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October 15, 2013

Please Stop Chasing Yellow Elephants, TIBCO CTO Pleads

Alex Woodie

TIBCO CTO Matt Quinn gently mocked the IT industry’s fascination with Hadoop during a keynote address at TUCON, the company’s annual user conference being held in Las Vegas this week. While Hadoop is powerful in its own right, it can’t by itself deliver the operational analytics that are necessary to take the fullest advantage of big data.

“The fact of the matter is, there’s a significant amount of hype [around Hadoop] and sometimes it’s a little challenging to work out exactly where the goodness, where the reality is, where the rubber hits the road,” the Australian native told an audience of about 1,500 at the Aria Hotel and Casino this morning. “The first thing is that, we really need to stop, as an industry, chasing after yellow elephants.”

TIBCO used TUCON 2013 as a venue to explain and expand upon its view of big data, and the proper role that big data should play in enterprise IT organizations. As the head of development for the $1-billion software company, the job falls upon Quinn to lead the integration of the various products and technologies that make up TIBCO’s big data stack, and to explain how TIBCO’s various offerings can work together to help customers take advantage of big data.

While TIBCO’s data visualization and data discovery tool, Spotfire, gets the most big data loving, in Quinn’s view, big data starts with the bus, as in the TIBCO’s well-established messaging backbone and enterprise service bus (ESB).

“We believe that technologies in areas like business process management, big data, and event [management] all require an integration bus to be there, to provide the last mile connectivity to all of the rich data and rich events that you have locked in silos in the enterprise today,” he said during the keynote.

Surrounding the bus are Spotfire, the well-established data discovery and visualization tool; StreamBase, an event processing engine acquired in July; ActiveMatrix, a business process management (BPM) product acquired in 2004; ActiveSpaces, the distributed, in-memory grid; and BusinessEvents, which provides complex event processing (CEP) capabilities.

Each of these products plays a role in TIBCO’s event-focused big data strategy. Under Quinn’s guidance, TIBCO is bringing these technologies to bear against its customer’s big data, and to drive the haloed “two second” advantage that TIBCO founder and CEO Vivek Ranadivé has long espoused as the goal of the company.

Oh, then there’s Hadoop, which TIBCO supports as one of many data sources. “Big data doesn’t begin or end with Hadoop,” Quinn says. “It’s incredibly useful technology that helps with one part of the broader ecosystem of big data technology. But big data without events is not particularly interesting.”

Hadoop, along with Spotfire, plays an important role in analyzing patterns that occurred in the past, and thus may be predictors of future activity. But without that real-time signal–without events streaming into the system to hook a prediction or a business bet onto–that big historical data is useless.

So what’s TIBCO’s role in all this? “What it comes down to is something really simple,” Quinn says. “We give you the ability to understand the past, to identify the complex patterns of behavior that are locked in this historical information and all of this big data that you now have at your fingertips, whether it’s machine generated information, whether it’s a decade’s worth of point of sale information, and everything in between.

“But we marry that ability to identify those patterns with the ability to anticipate the future. And this is really where the events and the event streams become awfully important. The ability for us to take those patterns of past behavior and apply them to the events that are occurring now is what we believe is the next stop in big data, which is really around operationalizing big data.”

The capability to extract patterns and then codify those patterns into rules that run in the TIBCO event processing platform is, in a nutshell, TIBCO’s big data strategy. “It allows people for the first time to truly blend the understanding of the past with the concept of the now,” Quinn says.

The concept is simple, he says, but let’s be frank; actually building this machine will not be easy. All the technology bits are getting close, and TIBCO is now working on getting the various pieces to run within its ActiveSpaces in-memory grid, which it views as an important part of its strategy.

Building it out will be difficult, as will be implementing the technology and instrumenting it into existing systems and process. But the toughest challenge of all may be just making customers aware of the fact that TIBCO has this technology.

TIBCO has already broken the mold of being just another Blue Bird (a big bus manufacturer), which is evident by the fact that only about 10 percent of its revenues come from bus sales, even though the bus is what senior vice president of sales for the Americas Raj Verma leads with in 90 percent of sales situations.

Now it’s a matter of getting everybody else to know. “TIBCO is the biggest big data company,” Ranadivé told Datanami in an interview today. The fact that it recently hired its first chief marketing officer (CMO) shows that TIBCO is serious about making sure that everybody else knows this, too.

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