Teradata acquires Kickfire

Buy will add to vendor's offerings

Teradata has quietly scooped up Kickfire, a start-up analytic appliance vendor known for its use of the open-source MySQL database and a SQL processing chip to boost query performance.

Rumours of Kickfire's demise as an independent company had been circulating for weeks. Teradata's move came to light during the vendor's earnings conference call last week.

The "tuck-in" deal provides Teradata with "another set of intellectual property that allows us to start looking at things like advanced pipelining," said Darryl McDonald, executive vice president of business development and marketing, during the call. "It's been leveraged all the way from supercomputers all the way down to gaming devices. It really allows you to put super performance of different things into chips and or the software for acceleration and super performance."

Kickfire's technology has received good marks, but its market strategy was met with some criticism.

"Building a proprietary database stack of hardware and software around a MySQL codebase that attributes much of its success to being open and free is a poor cultural match," wrote Daniel Abadi, an assistant professor of computer science at Yale, in a recent blog post.

Trying to gain a foothold in a crowded market for analytic database systems, Kickfire aimed at customers that had smaller-sized data stores and a desire to analyze that information, but no appetite for the price tags of products from larger vendors.

But Kickfire lacked MPP (massively parallel processing) capabilities, which was "a recipe for disaster ... in the 'Big Data Era,'" Abadi said.

"It is well known that over 95 per cent of data warehouses are smaller than 5TB, and that MPP is not strictly necessary for less than 5TB," he wrote. "So it is easy to get into the trap of Kickfire's thinking that the mass market is addressable without building an MPP product. However, businesses are looking forward, and seeing much more data in their future ... and can often be reluctant to select a product with known scalability limits."

MPP databases partition workloads over an array of nodes that run in parallel. Teradata's database uses this approach.

Meanwhile, the Kickfire acquisition will give Teradata "a richer hardware assist at the point of retrieving data from disk, potentially turning the performance crank another notch," analyst Merv Adrian of IT Market Strategy said Tuesday via email. It will likely "up the ante for 'smart hardware' options closer to storage in data warehouse configurations."

However, Teradata has no plans to sell Kickfire's existing product, having only hired its engineers and acquired its IP, Adrian also said.

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