Maybe it’s not yet a pattern, but we wouldn’t call it coincidence either. Pivotal, a spinoff from VMware and EMC, has a way of upstaging everyone else in the world of big data by making market-shifting announcements just one day before everyone else makes theirs at major big data (3rd platform) conferences.

It did it on February 25, 2013 when they announced Pivotal HD, stealing the spotlight from Cloudera, MapR, Intel, Wandisco and others who broke their news at O’Reilly’s Strata Conference the next day. It did it again on November 12, 2013 when they announced the launch of their multi-cloud enterprise Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) just ahead of AWS’ annual conference.

So it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that it’ll be up to it again next week on February 17 when it has scheduled a webcast to update the world on its “New Approach to Big Data.” This is just one day before their competitors, collaborators and those who fall somewhere in between are slated to make their own big data announcements at O’Reilly’s Strata+ Hadoop World Conference in San Jose, Calif.

Putting 2 + 2 Together

Since we haven’t been briefed or seen a press release on the news yet, and therefore aren’t under any kind of embargo, we’re free to speculate on what the “new approach” might be. Some, like GigaOm’s Derrick Harris already has. He has written that “Pivotal CEO says open source Hadoop tech is coming” a statement that he seems to have largely based on an email from Pivotal CEO Paul Maritz.

Responding to seemingly well-founded rumors like Venture Beat’s “Pivotal’s big-data pivot: Ditching its Hadoop distro, sources say, “ Maritz reportedly wrote an email to GigaOm, which stated:

“We are anticipating an interesting set of announcements on Feb 17th. However rumors to the effect that Pivotal is getting out of the Hadoop space are categorically false. The announcements, which involve multiple parties, will greatly add to the momentum in the Hadoop and Open Source space, and will have several dimensions that we believe customers will find very compelling.”

Learning Opportunities

Since then we’ve seen a few articles, tweets and blog posts suggesting that Pivotal HD couldn’t stand up to the likes of Cloudera, Hortonworks and MapR and so on. It’s worth noting that not everything you read, regardless of how good the writing is, is correct. That commercial Hadoop distros are not all alike, and that they aren’t all 100 percent open source.

In addition to that, enterprises that are looking at Hortonworks, Cloudera or MapR’s Hadoop distros wouldn’t necessarily look at Pivotal’s for specifically the same reasons or in the same way. Pivotal’s business strategy is based on a whole lot more than Hadoop.

Ok, What's the Big News?

So what will Pivotal be announcing? We suspect that they, together with other vendors (possibly Hortonworks, HP and IBM — but this is a guess based on a number of recently deleted tweets referencing Pivotal’s “secret”) are in the process of forming a data coalition or foundation of some sort around an open distribution of Hadoop and its various open source components from the Apache Software Foundation. In addition to that, it’s likely, according to a source who has asked to remain off the record, that they will be open sourcing Pivotal HAWQ and GemFire in the not so distant future.

All in all, would this be a big deal? For enterprises that are embracing big data and Hadoop, the answer is an absolute yes, because they’ll have an option of working with a number of vendors who have agreed on a common governance model and a common way forward. There are many, many benefits that come along with that.