The news just emerged that Actian and Pervasive Software are going to merge. There is much we have yet to learn as to how the merged company will now approach the IT market. Nevertheless we know enough about both companies to comment on what it means in terms of technology.
The technology bottom line is simple: these two companies are extraordinarily complementary in regards to their respective technologies, both of which can legitimately claim to be best of breed – or very close to that – in important areas.
First let us consider Actian, which appears to be the senior partner in the merger. Actian began its life as a buyout of the Ingres technology from CA. Ingres, as a database, had the virtues of possessing a loyal user base and community that was, and still is, particularly strong in Europe. The support revenues for Ingres were a viable basis for a database company, but Ingres had long ago lost its market position and there was no expectation that it could be revived.
But then, in 2010, Ingres acquired a very modern scale-up-and-out database called Vectorwise. Vectorwise originated from the X100 research project carried out by the Dutch National Research Institute for Mathematics and Computer Science between 2003 and 2008. Ingres released this database product in June, 2010 and promptly changed its company name from Ingres to Actian.
Vectorwise is a high-performance SQL relational database, which uses a quasi column-store approach to data storage. We won’t go into details here, but its approach to data storage has performance advantages compared to other products. However, the most startling innovation of this database is its use of on-chip vector instructions that enable “Vectorized Query Execution.” This allows on-chip data manipulation to be very fast by performing the same operation on multiple data items in parallel. Vectorwise currently holds the records for the top performing database on the Transaction Processing Performance Council’s TPC-H benchmark (for database sizes of 100 GB, 300GB, and 1TB on non-clustered hardware) and has done so for nearly two years.
And that isn’t all that Actian brings to the merger. Actian also offers Actian Apps. This product was to some degree spawned by the power of Vectorwise – the idea being to enable Vectorwise users to make business intelligence actionable, very quickly. However, in reality, it has a life of its own. Action Apps are simple mobile-style BI applications which monitor real-time changes in data and enable such changes to automate business actions. The apps can execute on a server or on an end-node device such as a mobile phone. The data can be sourced from anywhere; Salesforce.com is just one example. You can use these apps to monitor anything for which you can establish a real-time feed. Action App users often build their own apps, because the development process is fairly simple.
The Pervasive Half of the Equation
Pervasive has an established reputation for data integration tools that are very fast. With its development of the DataRush parallelization technology and its use of it within its own data integration tools Pervasive’s data integration products look to be best of breed for speed and maybe even for connectivity. It has a strong foothold at the lower end of the market where it has cultivated ISVs and small to medium size companies, delivering excellent value for money. It has also established a thriving cloud offering in this area.
It recently moved into the Big Data market in no uncertain terms with the release of RushAnalytics, a data analytics offering that combines the power of the KNIME analytics capabilities with its lightning fast data integration tools. In our view, RushAnalytics would likely be a success on its own merits. There is much reason to recommend it, not least of which is that you can design and develop solutions on a laptop, which can later be run against Hadoop or on other data sources, providing the same kind of parallelism – with very little effort. The combination of fast data flow and the fast execution of data analytics algorithms is compelling to say the least.
Imagine coupling this with Actian’s technology. It is completely complementary. Now you have a fast scale-up-and scale-out database with both data analytics and data flow management, plus Actian’s real-time apps.
There may be companies that can do similar things in terms of the whole Big Data spectrum, but as far as we are aware, there are none that can compete with the raw performance of this collection of technology.