If Dell is riding high on some impressive figures for fiscal 2010 announced this week, it’s just about certain that it’s tinged with a little bit of unease with the announcement also this week that HP (news, site) is about to close a deal on the acquisition of Vertica.

Vertica adds to HP big data real-time analytics and leaves Dell (news, site)  as the only company of the four major players in the database analytics market that doesn’t as yet have a big data database offering. The other players – EMC and IBM – both bought into the space in the last year.

The closure of the HP-Vertica deal puts HP right back in race with IBM and EMC (news, site) so it probably doesn’t really matter how much HP paid for it, which is a good thing because HP is not telling anyway.

According to HP, with Vertica it will be able to enhance its information optimization capabilities across large data sets in physical, virtual and cloud environments, giving it a firm hold on what is quickly becoming the sexy end of the analytics market:  Big Data analytics.

IBM, HP, Big Data

Why Big Data analytics is increasingly important will be obvious to any enterprise that is trying to sift through the vast amount of information now ending up in repositories and networks every day.

And with increasing amounts of information contained in the unstructured end of the spectrum, vendors will either provide databases that help the problem or be forced to back out of the race.

Indeed, it would not be surprising if the board of HP was gathered into the boardroom the day after IBM announced the acquisition of Netezza last year and told they weren’t being allowed out until they identified a suitable target that would keep them in the race.

IBM and Netezza

Vertica, according to HP, fills that ambition very nicely, but it will still have a lot of work to do to keep up with Netezza, which cost IBM (news, site) US$ 1.7 billion.

Netezza was a good fit for IBM as at the time of its acquisition, as it was already building on IBM technology. In some instances, the two combined provided a basis for many enterprise applications including integrated systems, software and storage for analyzing vast amounts of complex data.

With it, IBM can now offer its clients analytics at a high level, but it will also be able to offer it enterprise-wide and across all departments -- a nice touch for global companies. 

Netezza wasn’t its only move in that space. In May last year, it launched IBM Info Sphere BigInsights, which moved analytics up a notch by enabling them to analyze petrabytes of data using Apache Hadoop, an open source technology developed specifically for the Big Data end of the datasphere.

EMC, Greenplum

 So clearly, HP will still have a lot to do to keep up with IBM. However, the other contender -- EMC -- is also going to be difficult to match in the database space, not only because that’s the space where it is most comfortable, but also because it too took the plunge and bought into Big Data.

With the acquisition of a privately-held, data warehousing company, Greenplum, it became even clearer where EMC's true heart desires lie:  On the intersection of big data computing and business analytics.

And what did Greenplum offer? In the words of Pat Gelsinger, president and COO, EMC Information Infrastructure Products, at the time of the deal:

The data warehousing world is about to change. Greenplum's massively-parallel, scale-out architecture, along with its self-service consumption model, has enabled it to separate itself from the incumbent players and… shift toward 'big data' analytics."

And now HP can do it too. Vertica offers continuous loading and querying of information, advanced data compression, native integrations and certifications with a variety of APIs and toolsets for easier integration, as well as columnar storage and execution for queries.

So where does that leave Dell? Well, that’s really the million-dollar question (or even billion-dollar question) and one that we will probably get answered sometime this year -- or even before the ink dries on the HP-Vertica deal, due to be closed by the end of Q2 this year.