Looking up at the data warehousing incumbents

Contact: Matt Aslett

The face of the data-warehousing sector has changed considerably in the past 18 months. A series of acquisitions has seen Vertica Systems, Greenplum and Sybase snapped up by Hewlett-Packard, EMC and SAP, respectively. Further, Teradata and IBM have strengthened their hands to compete with Oracle and Microsoft with their respective purchases of Aster Data Systems and Netezza.

According to our 451 Information Management report, Data Warehousing: 2009-2013, Oracle, IBM, Teradata and Microsoft accounted for 93.6% of the total revenue in 2010, a level that will only drop slightly to 92.2% by 2013. Those figures were calculated prior to the recent M&A activity, but in order to make a considerable dent in the dominance of the big four, any acquiring company will not only have to buy a data-warehousing player but also invest in its growth.

EMC has the right idea: Greenplum had 140 employees when it was acquired in July 2010. EMC’s Data Computing Products Division now has more than 350 employees, and is set to reach 650 by the end of the year. Netezza can benefit by being part of the much larger IBM, but Big Blue is also investing in growing the business. IBM is expected to increase headcount there from 500 in September 2010 to 600 now, and a target of 800 by year-end. We believe that HP will have to make a similar investment in Vertica, which had just 100 employees at the time of its acquisition, just as Teradata is likely to boost the headcount at its new Aster Data ‘center of excellence’ beyond the estimated 100 employees Aster Data has today.

As for the remaining data-warehousing specialists, while they can all boast differentiating features and strategies, they must also be looking for acquisitions of their own. On their own, they can’t hope to compete with the investments available at their deep-pocketed rivals.

Winners and losers in data warehousing

Contact: Ben Kolada

Just a month after Greenplum was swallowed by EMC for an estimated $400m, fellow data-warehousing startup Kickfire was sold for probably one one-hundreth of that amount to Teradata. Why did the two data-warehousing vendors – both venture-backed, Silicon Valley startups targeting the same market – see divergent outcomes? The answer to that multimillion-dollar question lies in each company’s targeted markets.

The scrap sale of Kickfire was the end result of a misguided approach by the Santa Clara, California-based startup to the low end of the data-warehousing market. Basically, Kickfire was trying to sell appliances through an expensive direct-sale model. However, the economics of a high-cost business model for a low-cost product only work on big sales. Kickfire never got anywhere close to that, collecting only about a dozen customers in its four years of business. (We would contrast Kickfire’s business model with that of its closest competitor, Infobright. That company, which sells a software-only product through an indirect channel, has more than doubled the number of customers over the past year to 120.)

As Kickfire was struggling to sell to small businesses, 30 miles up the road in San Mateo, California, Greenplum was ripening nicely by selling to enterprises. The company’s high-revenue customer accounts helped it quickly grow total sales to just shy of $30m at the time of its sale to EMC. (That works out to an eye-popping valuation of 14 times trailing sales – a multiple that’s twice as high as any valuation the data-warehousing sector has seen in major acquisitions.) Part of the reason it garnered such a high price is that Greenplum counted some 140 customers at the time of its sale.

Other data-warehousing vendors have also experienced the highs of the enterprise market. Netezza and Teradata both made it to the public markets. (Although we heard a rumor that Netezza was almost erased from the market. Word is that EMC first talked to Netezza, even floating a bid earlier this year that basically would have valued Netezza at its current price on the NYSE. Needless to say, talks didn’t go too far between the two Boston-area companies.) And of course, DATAllegro was scooped up by Microsoft for an estimated 7x trailing sales.

With all of this consolidation playing out, we expect that much of the attention in the data-warehousing space is now turning to Aster Data Systems. The fast-growing vendor, which is based in San Carlos, California, has raised $27m in venture backing. If Aster Data gets snapped up in a trade sale (like many of its rivals have), we wouldn’t be surprised to see Dell as the buyer. The two companies are currently partners, and Dell has shown an increasing interest in big data following its continued attempts to buy 3PAR.

Tech M&A strikes back

Contact: Jarrett Streebin

As we pointed out in a recent webinar, 2010 is shaping up to be a great year for tech M&A. With year-to-date acquisition activity already surpassing last year’s total value and number of deals, it appears as though most companies were just sitting out the storm until it was time to start buying again.

The same trend in M&A can be seen in our annual AlwaysOn study. Each year before the AlwaysOn Summit at Stanford, we do a breakdown on companies that have been selected to the AO Global 250. This year’s uptick was even more pronounced for firms selected by AlwaysOn. The median revenue multiple for AO companies was 5.2, compared with only 1.5 for tech M&A as a whole. This was based on the incredibly high volume of AO companies bought. From August 2009 to early July, there were 37 exits by AO companies, more than in any other 12-month period before. There was also the second-most total spending, with more than $5.6bn spent.

Some of the more notable exits were AdMob by Google, Greenplum by EMC and Cast Iron Systems by IBM. Google, EMC and IBM were some of the most acquisitive players this year, with each buying three AO companies. They cast their votes in the most meaningful way – by reaching for their wallets.

SAP’s next big deal?

Earlier this week, SAP marked the first anniversary of its largest deal ever, the $6.8bn purchase of Business Objects. Now, some folks in the market are already lining up the next multibillion-dollar acquisition for the German giant. JMP Securities analyst Pat Walravens has floated the idea that SAP may be planning to buy data-warehouse titan Teradata. (Incidentally, Teradata celebrated its own first anniversary this week, having started trading on the NYSE on October 9, 2007.)

The pairing would make a fair amount of sense. We noted a year ago that SAP and Teradata have a deep partnership, sharing more than 200 customers. And SAP clearly needs more technological heft if it wants to sell a stand-alone data warehouse. (It currently offers its data warehouse as part of the NetWeaver BI integration stack.) But we have a hard time seeing SAP reaching for Teradata, which sports a $2.9bn market capitalization.

Typically, SAP doesn’t make consolidation plays like Teradata. (That’s the role of Oracle, which is likely to be less interested in Teradata since recently rolling out its high-end data-warehouse offering, HP Oracle Database Machine, which is its answer to the massively parallel-based warehouses offered by Teradata and others.) Instead, SAP generally favors small technology purchases, and one startup that we think would fit SAP pretty well is Greenplum. SAP thought well enough of Greenplum to put some money into its series C earlier this year.

However, SAP might find itself in competition for Greenplum with the startup’s other strategic investor, Sun. Greenplum has a data warehouse appliance for Sun servers. There’s also the alumni connection: Greenplum CEO Bill Cook worked for 19 years at Sun before running the startup. That said, Greenplum is not the only data-warehouse vendor Sun has invested in, having taken a minority investment in Infobright’s series C last month.