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Archive for October, 2012

In-Memory Databases

October 31, 2012 Leave a comment
Driverless Car

Google Driverless Car

A couple years ago I wrote an email to the CEO of Cloudera about why I was so excited about Hadoop and the potential for distributed processing (he never wrote back 😦 ).  When I studied computer science we talked a lot about how processors could be coordinated to do work, and I saw MapReduce as an interesting real world application of distributed processing – although in this case the emphasis was on data distribution and retrieval.   I’m still a believer in what Hadoop and what its offspring can do for managing and reporting on large volumes of transaction data.

I am even more excited about the potential for in-memory data storage.    There is a real mismatch between the speed at which today’s CPU’s can process data and the speed at which they can get access to databases that reside on hard disk drives and even the new flash drives.   What happens when that bottleneck goes away?   What happens when the CPU is free to do its data processing 1000 times faster than it does today?

The folks in analytics talk about reducing batch jobs from hours to minutes.   They talk about increasing the complexity of jobs – with more data points in a time series or with more data from related data sources – without increasing the time required to do analysis.  This could be a real advantage for the corporate world.

I wonder what this means for even more interesting things like robotics and artificial intelligence.   Say for example, that my automated vehicle has all the data related to every trip it’s made from my home to the grocery store available to match real time with the conditions it senses (sees) ahead of it.   It “remembers” the blind driveway that my neighbor occasionally backs out of without looking, or the new oil they put down for a street repair last week that is slick in the morning dew.  Like a computerized chess master playing a board that is always changing, it can quickly run through 1,000 scenarios in near real-time, anticipating more moves and creating more contingencies than the typical human driver (especially the ones distracted by their smart phones).

We aren’t there yet.   In-memory databases are just now taking hold in the corporate world.  I wonder how soon this technology will trickle down and become affordable on desktops and mobile devices, and what kind of wondrous capabilities will be enabled?

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4 Legged Sales Teams

October 26, 2012 Leave a comment

HawaiiMichael Stonebraker casts stones at what he calls the 4 legged sales team about 48 minutes into this video on NewSQL databases.    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhDM4fcI2aI

He describes the 4 legged sales team as the combination of an overpaid sales rep “who’s only smart enough to take a customer to lunch” connected to a technically proficient sales engineer.  He says his firm VoltDB is open source because they don’t want to waste money on an expensive field sales force.

I found his comments shortsighted.  Mostly because he denigrates field SE’s – the good ones are truly amazing at getting customers on board with new technology.   He can say anything he wants to about sales people.  We are used to it.

I think he is confusing the “freemium” marketing model with open source.  In the freemium model, customers are enticed with a “free” version of the software with the intent of upgrading them to a paid/supported version later.   The freemium model has worked well for non-open source companies like salesforce.com.   Open source and freemium worked well for Red Hat operating systems, and may be working well for the Hadoop vendors Cloudera and Hortonworks – though it’s still early to see how the Hadoop market develops.

However, whether it is freemium or open source or both, a company still eventually needs a high quality field sales force to sell enterprise customers on non-commodity technology.  Even salesforce.com, the poster child for the freemium model, has an enterprise field sales force.   A really good account executive becomes a trusted consultative resource to his or her account.   He personally knows who is for and against his technology, how to navigate the buying process at the account, and how to communicate clearly how his technology will provide a business advantage that justifies changing the way the enterprise does business.  Adding two more legs with a great SE who can focus on proving the technical value of the product or service results in more sales, bigger sales, faster sales cycles, and satisfied customers with solutions that can be proven to provide real business value.

No one can deny Stonebraker’s had some amazing business successes.   I wonder:  if he truly valued sales, would he be the one buying a private island in Hawaii.

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