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June 27, 2018

Former Vertica CEO Takes Helm at AtScale

AtScale CEO Chris Lynch

Chris Lynch, who previously ran Vertica before it was acquired by Hewlett-Packard in 2011, has been hired as the new CEO of AtScale, the company announced yesterday. The change in leadership was necessary to take the company to the next level, according to AtScale’s former CEO Dave Mariani.

Mariani left Yahoo five years ago, at the peak of the Hadoop hype bubble, to create the OLAP-on-Hadoop technology behind AtScale. “I had to solve this problem because nobody was addressing it,” he tells Datanami.

Despite his technical background, Mariani was encouraged to run AtScale as its CEO. “I remember going out and putting the team together, looking to raise money, and saying ‘Yeah, I need to bring a CEO on,'” he says. “And they’re like, ‘Why? You can do this.'”

He reluctantly took the job, and by all accounts did a good job as one of the most technically adept CEOs in big data. But eventually, AtScale reached a point in its evolution where it needed a businessperson running the company.

“We’re at this next level where there’s huge opportunity in front of us,” Mariani says. “Go-to-market and sales and marketing – that’s just not my forte. I want to focus on products and technology, and I want to find a partner who can do what I did on the technology on the go-to-market side.”

Mariani found that person in the form of Lynch, who had been holed up in the venture capital world for several years following his departure from HP a year after the Vertica acquisition. Lynch kept quite busy during that time and invested in various big data firms, including DataRobot (where he is chairman), Sqrrl, Hadapt (acquired by Teradata in 2014), Threat Stack, and Nutonian, among others. He also founded a Boston-area incubator called hack/reduce in 2012, and is also involved in DataCamp.

Lynch kept very busy as an investor, but he was eager to get back into the operational side of a business. When he was introduced with Mariani through financing talks and learned of his desire to find a CEO, he jumped at the chance to take the reins at AtScale.

Lynch says he sees lots of similarities between AtScale and Vertica, the groundbreaking column-oriented analytical database created by legendary technologist Mike Stonebraker.

“Incredible technology, incredible technical founder in need of a go-to-market expert,” Lynch tells Datanami. “It’s a classic partnership. I’ve always had a technical partner that I’m associated with. I don’t view him [Mariani] any different than Mike Stonebraker at Vertica or Cheng Wu at Accopia and Arrowpoint.”

Lynch says he’s sure that Mariani would like to “drive this thing over the finish line. But he’s self-aware,” he says. “He understands what he’s good at. He wants the company to crush and have the kind of impact he envisioned five year ago, and he’s willing to do whatever he needs to do to make that happen.”

Lynch plans to make significant changes to AtScale’s go-to-market strategy once he gets settled in (he just started yesterday). One of those changes will be putting more distance between AtScale and Hadoop.

AtScale rode atop Hadoop in its early days, but for the past two years the company’s technology has been able to run on other big data stores and SQL execution engines, including all the major cloud vendors and Snowflake‘s cloud-based warehouse.

While AtScale isn’t about to stop supporting Hadoop, Lynch wants everybody to know that Hadoop is by no means the only option for running AtScale.

“The company has been fighting with one hand tied behind its back,” he says. “Hadoop is a small piece of the AtScale story. The real story is about multi-cloud, hybrid cloud, bringing legacy data warehouses to the cloud. That’s the story and that’s what we’re going to deliver to the market.”

Next month at the Google Next conference, AtScale customer Home Depot will share the story of how it migrated from an on-premise Hortonworks cluster to Google Cloud Platform with BigQuery and AtScale. “They had an application with 3,000 users and those users never knew the difference,” Mariani says.

AtScale will focus on delivering those types of solutions to Fortune 2000 customers who have invested in legacy data warehouse technology, and now want to start leveraging cloud capabilities. The trick will be giving customers the freedom to utilize multiple cloud offerings without letting the cloud vendors sink their tentacles too far into them.

AtScale founder Dave Mariani heads up development

“All the cloud vendors are trying to lock customers in by getting them to adopt their particular flavor of the data warehouse,” Mariani says. “So Amazon is trying to get people to use Redshift. Google is trying to get people to use Big Query, and Microsoft is trying to get people to use Azure SQL Data Warehouse.”

That’s all well and good, Mariani says. However, problems arise when BI users connect their BI tools — which could be Tableau, Qlik, Microstrategy, or even good old Excel — straight to those platforms. Doing that eliminates the capability to easily move to an another cloud without breaking those BI products.

“We give customers that abstraction layer where we can hide the integration and what you’re to, and you can move those clusters from cloud to cloud without breaking the business,” he says.

Lynch is happy to let Mariani chart the technical path forward, while leading AtScale’s go-to-market strategy going forward. There’s just one little detail that has yet to be hammered out: Mariani’s new title. But don’t’ expect a resolution to that question any time soon.

“Honestly we haven’t thought about it,” the blunt-speaking Lynch says. “The longer the title, the less you do…If we’re worried about what our titles are, we’re going to fail.”

Related Items:

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AtScale Claims to Mask Hadoop Complexity for OLAP-Style BI