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Teradata: We still rule over Oracle, IBM in analytics

Business intelligence vendor Teradata Corp. is unfazed by recent saber-rattling on the part of Oracle Corp. and IBM, saying the vendors' respective technologies remain fundamentally unsuited for high-performance analytics.

Oracle announced Version 2 of its Exadata data warehousing appliance last month, with CEO Larry Ellison reportedly saying that Oracle is installing the faster, cheaper Sun Microsystems-based appliance “within the Teradata installed base.”

Darryl McDonald, chief marketing officer at Teradata, which is hosting its annual Partners conference in Washington this week, claimed that Oracle's alleged customer wins have been mostly confined to “uncontested” situations, such as customers running the Oracle database on Hewlett-Packard servers that are being switched or upgraded to the Exadata appliance.

“There hasn't been a whole lot of head-to-head. In the few times we have competed, we've had a very high win rate,” he said.

The reason, McDonald said, is that the Oracle database was built for transaction processing, not analytics. Real application clusters (RAC), intended to enable Oracle database to scale out, remain a Band-Aid solution, he said.

“Oracle tries to throw a lot of hardware and CPUs at the problem, but it's fundamentally still a transactional database,” McDonald said, meaning it has “I/O problems and resource contention.”

IBM earlier this month announced a data warehousing bundle involving its DB2 database software running on top of its Power servers in conjunction with the new pureScale clustering feature for faster, larger grids.

Whatever IBM's marketers may say, DB2 still has problems that are “very similar” to Oracle's, McDonald said, because of its heritage in online transaction processing (OLTP). These are problems not faced by Teradata's massively parallel platform (MPP), he said, as evidenced by the fact that Teradata has customers operating data warehouses with more than a petabyte of data.

McDonald said there are several new members of the elite club of Teradata customers that the company calls “Petabyte Power Players” — though he declined to name them. And he added that the number of customers with data warehouses in the 100TB-plus range is more than double last year's 35.

While the co-opetition between IBM, Oracle and Teradata may be heating up, Teradata isn't worried that it will result in a falling out among the companies.

“Many Fortune 500 firms are dependent upon us for mission-critical apps. I don't foresee how Oracle or IBM would not want to continue to certify and port their products onto Teradata,” McDonald said.

Teradata also faces competition from a fleet of start-ups and smaller companies offering specialized data warehousing appliances, often at extremely low prices.

Teradata CEO Michael Koehler said Teradata can match those companies on a price-per-terabyte basis with appliances such as its Extreme Data Appliance 1550, which today sells for about $15,000 per terabyte. Koehler has been CEO of Teradata since its spin-off from NCR Corp. in the fall of 2007, and before that he had been senior vice president for NCR's Teradata division since 2003.

At the same time, Koehler decried the overemphasis on pricing, arguing that it neglects real-world performance metrics, such as the number of concurrent users or queries companies can run.

Teradata opened its annual conference Monday by announcing that it is bringing its data warehousing technology to in-house corporate clouds and public cloud computing services, such as Amazon.com Inc.'s EC2.

Despite the move, Teradata remains ambivalent about cloud computing. Like another provider of primarily on-premises IT offerings, Microsoft Corp., which has crafted what it calls a “software plus services” strategy, Teradata argues that it is simply aiming to broaden its product lineup, rather than to push customers in a direction they don't want to go.

“We think it's going to be a number of years before the Fortune 1,000 leverage public clouds in a big way,” McDonald said.

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