Gartner MQ for DMSA: Confusing, contradictory and conservative

After our most successful year ever in business, EXASOL was unceremoniously dropped from the 2017 Gartner magic quadrant for data management solutions for analytics graphic and we weren’t the only ones. For five straight years the graphic has featured three smaller brands: EXASOL, Infobright and Kognitio. These three vendors all predate the inclusion of Hadoop distributions and, as previously reported by the analyst firm, are mature, stable solutions ready for enterprise. In fact, as recently as 2015 EXASOL was ranked under the top three vendors in Gartner’s critical capabilities report for data warehouse and data management solutions for analytics. And yet, it would appear that overnight the inclusion criteria have changed in a way that makes it particularly onerous for smaller brands, who are building their reputations with smaller marketing budgets, to be deemed worthy of featuring in the quadrant graphic.

We have taken a closer look at the Gartner magic quadrant for DMSA and are trying to figure out what exactly is going on over at Gartner HQ and where those new inclusion criteria suddenly came from. Some questions remain unanswered but here are some very interesting findings that we would like to share.

Confusion: Hadoop vendors mop up

Despite strong evidence that Hadoop-based analytics is oversold and still underdelivers, the report features no less than six vendors that are leveraging distributions based on Hadoop. Hadoop and the Hadoop ecosystem features technology that is great for data processing and storage, but terrible for real-time analytics. Anyone who knows the market and industry, or is at the coalface of delivering for their businesses knows this.

Folks have tried to rejig SQL-on-Hadoop solutions to run their data analysis but evidence suggests that it either doesn’t work or conversely becomes very expensive and unwieldy; it certainly doesn’t live up to expectations. For a complete analytic solution you need a fast relational database management system on which to run your analytics – no business wants to wait an eternity for a query to run.

Contradictory: In black and white

The inclusion of so many Hadoop distributions is further surprising considering that Gartner research director Nick Heudecker recently said that organizations get into Hadoop and Spark with inflated expectations about what they can do – neither tool, he said, is a replacement for databases or existing analytics tools.  Heudecker even half-joked that: “One client calls me every seven months and says they are replacing their data warehouse with Hadoop and say I hope they have their CV ready.”

So why the sudden flurry of Hadoop distribution companies in the magic quadrant for DMSA report, the supposed authority for the market? Is this not a complete contradiction? This research is being sold to the very clients Nick Heudecker gets calls from and whom he advises not to implement Hadoop unless they have their CV ready. How does that work out? Don’t get us wrong, we can see exactly how Hadoop fits into IT architectures and can deliver value. What we can’t see is Hadoop delivering ultra-fast response times to complex SQL queries. But that is exactly what high-value analytics is based on.

Conservative: Protective for some

Gartner’s business model continues to raise concerns among a growing number of market observers.  It’s interesting to note that, when comparing magic quadrants between 2016 and 2017, the companies placed above EXASOL’s position on the ability to execute axis (Oracle, Teradata, Microsoft, IBM, AWS, SAP, HPE, Google, Cloudera, HPE, MemSQL) have an average annual revenue between them of $49 billion. Could it be that just as EXASOL was about to climb into their quadrant, dissent made itself felt? Why give a platform to a company who is not part of the club?

Regardless, if buyers take Gartner’s word for it, we’ll see a much narrower and much less innovative market reserved for the big tankers parked out in the bay. One that is conservative and commodity-driven – but which of course caters to a massive installed base which must be protected at all costs. In the past, Gartner’s magic quadrant for DMSA has been seen as a reliable source of information by the analytics market, to the extent that it wields enough power that it could change the face of the market. If this remains the case, then sadly it will give small and medium-sized brands, who cannot compete against the deep marketing pockets of the big boys, a much harder time. More than that, without the niche brands, the challengers and the visionaries, the pace of innovation will slow and the world will become that much less exciting.

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