I said that 2015 would be a tough year for enterprise data and analytics vendors in my spring report, "Brief: Turning Big Data Into Business Insights, 2015." I thought two things would happen. First, open source would drag on vendors’ revenues as demand for big expensive products declined. Second, the cloud would create revenue headaches. Turns out, I was right. Teradata's midyear earnings were down 8%, and IBM reported that Q2 revenue was down 12% from a year ago. As further proof, consider the rash of data management vendors running for private equity (e.g. Dell/EMC, Informatica, and TIBCO). It’s been tough times indeed, even though most vendors are keeping their messaging positive to reassure buyers and investors.

Over the past two weeks, I attended Teradata Partners in Anaheim and IBM Insight in Las Vegas — giving me a firsthand look at how two giants of the data and analytics industry are handling disruption. What I saw was a tale of two vendors that couldn’t be any more different:

  • Teradata is helping its customers get to big data. Teradata’s is targeting its approach at helping late adopters finally make progress on their big data aspirations. How? First, by beating the “we do scale” drum. Second, by providing integration support between old and new with tools like QueryGrid. Third, by embracing open source broadly through partnerships with all the Hadoop vendors, joining the ODP, and providing “fit and finish” to projects like Kakfa. And last, by finally making their data warehouse products on public cloud infrastructure. For a deeper dive, see my report,  Quick Take: Teradata Must Lean Hard Into BT.
  • IBM is helping its customers get beyond big data to insights.IBM is responding very differently. It’s already bet heavily on the cloud and Watson. And it just announced a deal to buy The Weather Company; what’s up with that? As I explain my report, Quick Take: IBM Forecasts Insights-Driven . . . And Buys The Weather Company, it’s all about the insight platform that IBM intends to build by bringing  The Weather Company’s assets, Watson, Twitter, and a lot of other data and analytics services together on one platform. The target? Insights for the Internet of Things. The go-forward revenue model? Cloud-based subscription services for insights you can plug right into your processes and applications.

These are so different, it’s hard to even compare them. On one hand, clients tell me they like Teradata’s straightforward approach. It’s easy to understand and will appeal to the company’s big base of retailers, manufacturers, and financial services firms that are easing into big data. On the other, Teradata risks falling behind the next big shift; that is, from big data to insights (see my blog post, Systems of Insight Will Power Digital Business). IBM’s approach is cutting-edge,but it’s also confusing to customers who are still trying to figure out what Watson is.

The success of both firms depends on execution. If Teradata can quickly win the hearts and minds of a new generation of business technology professionals who want more, cheaper, and faster, it can win. If IBM can clarify its offering and market message and shake the shadow of complexity that hangs over its tools, it will emerge from these disruptive periods as the data, analytics, and insight vendor to beat.

I’ve got my popcorn and soda . . .