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Rob 'Flipper' Bearden plans to FLOAT his Hadoop heffalump

Hortonworks hears an IPO-OOOO

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This 'ain't JBoss or SpringSource, people

“The interesting thing is in the JBoss and SpringSource models, the technology was able to be consumed in a way that enabled a high velocity of adoption."

He brought in Herb Cunitz as president in October 2012 - more than a year after the Hortonworks' spin out. Cunitz is Bearden’s former colleague from SpringSource, where he was vice president of worldwide sales became vice president of global field operations in VMware’s cloud application development platform division after VMware bought SpringSource in 2009.

Hortonworks had just 50 employees before Cunitz, all in engineering. Today it’s on 250 with Cunitz expanding marketing and consulting in the US and Europe.

“He [Cunitz] did really understand how to 'operationalize' their [SpringSource and VMware cloud] business to go to extreme scale with reliability and predictability and those are the skill sets we are bringing in for every line of business at Hortonworks,” Bearden said.

Increasingly, the upper echelons of Hortonworks have been filled out by Team Bearden. Hortonworks' vice president of strategy is Shaun Connolly, who dates from JBoss and worked for SpringSource and then VMware.

It’s a policy that has landed Hortonworks in hot water.

Verty giant VMware has hit Hortonworks, Cunitz and several other Hortonworkers previously in its employ with a legal action alleging "unfair practices".

The ex-VMers Hortonworks has added fit precisely into the profile deemed necessary to help sell and support Hortonworks’ EDP - its Apache-compatible version of the Hadoop stack. They are: enterprise accounts manager Taylor Ivey; vice president of global technical services Jamie Engesser; and Melissa Warner, whose Hortonworks’ job title is not clear.

Cunitz completes the picture: an exec experienced in taking small teams and scaling them into functioning sales operations as he did at SpringSource.

Bearden would not comment on details of the VMware litigation when we spoke, but said simply: “The temperature level on the thing is way down.”

There's room for everyone in big data

Bearden claims Hortonworks is growing: with more than 120 customers and claims to be adding between 30 and 40 per quarter. He said Hortonworks is “well financed”, with just over $70m from two rounds of funding by Benchmark, Index Ventures, Tenaya Capital and Dragoner Investment Group. Cunitz said Hortonworks is cash-flow positive, will make money in 2014 and predicts profit in five to seven quarters – so between a year and 18 months.

Far from flipping Hortonworks, Bearden reckons he’s sticking around because of that opportunity Mills and the analysts are crowing about.

The opportunity is, in one word, “data” – data that’s not managed. Data not managed is data that’s not monetised, according to Bearden.

“This is bigger than both of those things put together [JBoss and SpringSource]," he said of his past loves.

“The reason is because it’s data, because it’s new data, data that’s never been managed before and data that was not economically viable to mange in existing platforms… now you can get Hadoop on commodity servers and storage and you can go from $100,000 per terabyte to $1,000 a terabyte.”

Hortonworks isn’t trying to undermine or take anybody out - either intentional or unintentionally.

Like a card-carrying open-source CEO, Bearden says this is a market big enough to accommodate everybody – even the relational data boys and Hadoop rivals.

"People think Hadoop is going to be big, [that] it’s a zero sum game. If Hadoop wins, who loses? In our view, it’s not a zero sum game. We want to extend the data set that those enterprise data warehouse platforms manage have – for Teradata, for example." – Rob Bearden.

Hortonworks has a strategic partnership with Microsoft, making SQL Server Hadoop-friendly, and has worked with Informatica on an open-source tool to query Hadoop. Its rival, Cloudera, meanwhile, has partnered with Oracle and IBM.

“People think Hadoop is going to be big, [that] it’s a zero sum game. If Hadoop wins, who loses? In our view, it’s not a zero sum game,” Bearden claimed.

“We want to extend the data set that those enterprise data warehouse platforms manage have, for Teradata, for example. We want to let that platform do what it does exceptionally well but let it manage a much bigger data set, a 10 to 20 times bigger data set and have Hadoop as an extension of its architecture.”

He added: “We are not trying to go in and fight about a data set that sits on IBM, Oracle, Sybase, Ingres or Teradata."

Bearden's target is to build an "extraordinary company that really changes the landscape for ever."

“That is the kind of company you can take public,” he said.

Bearden has a long way to go, and grow, before Hortonworks becomes extraordinary or changes the landscape. He'll also have a way to go to satisfy Benchmark. Hortonworks had just three per cent of the Hadoop/NoSQL market in 2012, according to Wikibon. IBM and Cloudera - the latter home to Hadoop's creator Doug Cutting - were number numbers one and two when it came to Hadoop. Cloudera does have a head start on Hadoop - founded three years before in 2008.

Going public is another new page in the Bearden playbook. Whether it’s planning or necessity that has put this option on the table is unclear.

Hortonworks got off to a shaky start, while, it seems, companies of the stature of Microsoft, Oracle and IBM - top tier tech names with a history of M&A - look like they prefer extracting what they can from the Hadoop boys through partnership rather than taking ownership.

Either way, Bearden reckons there’s no date for IPO: “We have an operating plan we have been constantly meeting or exceeding. We had a great year this year, and have a comfortable plan for this year and next,” he said.

“It’s reasonable to assume it will be sooner rather than later, but not next year.”

Seems Bearden will be sticking around for longer than he once would have. ®

High performance access to file storage

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