While the Hadoop distribution vendors, large database and storage vendors, and established BI/analytics platform suppliers own much of the name brand notoriety in the world of big data (see this cool visualization from DataMeer for guidance), there are, in fact, a vast number of smaller solution providers contributing to the state-of-the-big-data-analytics-art. Because of those vast numbers, it is more difficult to narrow down the finalists in this category than any other; who were the specific solution providers in 2012 offering the most innovation and potential value for customers’ big data investments? Here are the three that impressed me the most in 2012:
Much of the Hadoop big data community traces its roots to R&D focused on search and indexing at places such as Yahoo and Google. LucidWorks has stayed true to those roots, working closely with and within the Apache Lucene / Apache SOLR project, and optionally melding those technologies with Hadoop to yield arguably the most efficient user experience to arm analysts and decision-makers with insights. Do you have business users and analysts who want to tap into their analytics and BI through that simple "search" box? Of course you do, and LucidWorks stands prepared to help you satisfy those masses of users. While LucidWorks is quick to initially install, it will require tuning before it starts to produce palpable insights, but once tuned, you would be hard-pressed to find a better one-to-many joining of search and analytics in the market place.
Splunk jumped out first and fast with capturing machine data (i.e., logs from any computing source, including sensors) and serving up the data through big data analytics. You might have thought IBM, CA, HP, BMC, or SolarWinds would have figured out that opportunity, but Splunk has moved so far ahead that it is hard to imagine any other vendor catching up soon. And now Splunk has extended its solution set to the Cloud with Splunk Storm (finally, disruption laid at the feet of Amazon Web Services). Splunk is the first start-up vendor born from the recent big data movement to go public, and successfully so. Splunk's market cap is around $2.9B, BMC's is $6.4B, CA's $10.6B. BMC and CA have market cap to annual revenue ratio in the 2 to 3x range, Splunk around 15x—about the same as SolarWinds. Goes to show how much Wall Street appreciates innovation and disruption.
Ask any analytics platform vendor born from Hadoop or earlier which visualization vendor they partner with the most, and Tableau Software and Microstrategy are consistently named, though Tableau seems to be gaining a recent edge despite starting many years behind. Why? Tableau has managed to smoothly bridge both the new and old analytics and database worlds—from Teradata to Google to SAP HANA to Cloudera to MarkLogic with incredible speed. They are also rapidly pushing their geographical boundaries and in general face the "right kind of problem"—how to manage breakaway growth. They offer desktop, server-based and even free public-based solutions, have focused offerings for both a long-list of verticals and horizontal roles, and can yield everything from basic dashboards to a localized “big data” analytics using Tableau’s own in-memory processing. It is doubtful any vendor is moving any faster than Tableau Software in the big data market domain.
Winner: Splunk continues to innovate in leaps and to dominate a niche impacting every organization interested in big data on the planet—and a niche with a huge long-term growth profile at that.
Big Data Solutions in 2013: Winnowing the Minnows
If 2012 was the year that saw an immense amount of investment from VCs in early stage big data solution providers, 2013 will begin days of reckoning for some of those investments. ESG, therefore, really likes the solution providers that play in a sharply defined niche, like the ones we have mentioned above. Note that while the three finalists here play in technology niches, analytic application niches will gain momentum during 2013, as well as solutions spanning deployment models. Alteryx, for example, has done an excellent job applying its technology to specific facets of retail industries and CPG (consumer packaged goods). Birst can quickly get a medium-sized company flying in terms of core BI/analytics through either cloud or appliance deployments. StackIQ has stepped into the fray of improving cluster configuration and management for Hadoop big data, whether on-premises or in the cloud.
2013 will be the year of simplification for big data—services-heavy implementations will go out of style, and those vendors offering budget and data scientist strapped customers productivity will do well. For those solution providers offering arcane user experiences, or requiring customers to drag through tons of training, or trying to convince customers to hire a bevy of experts, internal or external, well, Series C funding may be harder to obtain than anticipated.