We all know Hortonworks is committed to open source, insisting that it’s the way to innovate on Hadoop and deliver the best enterprise-grade technology to the marketplace. And though its main competitor, Cloudera (or at least a member of its management team) may have taunted that Hortonworks’ business model is “undependable,” Wall Street certainly didn’t agree -- its shares soared 65 percent above the opening price on Dec. 12, 2014, its first day of trading as a public company.

Some Might Call it Crazy

“We went over all the details of our S-1 with investors on our way to the IPO, they challenged our approach,” said Tim Hall, vice president product management at the company. But it seems that Hortonworks’ laser focus on open source innovation, Hadoop and big data won them over.

Hall said that they got plenty of questions about their decision to do things like a commercial flip with XA Secure, a proprietary software company which it acquired, incubated and then open sourced its code. “Are you crazy?” was one question asked of Hortonworks when it disclosed that it was literally giving away (a.k.a. donating) IP it had paid for.

“You can do things as pure open source company that you can’t do in any other way,” said Hall, whose opinions are based on his experiences as a vice president at Oracle and manager at HP.

But It Pays To Give It Away

The Data Governance Initiative (DGI), which Hortonworks is announcing today, is a perfect case in point. Hall said that the company is partnering with industry giants Merck, Target, Aetna and SAS to develop an extensible foundation that addresses enterprise requirements for comprehensive data governance.

What this translates to, in simpler terms, is that Hortonworks engineers will be working hand-in-hand with engineers at the aforementioned companies to create technology that satisfies regulatory requirements like HIPPA, PII, SOX and Basel III and that the resulting technology will be available, free of charge, for the benefit of all, even those who had nothing to do with its creation.

The big win of approaching development in this way is the speed of innovation and shortened time to market. Consider that Aetna, Merck and Target will be consuming the technology almost as quickly as it’s being created. The feedback will be almost instant and the necessary adjustments can be made in short order.

Learning Opportunities

It’s a very different model from those used by proprietary software companies and their clients. They generally consist of technology companies inviting their customers to sit on advisory panels, showing them PowerPoint slides, collecting feedback, and the designing and developing afterwards. Needless to say, it’s slower and less collaborative process by design.

“There are huge wins in working with partners side-by-side, especially when it comes to understanding nuances and complexities,” said Hall.

The DGI consortium plans to deliver a comprehensive solution that provides fast, flexible and powerful metadata services, a deep audit store and an advanced policy rules engine. It will also be integrated with Apache Falcon for data lifecycle management and Apache Ranger for global security policies. The aforementioned Apache projects are components of HDP, Hortonworks’ Data Platform.

It’s worth noting too that, according to Hall, the DGI solution will interoperate with and extend existing third party data governance and management tools by shedding light on the access of data within Hadoop.

We expect to hear more about DGI investment roadmap phases next month at the time of the Strata Conference.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic LicenseTitle image by  Mister-E