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Update on Radio Silence (It’s Been a While…)

It has been a while since I regularly posted to this blog. Initially, the blog was intended to chronicle my transition from the apps world of CRM and into the data side of things at Basho Technologies.

Less than a year into it, I have moved into the analysis of both apps and data (and platforms, and “social” and whatever comes next…) at 451 Research. I am excited for the change – and have immersed myself talking with some new and old friends among the startup and established vendor space. So much so, that I have neglected this blog almost entirely.

To that end, I will most likely be moving my blogging thoughts over to the “Too Much Information” blog, a 451 property. The good news: my thoughts will be meshed with those of Matt Aslett (among others), an amazingly adept data analyst covering the NoSQL, NewSQL and Hadoop world in addition to other new technology evolutions and revolutions.

So, while I’ve enjoyed writing on this blog – I will also be spitting out independent, (hopefully) thought provoking ideas over at my new home…

Thanks to all who have read, commented, blasted, praised, etc. over the past several months…

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Talent + Product < Execution

I am, unfortunately, a Philadelphia Eagles fan. I have been coming to grips with this wasted season as best I can. One thing I have heard, ad nauseum, is how much talent the Eagles have which has made their horrific season even more perplexing.

This indisputable fact has me thinking. Over the past decade, I have observed many companies come and go – some fizzling out while others experience strong exits or continued rises in market share and revenue. As an analyst, I’d talk to many companies with great ideas, an interesting vision, and a “great team” to make it happen. The simple fact – more often than not these companies would not be around long enough to see the vision come to fruition.

In a world of social media, inbound marketing, and a seemingly more level playing field – you might think more “great ideas” and companies would succeed. But we have not seen as many success stories as we statistically should in recent years.

Why?

I would answer that in the tech world, the final metric of success is execution. Now, to be sure, “execution” can mean a number of things – not just revenue. All too often, great technology ideas are thought up by people who have zero idea how to run a business. And often, too much insistence on “sales” can ruin the culture of a company to the point where the talent drains.

Many companies fail to balance the concept of “execution” between technology/innovation and sales. Usually when you hear people say “we have the best team/talent” – they are almost always the one with the least market share. And often companies who focus only on “the pipeline” and hitting their number usually have numbered days. Sometimes – companies have both of these problems; tech-minded management trying to force immature products into commercial deployments – always a recipe for disaster.

So, what’s the answer? I believe holding people accountable is always important, but patience is a virtue. When it comes to successful execution – honesty goes a long way. Insuring a product does what you say it does; careful hiring of sales and marketing teams; and a long view towards what “success” means for the company from a sales and marketing perspective, can all combine to create a culture of execution. Knee-jerk reactions are the kiss of death for start ups.  And of course, insuring you believe in providing ultimate customer experiences can help insure successful execution of goals.

However, simply relying on product features, good ideas and an “if you build it, they will come” attitude or hiring whale hunters to hawk a product they don’t believe in will lead more often than not to failure.

 

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A New Take (read: Opinion) on Hosted Data(bases)

I have had a pretty skeptical notion of SaaS approaches to databases and data in general to date. And for very large data sets and for very complex applications leveraging multi-variant data and pulling from multiple sources I still think it’s not the best route.

But, a few examples of potentially sensible uses of SaaS data and SaaS databases are catching my eye. I talked with Jim Fowler who sold Jigsaw to salesforce.com and we went through the renaissance of data.com for salesforce. By offering a hosted, uber set of data – small and even large sales and marketing organizations can access and use meaningful data. It is a low cost (for the most part) way for anyone to augment their data sets. The best part is that this does not necessarily need to be used inside salesforce.com’s CRM tools – so SFDC is expanding its potential market here and breaking down some of the notions of it’s walled garden model. Not bad…

I also have been checking out the way Rapleaf has designed its consumer data service. Its “InstantData” feature is pretty cool – allowing users to input a prospect list and  Rapleaf augments that data with information in its hosted repository. The end result is a robust set of data and analysis of the inputted set. Now, sales and marketing pros can segment better, decrease cold calls, and ideally create relevant and less intrusive promotions and offers to prospects. What I real like is the ability for consumers to edit the data about them if they so choose. This reciprocity can actually be a good thing if developed: consumers tweaking their profiles for accuracy so marketers spend less time and resources sending you crap offers. (Maybe someday I will get less than 30 mortgage refinance letters sent per week to the mailbox at my rented town home!)

I have also been checking out MongoHQ, the hosted Mongo database. Quite a different concept from the previous examples, MongoHQ allows developers to more quickly get web apps up and out the door. Mongo has proven itself pretty darn fast and for small web apps that are not looking to handle “big data” type of volumes or complexity this might be a good option. And as more and more apps are using data that is not a great fit for SQL databases (social tools, simple games, etc.) this makes sense. I see a nice fit between a MongoHQ data layer on a Heroku/Ruby platform model popping up (not to give salesforce.com any more hat tips).

The simple fact is that small businesses are increasingly looking to consume everything “as a service” in IT terms. And as smaller start ups and developers in general begin (I expect 2012 to see a wellspring of adoption of all of these new “stacks”) to adopt third-party dev platforms like Heroku, Engine Yard or even play on stacks like CloudFoundry – the data players not already working well with these platforms will lose out big time.

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Basho Lands New Funding; Powers Danish Prescription Card Program

Some great news from Basho today – both great testaments to the momentum for both company and for the marketplace for NoSQL and other distributed data solutions like Riak.

First – Basho and our partner Trifork have helped the National Board of E-Health in Denmark create a scalable, highly available database for its Shared Medicine Card program. This system in time will enable all Danish citizens and their physicians to access their complete prescription history from any device in real time.

This is an important development for patients. Think about it. Imagine you have just been in an accident, and you are transported by ambulance to the hospital, one where you’ve never been. In order to treat you a doctor prefers that he knows what drugs you’re on, have taken recently, and what drugs to which you might be allergic. If you’re unconscious and the doctor cannot access or find your medical history – this could lead to delays or to administration of a drug that could cause harmful or fatal reactions. In short – this is a breakthrough concept and we are super stoked to be a part of its success.

Second – Basho is pleased to announce that it has closed an additional equity round of funding of $5m. The round included only existing investors – and the funds will be used to make Riak an even better product. We have some seriously awesome plans for additional features, platform capabilities, cloud tools etc.

We are just scratching the surface of what Basho is looking to do – the funding and customer momentum means we’ll be able to continue building an amazing open source product to solve problems traditional data management tools simply cannot. And as we move towards the end of an amazing 2011 for Basho – we can not wait to really blow the lid off this thing in 2012.

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Some Great Upcoming Basho/Riak Events in November

November is going to be a busy month for Basho and the Riak crew. We’re sponsoring and giving a few talks at QCON SF in the middle of the month. And Basho CEO will be speaking at the Big Data Summit in Miami on November 8.

For those of you using Riak, looking to learn, or just curious about what this stuff is all about – there are a few great events coming up that can suit all these interests. On November 1 Riak user Bump Technologies will talk about their use of Riak and Haskell in a special south bay Riak SF meetup. Space is limited to reserve yours today.

And while Riak 1.0 has been “on the shelves” for a little while now – we decided to throw a Riak 1.0 release party on November 8 in San Francisco. Space is extremely limited so act fast to be part of the fun. Lots of the Riak development team will be on hand, as will great food and drinks in a cool SOMA atmosphere.

Riak parties can get a little out of hand...

And for those of you in the UK looking to learn about NoSQL, Big Data, Riak, etc. – we have a great event planned with partners Trifork and Erlang Solutions. The London NoSQL Road Show on November 29 will feature talks by industry analyst and NoSQL expert Matt Aslett of the 451 Group, as well as Basho, Trifork and Erlang Solutions experts. The half-day event is aimed at bringing the novice up to speed on NoSQL and giving some solid examples of how and why organizations have found success with solutions like Riak.

Hope to see you out there at some of these great events next month!

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Riak Webinar – Querying and Processing Enhancements – Oct 25

As many out there get acclimated to Riak 1.0 and all the new features, Basho is putting on a webinar aimed at highlighting two core new features of the product.

First, we’ll discuss how secondary indexing allows for greater querying of data in your Riak cluster. Following that will be an overview of Riak Pipe – the Basho development team’s new take on MapReduce functionality in Riak 1.0.

You can register here for the webinar, hope you can join us.

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There’s No Single Electric Provider…There Will Be No Single Cloud Provider

Read some interesting figures from EMC’s CEO Joe Tucci over at GigaOm regarding the company’s recent and planned R&D spend as well as its M&A spend over the better part of the next decade. The fact that EMC spent around $14bn on acquisitions over the past seven years shows that there is still a hearty M&A market and hope for great exits from start-ups and established tech firms alike.

But what I found more interesting is where companies like EMC plan to invest (and where they have already invested). Much of the spend on EMC’s part was around securing its future in the IT world as concepts like “cloud and big data” take over.

I love hearing news like this. One of the best things that can happen to “the cloud” is for more and more public and hybrid options to arise. Not to take anything away from what Amazon has done, but to consider them equivalent with the cloud does nothing to foster innovation and progress.

The issue that may arise as we see more and more clouds pop up might be around things like standards, but I think we have learned the micro-lessons around the benefits of standards. These lessons have set the stage for interoperability across clouds on a grander scale – hopefully. The scale that clouds allow for has unlocked the need for new, alternative data storage and processing technologies – this has been proven. But of course we have only scratched the surface here.

But all this money spent by EMC, HP, Oracle, etc. to create varying degrees of cloud environments proves that we are moving to distributed environments as a more de facto standard. While the types o clouds are going to differ widely -the world seems to get that for scalability and cost controls in light of these pressing needs to scale – distributed, commodity hardware-based, or cloud systems are meeting the challenge best.

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Riak, NoSQL, Big Data – The Light is Green

I just got back from a series of trips round the U.S. and Europe. One of the most surprising things I learned over the course of the last month, is that more and more developers, IT decision-makers, “data guys” and just plain business people, are beginning to get religion around evolving their approaches to storage.

Now, I am not saying everyone is sold on Riak or even NoSQL, far from it. But what I am saying is that individuals inside some large, small and soon-to-be-large organizations realize that they a) can increase their storage capacity and broaden their data storage bandwidth (ie store more types of objects) while b) not significantly increasing their overall IT budgets.

Right in the middle of my travels, a Forrester report was published which included results of a survey of more than 1500 IT professionals. They were asked about which areas of storage were going to increase in the next year.  The results:

In my opinion, the fact that “general file storage” and “archiving” are just as important as “database systems” proves that we have seen nothing yet, as it were, it terms of how big the market can and will be for object and document oriented data storage solutions. I think if you take the market opportunity for custom solutions that look and feel like Amazon S3 but live inside private or hybrid clouds (or even on non-EC2 public clouds) – we’re talking big business. And if you see how well a solution like Riak is fitted for, say a global session store for a massively utilized web property – then it mounts up to even more potential.

The most important aspect of this report, in terms of how well it bodes for distributed databases, is that the authors point to the fact that new storage solutions will be played out in the cloud. The report survey also revealed that storage accounts, or should I say will account for about 17% of total costs in 2012. To keep costs down, and to scale properly as these data volumes increase – the cloud has to come in to play.

So, as I’ve said again and again – there is a huge opportunity for data solutions that focus on being optimized for distributed systems.

The report, sadly, does not go on to mention how there are multiple open source and highly scalable solutions to the kinds of data issues outlined in the piece. Instead, it takes a “traditional storage married to Hadoop” approach to offering up a solution. While this accounts for solving a small portion of the types of data and use cases that are pressing companies of all sizes, it certainly does not solve all of them.

And again, as the light turns green for NoSQL and Big Data across many storage segments – there is room for a whole lot of great solutions.

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451 Group’s Big Data Survey Now Open

The 451 Group is conducting a survey around how businesses and individuals view Big Data – or as the 451 Group calls it “Total Data.”

Take the survey yourself HERE.

I’m curious as to the results. As we all know, there’s been a lot of blurring of lines between terms like Big Data, NoSQL, and unstructured data management in general.All too often I see individuals toss Riak into a MapReduce type fold. While yes, Riak has MapReduce capabilities – it is certainly not one of  the main differentiators for Riak.

Again, I look forward to the rsules of this survey to shed some light on the state of the Big Data universe – so please take the survey and pass the link along.

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Business Perceptions vs. Technical Realities – Bridging the Gap

Marketing a product in a nascent space is hard work. This is true in the most generic of senses…but with Riak and Basho – the “space” that we sell to is somewhat ill defined (perhaps even undefined) and the products we offer are often misunderstood by the market. I think this is because of two reasons; the fact that we have not done a perfect job explaining who we are in relation to the market (my fault), and because others in the market and observing the space spit out somewhat confusing definitions of itself (somewhat out of our control).

The value of “NoSQL” solutions is varied – after all it is a concept around capturing, processing and storing data. In the IT world that’s about as broad as it gets. So, while it is an inclusive and confusing market – I think some things need to be understood.

For one – Riak is NOT a NoSQL solution.

What?

Yes, while Riak contains a key-value store – the value of Riak is not in its NoSQL-ness, but rather in the problems it solves better than any other technology available today. This set of problems is much less broad than “unstructured storage” and we understand that; we are not trying to be all things to everyone.

But what hurts Riak is the fact that it is constantly compared to software that is mildly similar to some small aspects of Riak, yet fundamentally lacks the smart distribution, fault tolerance and operational ease that makes Riak so great. Not to say these other products are bad – they are just NOT designed the way Riak was designed; they are not built for the complex use cases for which Riak excels. They are fine for single-server or other centralized storage – even highly scalable and perform very well in these configurations. Riak will get faster and easier to query – but other solutions may never offer smart distribution of a database cluster with utter fault tolerance with such supreme elegance.

We are in the early stages of a major revolution. And that revolution is happening on many levels: in the general technology sense; inside the hierarchies of large IT organizations; in the trenches with the develop front line…and so on. But no doubt, things are changing and new weapons will be needed to address these new stacks, applications, visions…

In the next few weeks and months, Basho will be placing more of a stake in the ground (we have done so before but I think this will be a bigger and more visible stake) around Who we are and What we solve – an action aimed at showing the world once and for all that we are intentionally different than our perceived market competitors, and that difference will elevate Riak and Basho to even greater heights going forward.

Riak 1.0 is just the start of this…

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