Vertica and Kognitio Get SaaS-y

Vertica and Kognitio say their SaaS packages address real-world business problems

At last week's TDWI show, a pair of players -- Kognitio and Vertica Inc. -- were draing attention to their software-as-a-service (SaaS) analytic offerings that could soon recast them as more business-friendly.

Vertica, for its part, announced a new SaaS instance of its columnar analytic database which it says is designed for Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) service. Kognitio (its antecedents include WhiteCross, a DW appliance pioneer), unveiled a new Vertical Solution Provider program for its WX2 appliance, along with a SaaS version of that technology.

Vertica officials say the company hopes to market its SaaS data warehouse service directly to business consumers, chiefly as a means of helping them quickly -- and inexpensively -- purchase data warehousing compute capacity, without involving IT. Kognitio expects the development of an ecosystem of vertical-specific DW solutions: i.e., out-of-the-box analytic offerings for financial services, retail, telco, and other industries.

In both cases, the trend is similar: the evolution toward flexible solution packages designed to address particular business problems.

Consider Vertica's EC2-based offering, which started out as a mostly ad hoc internal project, driven, officials say, by Vertica's sales and marketing teams. Demand for proofs-of-concept started to outstrip available resources, says co-founder Andy Palmer, so -- to help sales people demonstrate Vertica's analytic performance to prospects -- Vertica's IT department started bringing up instances of the Vertica database on EC2. What happened next surprised him, Palmer concedes. "[C]ustomers were coming back and saying, 'You know, if we can do evals on the [EC2] cloud, can't we just keep some of them running?'"

For example, he explains, Vertica-on-the-cloud gives business units a reIatively painless way to consume "auxiliary" data -- e.g., data from publicly-available sources; data that's been purchased from prescription sources and the like -- that IT, for one reason or another, doesn't want to (or can't) bring into the enterprise data warehouse. In the past, Palmer says, business users consumed this data in a mostly ad hoc fashion (by dumping it into Excel spreadsheets or Access databases). Vertica-on-the-Cloud gives them a more centralized way to consume it, he argues.

"The type of data that people are coming to us with is not necessarily stuff that you'd find in the enterprise data warehouse. It's auxiliary data. It might be public data -- for example, data that's published by financial services firms. It might be data that [a customer] purchased from some other provider. In most cases, the time [in which] they have to analyze it is very small, so they need to be able to quickly bring it up and run their analytics against it."

Data Warehousing as a Service

Kognitio, for its part, expects that its Vertical Solutions program will generate a bevy of industry-specific solutions for its WX2 appliance, with customers developing -- and then reselling -- analytic offerings that they've designed for their own particular industries. Like Vertica, Kognitio is also offering WX2 in a SaaS package, which officials describe as DaaS -- or datawarehouse-as-a-service. DaaS is something that appeals as much (if not more so) to business users as it does to IT, argues CTO Roger Gaskell.

"When we meet with [a prospect], they typically get excited. They see that we're 40x faster than anything they've seen. They see that we address these problems [with ad hoc query performance] that are limiting them. But do they have a $500,000 budget ready to go to buy us?" Gaskell comments. "What we're able to say to them [thanks to our DaaS service] is that for $12,000 a month we can give them this high-performance analytic warehouse that's ready to go. They can do that within budget, they don't have to get a huge capital expenditure [to pay for this], and if they like, they can only use it for as long as they need it."

He cites the example of a client that needs to consume a large amount of supplemental data (i.e., data from an external source that it didn't plan to bring into its enterprise warehouse) while one of its business units performs a research function. "They could contract with us for three months, use the service for the research, and then cancel [the service] once they're done. While they're using it, they're getting performance that is faster than anything out there."

In any case, Gaskell maintains, business users are typically most excited about Kognitio's DaaS offering. "They get excited because of the speed of deployment. So often, they're waiting on IT. They're waiting for requirements [analysis], they're waiting for IT to allocate [funding]. They're waiting for deployment. With our DaaS [solution], they've more or less got this deployed in 90 days," he points out. "If it goes wrong, the IT department says, 'Okay, we've got a three month contract, we can bin it. The IT department really likes it [for this reason], too. It gets the business off their backs, so everyone's happy."