Teradata in Analytics' crosshairs

Market growth brings new competition

Blog There’s a lot of activity surrounding enterprise analytics and ‘big data’ these days. The major IT vendors like IBM, HP, and Oracle have all bulked up their software, system, and service offerings with an eye toward being a one-stop enterprise analytics shop. Cisco and Dell (and others) will probably start making some more noise in this area as well.

As the broader industry races to stake out their claims in the enterprise analytics land rush, they’re not going to see an empty prairie. There are incumbent vendors happily living on those plains – specialists who pioneered the market and will defend their turf while looking to expand their own reach.

Teradata is one of these pioneers. They’ve been around for 32 years total, completing a full circle of corporate guises. Coming to life in ’79 as an independent firm, they began to make a name for themselves in the then-new data warehousing space. They were acquired by NCR in ’89, and then swallowed up when AT&T bought NCR in ’91. AT&T spun NCR off again in ’97, and Teradata regained their freedom ten years later when NCR spun them off into a public company. Throughout, Teradata maintained tight focus on data warehousing and data analysis, resisting the temptation to venture off into other areas.

Teradata’s foundation is their database. Designed from the ground up for data warehousing and decision support, it’s what gives them a leg up on larger competitors bringing traditional transaction- oriented databases to the table. The Teradata database was also built with scalability in mind, dividing data and processing chores between large numbers of nodes for speedy parallel operations.

The company says their DB can handle up to 186 petabytes of data on as many as 4,096 nodes running on their MPP architecture. They typically sell the database with their own hardware (x86 systems running Linux) and middleware. It’s this highly integrated bundle that gives them the performance they need to win deals against larger competitors and hold on to their expanding customer base.

The company has done pretty well on this score. Total revenue has grown from $1.35bn in 2004 to $1.93bn in 2010. Over the years, they’ve added services and a deeper focus on vertical markets. This is paying off, as consulting service revenues have grown 63 per cent since ’04 to total $536m. The stock price has moved from $25.90 in 2007 (when it began trading again) to the $60 range most recently.

In a lot of ways, Teradata is a company that is in the right place at the right time. Customers are now turning to analytics in a big way, and Teradata has all the pieces they need to capitalise on the trend. But they’re going to face beefed-up competition from companies like IBM, HP and Oracle, who have all invested heavily to embrace the market.

IBM alone has spent at least $12bn in the last several years building out their enterprise analytics story. Cognos, SPSS, and Netezza, along with Platform Computing and Algorithmics most recently, are a few of IBM’s analytics-related acquisitions. They’ve also established a services unit (4,000+ heads) to come up with customer solutions to thorny data analysis problems. The IBM systems group is pitching in analytics-optimised systems to fill out the bundle.

The money that IBM has spent to tackle the analytics market is more than Teradata’s total revenue since 2004. And IBM isn’t alone; HP, Oracle, and pretty much everyone else is also gearing up to attack the markets that Teradata holds dear. While the analytics trend is great for Teradata, the added competition brings new challenges and headaches. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out in the coming years. ®

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