Hortonworks may be making big data history today when it announces the acquisition of XA Secure, a data company that provides a comprehensive security suite for Apache Hadoop.

“It’s a game-changer for Hadoop,” said Tim Hall, vice president of Product Management at Hortonworks. “We’ll (the industry) be moving from fragmented to central security and be able to provide a single pane of glass through which to see who’s authorized to access what … ”

The purchase will initially have a substantial, positive impact on Hortonworks’ customers and technology partners (such as Microsoft, Teradata, SAP among several others) because its current and acquired team of engineers will immediately begin to incorporate the XA Secure technology into Hortonworks’ Data Platform (HDP).

Other Apache Hadoop providers and their customers shouldn’t be too far behind because Hortonworks, following its passion for open source, will concurrently begin to transition XA Secure’s technology assets into an Apache project.

“We are strong believers in the open source community,” said Hall. “It brings in the best and the brightest, it speeds innovation, and delivers quality,” he adds.

It also makes XA Secure free for the taking.

A Look at the Future

Hortonworks’ acquisition of XA Secure, the resulting and forthcoming Apache open source project, and the contributions of committers could very well help shape the future of Hadoop — especially because security is one of its current pain points.

And though CIO’s aren’t pointing to it as a barrier to Hadoop adoption at present, Gartner analyst Merv Adrian detailed his concern in a blog post last January:

Can it be that people believe Hadoop is secure? Because it certainly is not. At every layer of the stack, vulnerabilities exist, and at the level of the data itself, there are numerous concerns. These include the use of external unveiled data and of data in file systems that lack any protection, and the separation of Hadoop initiatives in most organizations from IT governance. Add to that the kinds of use cases Hadoop is being pointed at: sensitive health care information personal data in retail systems; telephone usage; social media connection and sentiment analytics – all of them give us pause.

I’ve pointed to security as a key issue facing the Hadoop community in 2014 for some time now. The fact that awareness of the problem is not getting attention only reinforces my belief that we will see major problems as Hadoop goes mainstream.”

XA Secure was built to alleviate such concerns and it, reportedly, does that well. The Apache Community can, no doubt, fill in any gaps.

Learning Opportunities


Helping Hadoop Cross the Chasm

“Hadoop used to be a project in IT,” said Hall. “Now enterprises are using it to land much of their data (in what some call a Data Lake) and to make decisions."

And XA Secure certainly knows quite a bit about applying security, governance and compliance to many types of data from disparate sources. Take, for example, a situation it describes on its website, in which a CIO decides to undertake a big data initiative.

The company might try to extract their data from external sources (Twitter, website) and internal sources (CRM database) and build powerful analytics over the data. The marketing analyst would try to extract analytics of customer behavior based on large volume of data while customer representatives would try to listen early to customer issues and grievances based on social data. While the analytics using big data have a large business case, the big data tools present a conundrum for security administrators. Data traditionally siloed is now coexisting within the same database or file system, a situation which traditional access control can no longer manage efficiently. Business users can no longer easily manage access nor can they perform regular audit exclusively on their set of data within the big data framework.”

It’s a dizzying problem, right?

But it’s one XA Secure has solved. And soon that solution will be available via an open source project for not only Hortonworks customers, but also for everyone, to use and improve.

The result? Hadoop will be safe and ready for widespread adoption. Sure, it’s good for the community, but it’s also great for Hortonworks, which can claim it made a huge contribution to writing the book.