Infrastructure Q4: Big data gets bigger and SaaS startups shine

1Executive Summary

Continuing a yearlong trend, the fourth quarter in big IT was all about big data, and Hadoop in particular. At this point, it seems as if every database, business intelligence and data-integration product in existence has an official Hadoop connector, and as if every startup pushing a Hadoop product can raise a few million just by asking for it. Cloudera alone closed a $40 million round in November.

However, as more organizations get accustomed to Hadoop, they’re starting to realize its shortcomings. That has led to more attention for startups claiming easy analytics and real-time processing, two areas for which Hadoop isn’t really designed. Thankfully, the fourth quarter also brought news of innovation on the networking front that will be necessary to help big data workloads scale not just across servers, but also across geographies.

SaaS startups made out particularly well too, with venture capitalist and large vendor money flowing like water. Valuations for these companies are sky-high and getting higher; seeing mega-software vendors such as Oracle and SAP buying SaaS companies for billions won’t do anything to reverse the trend.

Down the stack from SaaS, the fourth quarter shed some light on the Infrastructure- as-a-Service (IaaS) space. We learned a little more about how much revenue Amazon Web Services might be producing, this despite it being far from perfect on the security front. We also saw how other providers might look to compete with AWS by building their own unique services that depart from what AWS does so successfully with its portfolio of on-demand services. These new efforts include everything from leveraging inter-data-center connectivity with other service providers to building a federated ecosystem of customers that freely exchange computing capacity among each other.

Overall, it was a bright quarter, marred somewhat by fallout Thailand flooding that closed hard-drive manufacturing facilities and sent prices for remaining units through the roof. Everyone from server makers to cloud providers was and continues to be affected because a lack of components for building servers means a lack of servers to scale out cloud infrastructures.

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