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Data warehousing now ready for beginners, according to Gartner rankings

Jeff Kelly, News Editor

Take note novices: Data warehousing is now safe for beginners, according to a recent Gartner Inc. Magic Quadrant report.

The proliferation of data warehouse vendors and technology over the last several

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years culminated in a significant uptick in adoption of the technology in 2008 by companies with little or no previous data warehousing experience, according to Mark Beyer, an analyst with the Stamford, Conn.-based research firm and co-author of the data warehouse report. He expects the trend to continue in 2009.

Simultaneously, in an effort to tap the expanding market of data warehouse novices, most data warehouse vendors – including IBM, Oracle and HP -- have introduced low-cost, entry-level software and appliances over the last 15 months, allowing beginners to start small data warehouse initiatives that they can grow later with less upfront investment.

As a result, with numerous low-priced, scalable, entry-level data warehouse options now available, there's something for almost everyone, Beyer said. Today, nearly all enterprises -- both early adopters and IT-risk-averse organizations – have deployed some form of data warehouse technology, many having taken a go-slow approach with new entry-level technologies.

"The data warehouse market was mature for mature data warehousers prior to 2005. Now the data warehouse market is mature for novices and immature adopters," Beyer said. "Pretty much everybody has a data warehouse at this point."

Teradata tops the list

Teradata, the first of five vendors atop the data warehousing Magic Quadrant's leaders' quadrant, introduced three such products in 2008 -- the Data Mart Appliance 551, the Extreme Data Appliance 1550, and the Data Warehouse Appliance 2550. According to Gartner, with the three data warehouse appliances, Teradata has addressed "the 'learn as you grow' mentality of new data warehousing entrants."

One of Teradata's recent Data Warehouse Appliance 2550 customers is InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG). The U.K.-based hotel chain, which owns and leases more than 4,100 properties, is currently transitioning from an Oracle data warehouse to the Teradata appliance, according to Mike O'Sullivan, media relations for Teradata.

"[Data Warehouse Appliance 2550] solidifies the foundation of IHG's efforts to build superior business intelligence capability that will help drive the business forward," said Alex Grigorian, vice president of enterprise technology at InterContinental, in a statement.

Also landing in the leaders' quadrant was Netezza, which adjusted its licensing model recently to appeal to new, cost-sensitive customers, Beyer said. The data warehouse appliance, according to the company, "is built specifically to analyze terabytes of detailed data significantly faster than existing data warehouse options, at a much lower total cost of ownership."

Oracle, IBM and Microsoft rounded out the leaders' quadrant. Oracle teamed up with HP in September to offer an entry-level data warehouse appliance of its own, called HP Oracle Database Machine, which runs on Oracle Database 11g Real Application Clusters and HP hardware.

IBM has actually been in the data warehouse appliance game for years. Its latest offering, IBM InfoSphere Balanced Warehouse, unveiled in June, incorporates acquired business intelligence technology from Cognos and includes "pre-tested, scalable and fully integrated system components of the company's data warehouse software, server and storage technologies," according to IBM.

As for Microsoft, having bought its way into the entry-level data warehouse market with its pending acquisition of data warehouse appliance specialist DATAllegro, the mega-vendor "is surging in the market because of its low entry price and changes in market demand," Beyer wrote in the report.

Data marts also on the rise

Data marts, recently out of vogue, also enjoyed a resurgence in 2008, partly as a result of interest from companies with little or no previous data warehousing technology, Beyer said. "When an organization is initiating a data warehousing strategy and has nothing, having a well-architected data mart with plans to expand it into a larger enterprise data warehouse is a valid strategy," he wrote.

Data marts, defined by Gartner as application-specific analytic repositories, can also help improve the performance of overtaxed enterprise data warehouses by offloading part of the workload to the mart, Beyer said.

Sybase, which landed in Gartner's challengers' quadrant, in particular has capitalized on the growing popularity of data marts, he said, having identified the trend as long as three years ago. Its Sybase IQ Analytics Server, for example, "exhibits good scaling to enterprise capability," Beyer wrote, which has led to significant revenue growth for the product.

Other vendors ranked in the data warehouse Magic Quadrant, which places vendors in one of four quadrants – leaders, challengers, visionaries and niche players -- based on their ability to execute and completeness of vision, include challenger HP; visionary Greenplum; and niche players Vertica, Kognitio, Sand Technology, Sun Microsystems-MySQL, Ingres, Illuminate Solutions, and 1010data.

Companies evaluating their data warehousing options should insist on proofs of concept from vendors that include real source system data to make sure vendors can do what they say they can, Beyer said. They should also evaluate product roadmaps to find a vendor whose development cycle matches their own timelines, and they should talk to reference customers of similar size.

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