Netezza Deals Underline the Growing Importance of AnalyticsNovember 10, 2010
by Peter Dykes
News that email and interactive marketing solutions provider ExactTarget is to upgrade its market segmentation capabilities with Netezza’s TwinFin data warehouse appliance may not be raising eyebrows, but in the light of IBM’s impending $1.7bn acquisition of Netezza, it underlines the growing importance of data analytics to the communications industry.
ExactTarget offers a range of mobile marketing solutions which look remarkably similar to those that will be required by network operators if they are to maximize ROI in the mobile broadband infrastructure currently being rolling out. ExactTarget’s solutions are based on the collection and real-time analysis of a wide range of data relating to the actions and preferences of its clients’ customer’s and result in highly-targeted marking campaigns – just what next-generation network operators will require in fact. However, the differences between ExactTarget’s customers’ requirements and those of network operators are significant in terms of the amount of data available, the variety of sources from which it is collected and the uses to which it will be put.
The relatively recent development of applications for technologies such as DPI has massively increased the amount of available data relating to network performance and traffic characteristics. However, the increasingly widespread adoption of policy control for a range of functions including traffic management, improving the customer experience and the implementation of on-line rating and charging, is fuelling demand for systems which can collect, analyse and act upon massive amounts of data from disparate sources in real time. Indeed, the QoS-based tariffs currently being introduced by mobile operators in particular will only prove to be the foundations for a range of real-time services and marketing strategies based largely on business intelligence derived not only from the analysis of available network and service data, but also the historical referential data held in the customer profile databases.
The know-how to achieve such a task in real-time is essentially what IBM is getting for its money. However, while Netezza is at the forefront of data warehousing and in particular high-speed, high-volume data processing, it has also developed significant analytical capabilities, all of which are contained in a single box which, the company says, requires little more than a single-phase power supply and a couple of IP ports to get it up and running. Integration with existing SQL systems might take a day or two longer.
The key to Netezza’s speed and volume capabilities lies in the development of techniques which involve spreading the data across anything up to 920 disks, each of which is managed in parallel by its own processor core and hardware disk stream accelerator. Unnecessary data for a query is discarded in parallel as the data streams off the hundreds of disks and then the query is processed in parallel as close to each disk as possible by that disk drive’s own processor. Netezza describes the technique as ‘taking the query to the data’, instead of the more traditional approach of taking the data to the query.
The system is scalable with the addition of more disks without, claims Netezza, any increase in latency. IBM already has a significant analytics capability in its portfolio, having spent around US$12 billion on acquisitions in the sector over the last four years and while Netezza’s growing expertise in the area will be a useful addition to the Big Blue’s portfolio, so will its data processing muscle. Not that integration with IBM’s existing offerings should be too difficult because Netezza’s products have all been developed on IBM platforms and the two companies have worked together in the area for a number of years.
Earlier this year, IBM made it clear it was taking the mobile communications vertical seriously, pointing out that with more than one trillion devices expected to be connected to the Internet by 2011, organizations will struggling to find ways to more accurately gather, share and gain insight through smart devices. By 2015, it predicts, there will be 20 times more mobile data and content and 40 times more mobile transaction spending, which will drive the need for improved management of data, traffic and network bandwidth constraints, along with services across the entire mobile business market.
While the figures may vary from one vendor to the next, and indeed from one analyst to the next, the fact remains that IBM is right about the increasing need within the telecoms vertical for data management and high-volume, high-speed processing. With the acquisition, IBM has taken an important player off the market, however Netezza was not without rivals and as demand for analytics grows, so further consolidation in the sector will inevitably follow.