Big data isn't the “new oil” that will make us all smarter, richer, healthier. It’s just the oil without which you cannot run a business. What the market wants now is an easier way to get more from their data, faster, and the ability to translate insights into actions before someone else does.

And so it goes to follow that next generation companies like Databricks and MemSQL have raised the stakes when it comes to speed, efficiency and price, that NoSQL pioneer Basho is retrenching with new funding and new management and Teradata offers proof that the ROI for big data adoption bears fruit.

How Hot is Databricks?

There was a joke going around at Strata + Hadoop World last fall that suggested that next year (2015) the conference ought to be called “Spark World”. If you’re not laughing, we’ll let you in on the joke, Apache Spark is as hot among geeks now as Hadoop was a few years ago.

No one knows this better than the team at Berkeley, Calif.-based Databricks. Matei Zaharia, the company’s chief technology officer, created Spark (it’s an Apache open source project) while he was a student at UC Berkeley. lon Stoica, a UC Berkeley professor, is the company’s CEO.

They understood early on that Spark had the potential of revolutionizing the concept of big data analytics by significantly simplifying the process and enabling customers to extract tremendous value from their data. They founded Databricks to make Apache Spark viable for commercial businesses and enterprises without knowing, specifically, how they were going to make money. Matei told me early on that he was intent on not charging customers for his software.

And it turns out this doesn’t seem to be a problem. Databricks revenue model is built around certifying applications on Spark, offering enterprise support and certification to vendors, and perhaps most significantly, via the Databricks Cloud.

How’s it going? Let’s just put it this way, the company is moving from Berkeley to San Francisco where it will have three times the space and more access to the talent they need to bring on board.

But that’s only part of the story. Stoica announced the hiring of Kavitha Mariappan as Vice President of Marketing. She comes to the company from Maginatics, which was recently acquired by EMC. Mariappan will work across sales channels and communication platforms, and hand-in-hand with the customer engagement, product and engineering teams to communicate the value, use cases, and unique capabilities of the Databricks Cloud to the enterprise and developer communities.

Is Basho Still a Force?

Turn back the clock a few years and Basho’s Riak was a NoSQL force to be reckoned with. If things had gone as expected, it would now be giving DataStax, MongoDB and Couchbase a run for their money. That’s not happening now.

But that’s probably not because there’s a problem with the technology or that there isn’t a community behind it. Instead Basho’s had some management problems, which came to a head last year when the CEO, CTO and Chief Architect (and several others) all left in rapid succession.

There’s a new management team in place now that has steadied the boat and established a plan for growth that’s solid enough to persuade Georgetown Partners to invest another $25 million.

The company’s data sheet indicates that it has grown bookings 62 percent sequentially in Q3 and 116 percent sequentially in Q4.

Learning Opportunities

Teradata Struts its Stuff 

Omnichannel isn’t the only buzzword at the NRF’s BIG Show in the Big Apple this week. ”Big data” is slipping off everyone’s tongue as well. It’s the golden arrow that promises to help retailers do everything from target customers with the right offer at exactly the right time to identifying counterfeit returns.

Teradata, the big data analytics firm, commissioned Forrester Research to conduct a “Total Economic Impact” study to look at ROI and other benefits a flash sales retailer won via the Teradata Aster Discovery Platform over a five year period. It unveiled it at the BIG Show.

Here are some of the wins Forrester found:

  • A return on investment of 106 percent with a payback period of 13.9 months, and a total three-year benefit value of $6.1 million
  • An increase in prospect conversion resulting in direct impact to bottom-line profits 
  • Increased savings from IT and end user productivity
  • Lift in sales from increased marketing efficiency
  • An increase in IT and end user productivity
  • Higher yield from its marketing dollars from important new insights
  • An increase in IT and end user productivity
  • Higher yield from its marketing dollars from important new insights

MemSQL Ups Its Leadership Credentials

One of the nicest things about today’s generation of millennial entrepreneurs is their absolute respect and admiration for those who came before them. One quick look at their leadership teams and you’ll find someone who is decades older than their founders. They practically embody the notion that “We stand on the shoulders of giants.” That might be because they embraced the idea when they were reading about Isaac Newton at Stanford or MIT, or that they couldn’t stop listening to the Oasis album that bears the name.

In either case, earlier today, MemSQL co-founder and CEO Eric Frenkiel announced that database visionary, Jerry Held, would be joining company in the role of Executive Chairman. Held, who led the initial development of INGRES in the 1970’s at U C Berkeley, holds the resume of a database giant. He has held leadership positions at Tandem, Vertica, Business Objects and Oracle.

What will he bring to the lightning fast in-memory relational database start-up that would like to give the SAP HANA and Oracle a run for their money? Experience, counsel and connections, from our point of view. Frenkiel puts it a bit differently.

“An unparalleled track record in growing and leading highly successful database businesses that have transformed the industry,” he said, adding, “The addition of Jerry's experience, leadership and vision will accelerate the impact of our distributed in-memory database, and the real-time benefits it brings to customers."

MemSQL positions itself as the world’s fastest SQL database platform.