Pervasive Software retools for cloud, big data: will it be heard?

Pervasive Software, a 20-year veteran of the database industry and best known for the Btrieve-embeddable database, has the potential to be front and center of the market for cloud and big data, if it plays its cards right.

It’s doing a few things right so far. The Austin, TX.,-based company has thrown its technology and support into Hadoop via partnerships with Cloudera and HortonWorks; it’s penned a deal with Google around BigQuery for big data analytics in the cloud and has a couple of SaaS and big data skunk-works projects up its sleeve that look promising. But if you’re going to make a shift into new markets, you don’t get there quietly, taking baby steps.

Pervasive needs to make some noise. It’s been under the hood in the embedded database and data integration market for so long you’d be forgiven for not knowing it was there. Pervasive renamed Btrieve Pervasive SQL or PSQL in 1997 and this product is still the company’s bread and butter, representing about half its revenues. For the quarter ended March 31, 2012 Pervasive made a profit of $500,000 on revenues of $12.8 million, its 45th consecutive quarter of profitability. It’s also sitting on about $40 million in cash with no debt.

In this position it must be tempting to keep your head down and not rock the boat, especially given the economic environment we’re in. But my hope is that Pervasive does the exact opposite. It has the right people, the right technology and it’s certainly the right time for this dusty Texas software company to make a bold leap into cloud and big data.

The area where I think Pervasive can have the most impact is in data integration in the cloud. Its Data Integrator and Data Profiler tools connect application A to application B to move data between them, usually when a customer wants to upgrade or move to a new app. Traditionally this has been a batch process, but as the market lurches towards event-driven integration, there’s a role for Pervasive integrating these apps or pipelines of data in real-time, even continuously. As business decisions are made faster, these pipelines that connect data together have to be up 24/7 and become more strategic, elevating Pervasive in the value chain. This is several years out, but Pervasive is making strides in this direction.

In the big data market, Pervasive just launched a product called RushAnalyzer that sits atop Hadoop and allows business analysts access to the data to analyze and visualize it, without writing any code. This is important as very few business people, let alone developers have the specialized programming skills to work with Hadoop. Pervasive has deals with Cloudera and HortonWorks but its highly likely these Hadoop platform providers will be acquired and possibly by Pervasive’s competitors. It would behoove the company to work on the Apache Hadoop code directly and not have to license it from anybody else, it’s open source after all.

Pervasive is also incubating a couple of other unique projects. It’s working on an embeddable data-metering tool that slots into MySQL and is aimed at ISVs moving to the cloud. For the hundreds of ISVs who use MySQL and are still figuring out how to get to the SaaS model, it’s a neat plug-in to help with the metering and billing aspect of running a cloud service.

Another skunk-works project Pervasive is working on is about improving memchached; the in-memory distributed caching technology used by big web apps to ease the load on the database. Currently memchached does not provide good synchronization across multiple cache instances and users have to manually coordinate data updates. Pervasive claims it’s fixed this problem with a distributed caching technology that supports MySQL and NoSQL databases. Sounds great if it works and ISVs use it.

It’s obvious to me that Pervasive is a solid technology company and having spent time this week at the company’s Integration World event, it also has deeply loyal ISV partners. These companies are looking to Pervasive to steer them into the new era of cloud computing and big data. As always, it will come down to the company’s ability to execute on its vision. I hope they make it.

Question of the week

Will Pervasive Software be a brand name in big data?
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