Hurd's Oracle hiring could prove a problem for Teradata

As CEO of NCR, Hurd oversaw Teradata, whose data warehouse appliances compete with Oracle's Exadata line

If Mark Hurd can keep his new post as co-president of Oracle Corp., analysts say his role at the database vendor is likely to be watched closely by executives at high-end data warehouse appliance vendor Teradata Corp.

Teradata had been a unit of NCR while Hurd was CEO there prior to his 2005 departure to take the HP CEO post. Teradata was spun out of NCR in 2007.

Analysts say that HP's data warehouse business has been flagging since Hurd joined, while at the same time Teradata itself has grown significantly.

Even so, Hurd's new role at Oracle puts him in a position to drive the database giant's growing ambitions in the data warehouse market and deeper into Teradata's territory. Unlike HP, Oracle is committed to the data warehouse business and analysts say it has positioned itself well with its Exadata data warehouse appliances.

"Oracle has made data warehousing core to its [long-term] strategy," said James Kobielus, an analyst with Forrester Research. "The company is already on a serious roll with Exadata."

Hurd could help Oracle further sharpen its data warehousing focus, and force teredata to take notice, Kobielus said.

Hurd resigned as HP's CEO last month following the discovery of some expense account irregularities related to a sexual harassment claim against him. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison criticized HP for letting Hurd go, and then hired him to succeed the departing Charles Phillips earlier this week. HP promptly filed a lawsuit against Hurd contending that he violated the conditions of his severance agreement.

Early in the decade, HP had been expected to start offering its own line of data warehouse technologies. But under Hurd, the company shifted its focus to offering hardware that could run the data warehousing offerings of other vendors, including Oracle. The company also significantly expanded its services business with the 2006 purchase of Knightsbridge Solutions, which focused on data warehousing projects, and the acquisition of major services firm EDS in 2008.

HP's core data warehouse technology, the NeoView appliance, largely languished under Hurd and today has very little market share, analysts say.

Forrester estimates that HP has well under than 100 enterprise NeoView installations. In contrast, even relative newcomers such as Netezza have well over 400 installations, Forrester estimates.

Kobielus said that the lack of focus on NeoView under Hurd's watch has resulted in a hopelessly overpriced technology at a time when companies like Oracle have aggressively driven down per-terabyte prices.

"Hurd's experience in data warehousing clearly did less than nothing for HP's efforts there, despite his personal interest," said analyst Merv Adrian of IT Market Strategy. "Today, HP is less of a factor in data warehousing than it was before Mark arrived."

However, the HP experience doesn't mean that Hurd won't make moves to further boost Oracle's data warehousing business. Analysts say Oracle has made no secret about its lofty data warehousing ambitions and Hurd could have an important role in fulfilling them.

Meanwhile Oracle's acquisition of Sun could help it more efficiently deliver integrated hardware and software data warehousing appliances, products that Teradata has been delivering for many years. Analysts say that Oracle's Exadata revenue is already approaching $1 billion, which Oracle has said makes the fastest-growing new product in the company's history.

Meanwhile, Teradata reported revenue of $470 million in its latest quarter ended June 30, up 12% from $421 million in 2009.

The question for Teradata -- and other data warehousing firms -- is whether Hurd will be able to help Oracle further accelerate growth in its data warehousing business.

"Teradata gets its true data warehousing power from being a combination of hardware and software," said Mike Schiff, a principal at MAS Strategies, a consulting firm that specializes in data warehousing. "Now [Oracle has] brought in someone who has managed something similar."

"No doubt [Hurd] willl have an impact," Adrian said. "But he's not fixing an Oracle weakness -- Oracle is already very good in those areas."

Adrian did note that Teradata should be safe in the near term as its Oracle moves to further define its data warehouse appliance business.

A Teradata spokesman said via e-mail tha the company would not comment on Hurd's Oracle appointment.

Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld. Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at @jaivijayan, or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed . His e-mail address is jvijayan@computerworld.com.

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