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That Exciting New Stuff? Yeah… Wait Till It Ships.

By Merv Adrian | July 13, 2013 | 1 Comment

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A brief rant here: I am asked with great frequency how this RDBMS will hold off that big data play, how data warehouses will survive in a world where Hadoop exists, or whether Apple is done now that Android is doing well. There is a fundamental fallacy implicit in these questions.

Comparing what someone new and shiny may be claiming they will do a year from now with what someone established is already doing today is foolish. The established vendor being compared is not likely to stand still. In fact, it may well have got where it is precisely because it has learned to sustain innovation. In the big data world, to acknowledge that, say, the uniqueness of MapR’s current storage solution compared to HDFS will likely erode over time is accurate. But to assume MapR will stand still while that happens is not; they are several releases, and several different innovations, in. They still may fall behind – but not because they stood still.

How do I handle these questions as an analyst? By sticking with what is shipping, in production, with referenceable customers. To advise someone who has a need for technology that they should wait until some uncertain point in time when an open source provider may have some technology ready that will compete with today’s enterprise-ready, supported product strikes me as very poor advice. If they don’t need it now, they should wait anyway, and evaluate the options when they do.

This ties closely to my often-offered comment that is it is the Silly Con Valley (thanks to Paul Kent at SAS for that one) disease to believe that once we write it on the whiteboard it’s ready. It’s bad enough to compare to what we know will go GA at a relatively predictable time (like a SQL Server release) but to compare to something whose feature list is on a request for volunteers at an open source meetup is entirely different.

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1 Comment

  • Tomer Shiran says:

    MapR’s competitors have been presenting “futures” to prospects since the day MapR came out of stealth. For the most part, the “futures” that were presented in 2011 are still futures in 2013.

    As you say, the company that’s in front won’t stand still. But the other question that needs to be asked is whether the trailers have the architecture (ie, foundation) in place to allow them to implement the missing functionality. Because that would need to be true in order for the difference to “erode over time” as you are suggesting. For example, in the case of HDFS, it would be practically impossible for HDFS to support random writes/POSIX. It won’t happen in 1 year, or even in 3 years. It’s not even on the roadmap. Not because companies don’t need it (POSIX is one of the most popular features in MapR), but because the architecture of HDFS makes it impossible. Similarly, the architecture of HDFS prevents consistent snapshots, due to the separation of metadata and data in HDFS (metadata is on the NameNode, data is on the DataNodes, so applications have to be designed to be snapshot-aware).

    In some cases, architectural advantages actually allow the leader to innovate at a growing rate, meaning the gap is not only maintained, but can actually increase dramatically. For example, MapR recently released its M7 edition, enabling 24×7 HBase applications by eliminating compactions and enabling seamless splits and instant recovery. This was only possible due to the underlying architectural advantages that MapR enjoys. In other words, MapR is able to deliver functionality that its competitors cannot even begin to work on, and that is due to the architectural advantage.

    It’s also important to keep in mind that no single company, whether it’s MapR, Cloudera or Hortonworks, can compete with the open source community. There are hundreds of open source projects, libraries and applications. Therefore, any innovation by a Hadoop vendor must be done in a way that enables customers to also enjoy all the innovation that takes place in the open source community. For example, the MapR distribution includes over a dozen open source Apache-licensed projects (Hive, Stinger, Pig, Oozie, Flume, Sqoop, Cascading, ZooKeeper, HBase, etc.). The open source community continues to innovate with new and exciting projects, such as YARN, Apache Drill and Apache Tez, and customers obviously want to enjoy the functionality offered by these projects. Therefore, Hadoop vendors like MapR, Cloudera and Hortonworks must ensure that their innovation does not prevent customers from benefiting from the ongoing innovation of the open source community in which they all operate.

    Tomer Shiran
    VP Product Management, MapR Technologies