing by, but working, very actively to produce more power efficient hardware in very small form factors. One can argue Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3, which is powered by either an Intel Quad Core i3, i5, or even i7 is a tangible example of how much progress they have made to better satisfy consumer appetite for power thrifty, extremely thin computing devices.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

4
Apr

Gartner Releases Its First Quarter, 2014 IT Spending Forecast

On March 27, 2014, Gartner, Inc. published a press release announcing public availability of its 1Q14 IT Spending Forecast. The release mentioned some report findings:

  1. The top end market for “mobile phones” (Gartner’s term) continues to contract, while most of the growth in overall users is to be found at the low end, with smart phones powered by Android a clear leader
  2. The continued shrinkage in the number of PC users will carry with serve to further define the remaining market. This segment will be “more engaged” (quoted from Gartner’s release), which I interpret to mean more inclined to purchase higher end PCs
  3. The market for tablet computers and what Gartner refers to as “ultramobiles” will be characterized substantial growth (the “Tablet (Ultramobile)” category looks to nearly double in size from 2013 – 2015. This growth is not treated in the release, but is very much the subject of another Gartner release, this one dated March 27, 2014, and titled Gartner Says Worldwide Traditional PC, Tablet, Ultramobile and Mobile Phone Shipments are on Pace to Grow 6.9 Percent in 2014
  4. Enterprise Software sales will grow the most, 6.9% year-over-year, and 12% from 2013 to 2014

1) Continued Shrinkage in the market for top end smart phones

Nothing new here, though I would caution interested readers to avoid the pitfall of assuming this, necessarily means lower sales growth for Apple’s top of the line smartphones. We need some glimpse into iPhone sales into the China Mobile market before we can reach a defensible conclusion on this one.

2) Buyers acquire fewer, more powerful and full featured PCs

If the PC sales forecast included in this report proves true, then a lot of the low end devices PC OEMs have pushed onto the market (as tablet competitors) may end up sitting on shelves. Acer and Asus may feel more of the pain. But HP has made some potentially risky changes in online buying options for the SMB and Home markets, which could contribute to some problems for them, as well (I will write a post to this blog shortly with further detail).

3) Tablet and Ultramobile computer sales look to be very robust for the year

The forecast of the number of new units sold is very impressive, but the actual dollar impact on overall IT spending from this segment is comparatively insignificant. Despite explosive growth, Gartner sees 4.4% growth, year over year from the devices segment. So is there much money to be made in these devices? From these figures I would say it make sense to answer this important question with some caution.

4) Enterprise Software Sales are the fastest growing segment

The big news here, which is to be found in the note at the bottom of the release, is the growing enterprise appetite for databases and analytics. This may very well point to good years for Mature ISVs, including Oracle®, Microsoft®, IBM®, EMC and SAP. Microsoft’s Cloud offers — Office 365 and Azure — may also continue to record very healthy sales figures, while IBM scrambles to increase its cloud real estate in a catch up mode.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved