Greenplum buy puts EMC in BI space

Beyond storage and into business intelligence is goal of purchase

EMC's agreement to buy Greenplum adds a key component to the company's strategy to boost its business intelligence and data analytics business.

EMC has long been trying to shed its image as a data storage vendor in order to become recognised as a player in the larger information infrastructure business. The move is the latest aimed at fulfilling EMC's goal of providing the hardware and software users need to build large cloud infrastructures, and the analytical tools that can be used to mine data stored within those clouds.

In a written analysis, Pund-IT analyst Merv Adrian says Greenplum gives EMC a structured data management tool for databases.

Citing dozens of other EMC acquisitions in recent years, Adrian wrote "Disruptive? You bet. Is EMC finished with acquisitions? I doubt it." The acquisitions have ranged from very small vendors to large companies like unstructured data archive vender Documentum and virtualisation vendor VMware.

Adrian says EMC is likely to continue looking to buy business intelligence tool providers, master data management firms, as well as a companies that sells extract, transform, and load software, which allow businesses to consolidate data from disparate systems.

"Finally, and not least, it is about performance. Technical improvements become more possible when a vendor owns the whole stack. Balancing IO, processor speed, memory, multiple tiers of storage, virtualisation, security, calls to external analytics, ingesting data, exporting data - all become more tunable, more optimisable, if you own all the pieces," Adrian added.

Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, says the Greenplum acquisition is also about EMC getting its foot in the door with cloud service providers, enabling the data storage vendor to compete against other cloud storage providers, such as Amazon.com and its S3 hosted storage service.

"It is really about understanding that storing data is the foundation for information intelligence, but you need a lot of tools to really allow the users to enjoy the greatest benefits from it," King says. "I think Greenplum is just another step forward in this broad but powerful strategy."

EMC says that following the close of the acquisition, Greenplum will form the foundation of a new data computing product division within EMC's information infrastructure business.

San Mateo, California-based Greenplum sells a data warehouse platform based on a massively parallel processing architecture that can scale out to hundreds of servers running a single database instance. Greenplum's software is used in business analytics and is flexible in the different business applications for which it can be used, King says.

For example, privately-held Greenplum has a customer list of more than 100 companies that include large retailers such as Sears and Sony, as well as financial services entities such as Nasdaq and the New York Stock Exchange or telecommunications providers such as Vodafone and Skype.

"They are using Greenplum's technology to mine their data warehouse to garner insight on data they have collected," King says.

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