Theres a lot of buzz about this one. Silicon Valley smells a megabuck start-up fortune in the making. Pulses are quickening and text messages are flying.
But heres the zillion-dollar question: Is Cloudera really the next hot open source start-up, perhaps a nascent XenSource (bought by Citrix for a gorgeous $500 million)? Or will it be just another fledgling rushing into the crowded cloud computing sector?
Four really bright tech guys came up with a bright idea. How about if we take Hadoop a successful open source project gussy it up, put a corporate face on it, and sell it as a service to companies that need their data mined?
Thus was born Cloudera note the nod to cloud computing, tech's most fashionable buzzword. (Sometime soon the Starbucks in Mountain View will start selling a Cloud Cappuccino.)
In the software world, Hadoop is the belle of the ball. This open source data processing engine has attracted a bevy of admirers ranging from Yahoo to Facebook to Google to Microsoft.
This relatively new arrival on the scene is brilliantly smart. Hadoop can run petabytes of data across a mass cluster of servers, allowing enquiring minds to sift through mountains of information and find whats important. In a world awash in data, expect Hadoop to grow ever more popular.
But theres no guarantee that Hadoops data-sifting prowess will translate into commercial success for Cloudera.
Since Hadoop is open source, theres nothing stopping another competitor from grabbing the code and offering a similar product. For that matter, someone could fork the code and go off in a closely related direction.
But Cloudera has heavyweight backing. It has raised money from venture capital group Accel Partners (though admittedly only a tepid $5 million). And its array of additional investors reads like a list of tech glitterati, including Marten Mickos, former MySQL CEO, and Diane Green, former VMware CEO.
Another challenge for Cloudera: the Hadoop do-it-yourself factor.
Cloudera is using the classic open source business model of selling support and customization, instead of selling shrink-wrapped copies. This model works beautifully for Red Hat, as seen in the Linux providers recent robust earnings report.
But Hadoop is a single framework, instead of an entire operating ecosystem like Red Hat provides. Anyone can download Hadoop and install it. While the average person would quickly be lost, in-house IT professionals could (in theory) peruse the Apache guide and plow through.
Does a company really need to hire Cloudera for help?
Heres where the expertise at Cloudera will need to prove itself. And clearly the group is an A Team. CEO Mike Olson was a VP at Oracle and formerly ran open source database outfit Sleepycat Software; Christophe Bisciglia headed Googles Academic Cloud Computing Initiative; Amr Awadallah was a VP at Yahoo (he worked with Hadoop at Yahoo) and has a business intelligence background; and Jeff Hammerbacher is a Harvard math wiz and Facebook alum who helped produce Hive, a data warehouse infrastructure built on Hadoop.
If any outfit could convince a big company that it needs to pay for Hadoop consulting-customizing, the Cloudera team is probably it.
Heres an interview conducted over Skype with Mike Olson, Cloudera CEO: