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Reborn Teradata bets on the unexpected

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Okay, it's not exactly the slip of the tongue a CEO wants one week after taking his company public. Teradata chief Michael Koehler appeared before close to 4,000 people here at the company's user conference and talked about Teradata's excellence with "datawastes" – er make that databases.

Even the cynics at El Reg can forgive Koehler such a minor miscue, no matter how hilarious. The CEO has no doubt been working long days preparing for Teradata's split last week from NCR and rebirth as a public, independent entity.

The freed Teradata can, in theory, enjoy a more focused and flexible structure as it tries to maintain a dominant position in the data warehouse market, while the likes of IBM, Oracle, HP and Netezza make their charges.

"NCR is a great company, and we owe a lot to NCR," Koehler said, during his speech. "But now we will have the opportunity to optimize our business and control how we invest.

"Going forward we will now control our own destiny."

Part of Teradata's rebirth includes a lot of talk around, well, taking data warehouses to the next level, if you'll forgive us the phrase. You've filled these databases with loads of information and learned a few things, but there are dramatic discoveries yet to be made – the party line goes.

In keeping with this theme, Teradata revealed what seems a rather strong partnership with SAS. The deal will see SAS tie its analytics software to Teradata's database. Down the road, work will take place around gearing SAS's financial services and retail software for Teradata too. And beyond the products, the companies plan to engage in the usual co-marketing, co-selling arrangements.

This type of concrete action does more for us than some of the rhetoric dished out during the conference. The speech preceding Koehler's centered on a "a chain of events triggering unexpected results." Apparently the car, computers and phones are all examples of this ethos, as evidenced by the video accompanying the speech. Segway scooters too are meant to inspire what can happen when your mind is freed to discover the unexpected. (Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway, will speak later this week at the Teradata conference.)

While making new, radical discoveries sounds like a great proposition, it seems like a difficult idea to throw at customers armed with critical thinking skills.

Teradata is asking users to start doing more with the rich information collected by their data warehouses. You know, look for the undiscovered pattern. Be a hero by finding the magic connection between two things previously thought unrelated.

It's an inspirational talk and one that seems great enough when complemented by a laser light show and the after effect of last night's gin and tonic run at the blackjack table. But is it the kind of message one can really take back to his boss and ask to spend a few hundred thousand dollars on?

That's exactly the type of question Teradata will need to answer with clarity now that it's a public body. The pressure to grow revenue and fend off giant rivals feels far more palpable now that the protective shell of NCR has been removed. One needs to strike a balance between theory and practice in such an environment.

Ah, who are we kidding. Maybe The Register is just too damned cynical for this kind of trade show razzle-dazzle.

You're meant to try and inspire at these things, right? On to the datawastes. ®

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