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.

A Big Blue move into the data warehousing market

Contact: Brenon Daly

A little more than three years after Netezza debuted on the NYSE, the data-warehousing vendor is being erased from the Big Board at basically twice its valuation at the time of its IPO. Under terms, IBM is handing over $27 in cash for each share of Netezza, which went public at $12 in July 2007. However, after the strong debut, which valued the company at around $1bn, gravity set in on Netezza shares. They spent most of 2008 and all of 2009 under the $12 offer price.

Earlier this summer, however, Netezza shares started running. The run was fueled by strong second-quarter results that saw total revenue surge 45%, as well as lingering M&A rumors. (We noted in early July that we had heard EMC was interested in Netezza before it opted for rival data-warehousing vendor Greenplum. IBM’s bid values Netezza at twice the level it was trading at the time.)

As Netezza shares continued climbing to new highs on the market, the move whittled away the premium Big Blue is offering. Compared to the previous day’s close, IBM is paying just a 10% premium for Netezza. But judged against where Netezza was trading a month ago, the premium is 80%. We would add that Netezza shares have traded above the $27 bid since the open Monday morning. UBS advised IBM, while Qatalyst Partners advised Netezza.

Based on the enterprise value of $1.7bn given by IBM, the offer values Netezza at 8.9 times sales in its fiscal year that ended in January. (As a trading comparison, Teradata currently garners a valuation that’s about one-third that level.) At the end of its second quarter, Netezza guided Wall Street to expect about $250m in sales for the current fiscal year, meaning IBM is paying 6.8x projected sales. While that is a relatively rich valuation, it’s much lower than rival EMC paid in its big data-warehousing purchase. We understand that it handed over $400m for Greenplum, which was running at about $30m in sales.

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.

Startup scrap sales

With new funding difficult to come by, many cash-burning startups are finding that they have no choice but to take a scrap sale. Those desperate deals cut M&A spending on VC-backed startups in the second half of 2008 by nearly three-quarters over the same period in 2007. From July to December last year, 100 venture-backed startups got acquired, for a total bill of just $3bn. That compares to 153 startups sold for a total of $11.1bn during the same period in 2007.

And we’ve seen more of these types of deals so far this year. Oracle, SAP, Barracuda Networks and Quest Software, among other large technology buyers, have all purchased companies for less than the money raised by the startups, according to our estimates. Consider the specific case of Mirage Networks. The network access control (NAC) vendor raised some $40m before discovering that NAC wasn’t really a market after all. (The eight-year-old company generated an estimated $5m in sales last year.) Trustwave picked up Mirage for some $10m, we estimate. Meanwhile, Mazu Networks will have to hit all of its earn-outs to make its investors whole again. About a month ago, Riverbed Technology said that it would pay $25m upfront for the network security vendor, with a possible $22m earn-out. That’s actually not a bad outcome for unprofitable Mazu, which we understand was burning about $1m each quarter. And yesterday, Netezza picked up the assets of data-auditing and protection vendor Tizor Systems for $3.1m; Tizor had raised $26m from investors.

VC-backed tech startups M&A

Month 2007 deal volume 2007 deal value 2008 deal volume 2008 deal value
July 23 $2.3bn 21 $994m
August 18 $1.2bn 16 $497m
September 25 $1.7bn 16 $642m
October 39 $2bn 13 $487m
November 27 $3.1bn 20 $346m
December 21 $788m 14 $56m
Total 153 $11.1bn 100 $3bn

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase

Netezza’s bogeyman

When Microsoft gets into a new market, the impact on the existing vendors tends to be in line with the software giant’s gargantuan size. After all, fears among startups over getting ‘Netscape-d’ have often been realized. That’s particularly true in the days before the convicted monopolist started putting on a softer face on its business. Gone are the days when Microsoft would threaten ‘to cut off the air supply’ of other companies, as it famously did to the Internet browser pioneer. Maybe it’s middle-aged softness at the 33-year-old company, but Microsoft’s bite often seems a little toothless these days. (Does anyone really think Microsoft – with or without spending $45bn on Yahoo – will be able to narrow the gap to Google in search advertising?)

Still, there was a moment last week when it appeared the Redmond, Wash.-based behemoth once again looked like it had the power to scare the bejesus out of a company (and its investors) by buying its way into a market. Last Thursday, as it was holding its annual meeting with Wall Street, Microsoft said it was purchasing Datallegro, a data-warehousing startup that we estimate was running at about $35m in sales. A market source indicated that rumors of the deal started percolating late Wednesday, a day before official word of the acquisition. Almost immediately, shares of data-warehousing vendor Netezza came under pressure. After hitting an intra-day high of $13.36 on Wednesday, Netezza stock slumped as much as 8% and closed basically at the low of the day. It opened even lower Thursday and sunk the entire day, finishing the session at $11.48. From its peak to its trough in those two sessions, Netezza lost 14%, with trading on Thursday about 50% busier than average.

However, as easy as it may be to point to Microsoft’s competitive move as the reason for Netezza’s decline, the two events are linked only by coincidence rather than causality. According to two market sources, Netezza actually distributed shares back to its VCs, meaning the stock’s slump can be attributed to the supply side, rather than demand side. (There have been no SEC filings about the move, and calls to the company to verify the information weren’t immediately returned.) Maybe Microsoft isn’t the big, bad company we all thought it was?

Netezza nibbles

A few months after indicating it was ready to buy its way into analytics, Netezza has inked its first deal as part of the initiative. The company said last Thursday that it will pay $6.4m for NuTech Solutions. It’s largely an HR move, with Netezza picking up 30 scientists and engineers from the startup. The addition should help Netezza as it looks to run different types of complex analytics inside Netezza Performance Server, rather than just enlist help from partners – including vendors, academic institutions, developers and consultancies – through its existing Netezza Developer Network.

Rival data-warehousing vendors are also looking to add more smarts to their boxes. So far, however, that hasn’t meant much shopping. For instance, Teradata and SAS Institute cozied up and unveiled a joint roadmap last October involving integrating various SAS wares, including its analytics and data-mining algorithms, into the Teradata database. (Netezza also has partnerships with SAS and rival predictive analytics vendor SPSS.) Meanwhile, Greenplum also announced support for embedded analytics in the latest release of its warehouse, G3.

We wonder if the NuTech deal – Netezza’s first acquisition – is a bit of an appetizer ahead of a larger bite of the analytics market. We’ve highlighted a couple of tasty targets for Netezza, including existing partner Manthan Systems, which focuses solely on the retail industry, or KXEN, which would fit well with Netezza’s mission to expand the scope of its query technology. With its treasury stuffed with cash from its recent IPO, Netezza certainly has the resources to do the deals.  

Selected data warehousing-analytics transactions

Acquirer Target Announced Deal value
Teradata DecisionPoint Software Nov. 2005 Not disclosed
IBM Alphablox July 2004 $37m*
Netezza NuTech Solutions May 2008 $6.4m