When Gartner speaks, tech vendors bow their heads and pray for blessings -- but that’s not always what they get.

In its most recent report on Hadoop adoption, Gartner analysts Nick Heudecker and Merv Adrian stated that more than half of the IT and business leaders they surveyed reported having no current plans for Hadoop investment. They drove the point home, offering that fewer than half of the members of the Gartner Research Circle plan to begin Hadoop-based initiatives over the next two years. That’s less than half of the respondents who already have.

Gartner’s report came as a surprise given that Forrester analyst Mike Gaultieri, who is just as well respected, recently wrote that, “Hadooponomics makes enterprise adoption (of Hadoop) mandatory. The jury is in. Hadoop has been found not guilty of being an over-hyped open source platform. Hadoop has proven real enterprise value." He added that CIOs will make Hadoop a priority for 2015.

Wall Street Analysts Make Predictions, Too

But those aren’t the only analysts whose opinions are worth considering. Earlier this week, Barclays called Hadoop “a huge greenfield opportunity,” adding that, "we have increased confidence that 2015 will be an inflection point for Hadoop adoption.”  

Barclays was explaining why they had changed their rating of Hortonworks shares (Hortonworks is a leading Hadoop distro provider) to overweight when they made the statement. The prediction sent Hortonworks stock up nearly 12 percent.

Do Sales Tell the Story?

There are also sales figures to consider. When Hortonworks reported earnings earlier this month it revealed it had added 105 new customers in Q1 2015, as opposed to 99 in Q4 of 2014. The difference may look small until you consider that Q4 is generally when most IT spending occurs.

Not only that, but Hortonworks also raised its total revenue predictions for 2015 from $94 million to $97 million, representing year-over-year growth of 83 percent at the midpoint (previous guidance was between $83.5 million and $86.5 million). It raised its Gross Billings predictions as well, from between $153 million and $159 million, representing year-over-year growth of 79 percent at the midpoint (previously guidance was between $150 million and $156 million).

Though Hortonworks opted out of commenting on the Gartner report, explaining that they have a relationship with the analyst, they did point us to the aforementioned figures which are publicly available.

It’s Growing, Not Stalling

Cloudera, another Hadoop distro provider, reported that its subscription sales grew by more than 85 percent (to approximately 525 customers) in 2014. Not only that, but they also said that they added roughly 250 new logo customers in that 12 month period. 

“The market is better than doubling every single year. That means most people looking at Hadoop haven’t used it before,” said Matt Brandwein, director of product marketing at Cloudera. He also added that the company reported $100 million in revenues last year, which makes them the second open source company to have cleared that hurdle. “This is an endorsement of the ecosystem by enterprise buyers,” he explained.

Last month MapR, another Hadoop distro provider, announced over a 100 percent bookings increase in the six month period ending March 31, compared to the preceding six months. “The solid growth for MapR validates the benefits brought on from embracing the open source community and building an innovative Hadoop data platform,” said John Schroeder, Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of MapR.

Learning Opportunities

Steve Wooledge, vice president of product marketing, MapR, commented that some could be jumping to the wrong conclusions after reading Gartner’s report. He pointed to a 2014 The Data Warehousing Institute’s (TDWI) survey, conducted just over one year ago where they asked 538 data warehousing practitioners how their data architecture is evolving. In that report, Hadoop ranked number 3 in terms of plans to adopt within 3 years, at 34 percent of respondents. This is actually LOWER than the Gartner report where 46 percent of survey respondents have plans for Hadoop. “So, if you can compare TDWI’s report from 2014 with this 2015 data from Gartner, it directionally shows that more and more companies are looking at deploying Hadoop,” said Wooledge.

Does the Survey Sample Tell the Wrong Story?

Ron Bodkin, president of Think Big, a Teradata company, wondered if Gartner’s gloomy predictions might not be skewed by the survey sample. It’s a question worth asking -- Gartner’s insights are drawn from a base of 284 Gartner Research Circle members, not all whom seem to have answered the entire survey. Do these managers’ opinions and choices represent the rest of the addressable market?

“We don’t see the market stalling. We see continued rapid growth, with more adoption by customers, with more emphasis on production use cases and increasing programs to expand data lakes and analytic use cases,” said Bodkin. “We continue to sell to customers who are expanding their commitment to Hadoop as well as customers who haven’t used it yet and who have tested it out,” he added.

Gavin Sherry, vice president engineering, data products group at EMC, VMware spinoff Pivotal, doesn’t think that Hadoop’s value to the enterprise is in question at all. “We at Pivotal believe that Hadoop is a fundamental part of next generation data infrastructure. It will continue to be the case,” he said.

Pivotal’s clients are getting significant value out of their Hadoop investments, according to Sherry. “Simply put, we're seeing users achieve things today that they couldn't have imagined just a few years ago,” he offered. That’s not to say that that Hadoop doesn’t need to continue to evolve in areas like security, data governance, low latency applications and data science, he added. 

“Our guess is that some survey respondents were considering this gap between what they've been able to achieve and what they'd really like to be able to do with Hadoop,” said Sherry.

Beware Red Herrings

And finally, when it comes to the skills shortage around Hadoop, no one we spoke to thought it was a long term problem. Cloudera, Hortonworks, MapR and others offer Hadoop training and/or certification and enrollment in these programs is, and has been high. (Cloudera alone has trained 40,000 people). Not only that, but as apps on the Hadoop platform come to market, adoption will become easier, ROI will come sooner. “The skills gap is a red herring,” said Brandwein.

So while Gartner forecasts slow growth, the Hadoop vendors who have their feet on the street, as well as investors who are putting money where their mouths are, are betting big on something else. Time will tell who’s right.

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