While it’s no secret that Pivotal is making a big announcement on Feb. 17 during which it will evangelize about a new, “groundbreaking” approach to big data, who exactly is showing up to its party remains to be seen, as is what they will be open sourcing and how they will be spinning it.

But here’s the deal, as time passes, people talk and wheels turn in everyone’s heads. Who will Pivotal’s “special industry guest” be? Does it really know “What’s next in big data”?  

An Educated Guess

While everything we’re saying from this point forward is speculation, it’s based on insights we’ve received from several sources. We suspect that it will go down something like this: A Pivotal executive will say something like “The time has come for an open data platform,” and then follow it up by open sourcing much, if not all, of Pivotal’s Big Data Suite.

While it’s not yet clear whether they’ll be opening up everything at once, Pivotal HD -- Pivotal’s Hadoop distribution that natively integrates Greenplum’s massively parallel processing (MPP) database with Apache Hadoop -- is, as of now, on Tuesday’s playlist. It’s a pretty good bet that there will be conversation around GemFire, its distributed in-memory data management solution for creating high-scale custom applications, and Pivotal HAWQ, an SQL engine for Hadoop, as well. The question around the latter two is less about if they’ll be opened up and more about when.

It’s worth noting that these are all products that Pivotal has spent time and money building. Though Paul Maritz, CEO of Pivotal, has told Derrick Harris of GigaOm that it won’t be halting those efforts, a good number of people (CRN cited that it may be as many as 60) who earned paychecks doing so, no longer work there. So it’s a good bet that the governance and the grunt work will come, at least in part, from somewhere else.

Special Guests

Pivotal’s webcast invite also teases of customers and partners sharing insights as well a “special industry guest” who will tell us all “What’s next for big data.”

When EMC Greenplum (now absorbed into Pivotal) announced its open sourcing of Greenplum Chorus and its acquisition of Pivotal Labs the “special guest” was Sun Microsystems’ (a.k.a. “home of Java before Oracle got a hold of it”) co-founder Scott McNealy. At the time he said, ““What Java did for the Internet, they (EMC Greenplum) will do for the web.”

Next week’s special guest, as well as the partners and customers who participate in the event (we’re now hearing GE, Verizon and maybe an investment bank), will most likely be championing the idea of a data platform that’s open, that’s governed by both enterprises and vendors, and that benefits the world in some way that existing Apache projects do not.

The latter could be a big sell.

Please note that this is our final article on Pivotal’s announcement until Tuesday when it becomes public.