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April 15, 2013

Actian Aims at Being Disruptive in Big Data

Isaac Lopez

Data management company, Actian Corporation, broadened its offering last week with the company completing its acquisition of Pervasive Software. The merger, they claim, is a step towards making Actian a disruptive force in the big data arena.

The deal, reported at $161.9 million, delivers the Pervasive software stack to Actian, complimenting their already established Ingres and Vectorwise databases. The crown jewels of the acquisition, according to company officials, include the Pervasive Data Integrator and RushAnalytics tools.

The acquisition is just the latest in a series of announcements for the company surrounding the development of their flagship analytic database, Vectorwise. Earlier this year, Actian completed the acquisition of Versant, adding an array of NoSQL object database technologies, including the Versant Object Database. This follows the announcement of a strategic alliance with ScaleMP, giving Actian access to the vSMP Foundation virtualization software, effectively expanding their in-memory capabilities.

Actian’s activity centers around expanding the capabilities of its Vectorwise data platform – a project launched in late 2008 and brought to the market in 2010. The company, says Fred Gallagher, General Manager of Vectorwise at Actian, has been in the process of an ongoing metamorphosis to cater to the realities of a real-time big data future.

 “Almost five years now, we started and effort to really differentiate ourselves with our Vectorwise product line,” said Gallagher, talking about the company’s analytic database. “We’ve gone from data management to big data management, if you will.”

Vectorwise, says Gallagher, offers performance advantages over other architectures. “If you take a fast database, we’re usually 10x faster, and if you take a traditional database, I can say with confidence we’re 70x to 100x faster, and usually we’re even doing better than that. So from a technical value prop, it’s about performance; from an economic value prop, we have created a data platform that does a phenomenal job of taking advantage of the power that’s resident in modern servers, meaning the chips in memory.”

Gallagher says that the claimed performance gains are largely due to the optimized software that engineers at Actian have put together to maximize system performance. “We’ve rewritten the software to take advantage of instructions and registers and in-memory that is most often used in gaming and high performance computing. The net of it is that we’re able to do many more calculations per compute cycle than any database out there.”

The result is a reduction in hardware to match the increase in performance, says Gallagher. “In a very modest two processor server, we’re able to beat a half-rack of our competitors’ offerings. You can just see it – if I say half-rack, that’s maybe a dozen servers – and I’ve got one. It’s almost a 10 to 1 ratio right there.”

Last month, the company announced its 3.0 iteration of its Vectorwise platform, boasting high-performance Hadoop integration with a Hadoop connector.

“What we’ve done is integrated Vectorwise with Hadoop so that we can move the relevant set of [Hadoop] data into the Vectorwise data platform,” explains Gallagher. “And we’re doing it at speeds that were unheard of before.”  The results, says Gallagher, is the ability to provide real-time interaction between Hadoop and Vectorwise. “You can answer the questions very quickly and real-time, meaning the data is very fresh once it’s moved over.”

The company continues to make moves to add to their Vectorwise platform. The addition of Pervasive to their portfolio gives them a pieces that were missing from their previous offering, notes Gallagher.

“With the combination of Actian with the Pervasive DataRush and the Data Integrator products, we’re assembling complete solutions and are able to be very prescriptive in terms of how customers address their data infrastructure needs. We see a huge benefit for customers of our existing Vectorwise base and our Ingres database as well.”

The company expects that they will be making waves in the big data arena, where company officials explain their ‘more for less’ value prop will be strong. When bumping against some of the incumbents in the space, Actian says they’ve got a strong story to tell.

“Some of those companies have a vested interest in pushing a lot of hardware,” said Kevin Cox, VP of Corporate Marketing at Actian. “We’re delivering more performance than they are on dramatically less hardware. You look at Netezza, they have a proprietary element to their hardware – which IBM is real comfortable with that, and some of their customers are. But a lot of folks will look at that and think, ‘it’s a single purpose piece of hardware,’ whereas we’re using general purpose hardware.”

Ultimately, Actian says these moves further them as a disruptive force in the big data arena.

“If you look at the combination that we have here – we’re disruptive,” said Gallagher. “We’re challenging the incumbents out there who would just as soon their customers stay with the software that they have today.”

Related items:

Actian Purchases Pervasive Software 

Actian Announces Vectorwise 3.0 Analytic Database 

Actian Completes Acquisition of Data Management Company Versant