Gartner lists 3 challenges for rebounding Teradata

Report, improved financials help data warehousing firm start 2010 on a bright note

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The next steps

Teradata's plan to fend off competitors includes several action items, but two really stand out:

1. Keep pace in developing and using cutting-edge technology like flash memory and MapReduce. Oracle has bragged about the speed of its new Exadata Version 2 database appliance, which uses flash memory cards connected via fast PCI Express (PCIe) cards to cache the most commonly-accessed data. Now Teradata is preparing to bring out a flash-based appliance of its own, the Extreme Performance Appliance 4600 (code-named Blur).

Blur is said to store data in flash-based solid-state disks (SSD) using conventional drive interconnects, rather than PCIe. While using PCIe would in theory give Oracle an advantage over Teradata, Oracle's other architectural compromises will render it slower than Blur, claims Scott Gnau, Teradata's chief development officer. (See his full argument here.)

"Applications that might have gone to a Complex Event Processing (CEP) engine or in-memory database, we can handle with Blur," he said.

Forrester's Kobielus said he is "impressed" by Blur, which he said may be released by Teradata as early as the current quarter.

On the trendy area of MapReduce/Hadoop data processing, Teradata already enables users to crunch large, semi-structured data sets through MapReduce-like functions performed inside or outside the Teradata database, says Gnau.

Teradata is also working on new geospatial and temporal capabilities that will be added to the next release, Gnau said.

2. Ratchet up the marketing war. Teradata officials say that the company is going on the counteroffensive against its chief nemesis, Oracle, and some of its rising competitors.

The latter include GreenPlum Inc., which touts an "enterprise data cloud" that it claims will end the need for siloed, unmanaged data marts. "That sounds consistent with Teradata's strategy from 1979 of consolidating the enterprise data warehouse," said Darryl McDonald, Teradata's chief marketing officer.

Teradata released a feature last fall that's designed to let users test and run analyses inside the enterprise data warehouse without having to commit to a full data mart. "So we've been there and done that," McDonald added.

He also contended that Cloudera Inc., which is aiming its easy-to-use Hadoop tools at mainstream enterprises, will have a hard time competing against "the robust tools and infrastructure that we provide."

Regarding market leader Oracle, Gnau said, "We've been competing and winning against Oracle for years and will continue to do so. Oracle Exadata has been on the market for over a year, and although there has been much marketing hype there are still very few [Exadata] systems in production for data warehousing. Oracle recycles their material to disguise the lack of new Exadata customer wins."

McDonald says that Oracle's acquisition of Sun could lead the database vendor to show favoritism toward Sun hardware, which would wreak havoc on Oracle's other, still-key partnerships.

"You can imagine how their ex-hardware partners are now trying to position how to compete against Oracle," he said. "IBM, HP and others have a big part of their business in the OLTP market and aren't going to go down easily."

Eric Lai covers Windows and Linux, desktop applications, databases and business intelligence for Computerworld. Follow Eric on Twitter at @ericylai, send e-mail to or subscribe to Eric's RSS feed .

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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