Analyst reports can be a big bore -- the Forrester Wave: Big Data Hadoop Solutions, Q1 2014 ($2495 fee) is not.

Its authors, Mike Gualtieri and Noel Yuhanna, have done a bang-up job writing in simple English and giving a spot-on overview ofwhat the market looks like:“cutthroat,” where “pure-play upstarts (Cloudera, Hortonworks, MapR)must capture market share quickly to make venture investors happy” and in which “stalwart enterprise software vendors (IBM, Pivotal, Teradata) must avoid being disintermediated.” 

Interestingly, they separate cloud vendors like Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft HDInsight for Windows Azure out from the pack. Ditto for Intel, the only vendor we haven’t yet mentioned, but also evaluated: it's innovating Hadoop at the chip level. Look for greater detail on that at CMSWire in the next few months.

“Hadoop’s momentum is unstoppable,” says the report and, of course, that’s no surprise. But its “market presence” revenue scores may not correspond to those in the Wikibon Big Data Revenue report we covered last month.

We should also note that findings of this kindtend to vary among analysts, and journalists, for that matter.If, for example, I were estimating market presence in an emerging market where revenues are not commonly disclosed, I might look at what percentage of individuals who mention Hadoop on their resumes or profiles have experience with which distributions.

But, since it’s Forrester’s report, we’ll share the criteria they used. You should keep them in mind, especially as you evaluate Hadoop-based products or services for your enterprise. And mind you, we’ll have some commentary as we go.

Rated on Three Criteria

Forrester used three big buckets in its Hadoop provider evaluation. They looked at each vendor’s current offering, strategy and market presence.

It’s worth noting that in the “Current Offering” evaluation they included a “Hadoop compatibility and community” factor. This is something that buyers who truly embrace Open Source will no doubt care about, partly because they find proprietary vendors’ “you can check-in but you can’t check out” philosophy archaic and offensive, and partly because they believe thatby working together the community can build a better product than any one group on its own.

Cloudera, Intel and Hortonworks all got high marks (five out of five) according to this criteria; Microsoft and MapR scored four out of five, and AWS, IBM, Pivotal and Teradata all scored three.

Why does it matter? Because it reveals how dependent you’ll be on the vendor whose distribution you use. If you’re a die-hard, forever-committed AWS, IBM, Teradata or Pivotal customer (and these companies have many fans), this may not be an issue, but if you want to avoid potential break-up pains with a single vendor, it might be.

Kudos, in this one area, to Microsoft which did not engineer vendor-dependence into its Hadoop distro.

Learning Opportunities

It’s interesting too to note that Forrester rates pure-play Hadoop vendorMapR at a four of five, which might give some credence tothe criticisms cast upon it by the Open Source community: namely that it’s not as Open Source, and has more proprietary features than we might be led to believe.

When it comes to strategy, Forrester looked at each vendor’s ability to deliver, either on its own or through partners, options for acquisition, execution roadmap and availability of support.

Hadoop pure-plays Cloudera, Hortonworks and MapR were all hurting in their ability to execute (three out of five), while all the big vendors (AWS, IBM, Intel, Pivotal and Teradata) shone (five out of five). When it comes to customer support, Hortonworks pulled away from its pure-play brothers by scoring a five out of five, which bodes well for the idea that newer, smaller companies can step up to the plate and serve their customers as well as industry stalwarts.

Forrester reported on Market Presence but gave no weight to it in its wave. What’s most interesting in this section of the research is that aside from AWS, which provides customers with easy access and no commitment, Cloudera, Hortonworks and MapR rank higher than the larger vendors in global presence and install base. Make what you want of it, but we think it’s worth pointing out to anyone who‘s looking for a vendor who has reach and real world experience.

No Clear Leaders, but the Customer Wins

By now market watchers (and anyone whose email address the vendors have access to) are likely to have seenvendor announcements that say Vendor X was named Leader/Strong Performer by Forrester. Trust us, that in and of itself is not a differentiating factor because in this report everyone won.

And, perhaps that’s the beauty of a highly competitive market, everyone needs to keep showing up with their best stuff. The winner in that game is the customer.

We’ll take a closer look at each vendor in a follow up article. In the mean time, let us leave you with this;Forrester wrote, “We saw lots of Leaders, but none dominate,” and “Younger solutions fare as well as strong performers.”