Intel jettisons its Hadoop distro and puts millions behind Cloudera

In the desktop era, there was Wintel. In the big data era, apparently, there will be Cloudtel (or Intera?).

Just over a year after launching its own Hadoop distribution in the United States, Intel is discontinuing it, opting instead to support Cloudera’s distribution as the preferred Hadoop distribution for Intel server environments. The microprocessor giant is backing this technology partnership with tens of millions of dollars from Intel Capital, making it Cloudera’s largest strategic investor.

Cloudera announced last week it had raised $160 million from a group of investors, after Bloomberg reported on a round rumored to include Intel and be worth more than $200 million. VentureBeat reported on Wednesday night that Intel Capital is possibly investing more than $90 million in Cloudera. Cloudera CEO Tom Reilly said on a call Thursday morning that the company expects to disclose the exact amount of its latest funding round next week, which will include Intel Capital as well as its other investors.

“Not all the leaks are accurate,” he added.

Diane Bryant, the senior vice president and general manager of Intel’s Data Center Group, noted that Intel’s investment in Cloudera does represent the company’s largest-ever equity investment in the data center space.

Tom Reilly, CEO of Cloudera, at Structure Data 2014
Tom Reilly, CEO of Cloudera, at Structure Data 2014

As I explained last week when commenting on the speculation of an Intel investment in (or acquisition of) Cloudera, the deal makes a lot of sense for both companies. Cloudera needs capital and Intel’s huge sales force to keep up its engineering efforts and grow the company internationally. Reilly specifically mentioned Cloudera’s struggles trying to expand into countries such as India and China.

Intel is actually the No. 1 distribution in China, where it began offering its distribution about two years ago — and will now start transitioning customers over to Cloudera’s software. With the Intel deal, “We solidify these huge future markets,” Reilly said.

Bryant said Intel decided to sunset its distribution because “what we want is scale,” and backing Cloudera is the fastest way to achieve that. I suspect the scale Intel really means is selling more processors, solid-state drives and other data center gear rather than trying to push enterprise software, too. Bryant noted how Intel is “driving greater and greater compute and intelligence out to the edge” as part of the internet of things, and Hadoop helps bridge the gap between all that data, the servers needed to store and process it, and the tools to analyze it.

As part of the deal, Cloudera will be an early adopter of Intel gear and will optimize its Hadoop software to run on Intel’s latest technologies. Intel will port some of its work into the Cloudera distribution and will maintain its own Hadoop engineering team that will work alongside Cloudera’s engineers to help unite the two company’s goals.

Nothing is for certain in the Hadoop space, though, and Cloudera knows this. Its largest competitors have deep pockets and large partners of their own. Companies such as IBM and Pivotal are trying to sell their own Hadoop software and services, while Yahoo spinoff Hortonworks recently raised $100 million in venture capital (and nearly $200 million in total) and has tight partnerships with Red Hat, Microsoft, Teradata and others.

For more on Cloudera’s plans, check out this interview with Reilly from our Structure Data event last week.

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