Analysis: Can Vertica Become HP's Next Billion-Dollar Business?


Hewlett-Packard's top software executive has lofty goals for Vertica, the high-performance database vendor HP acquired last March in what was the first step of ex-CEO Leo Apotheker's enterprise software vision quest.

HP has boosted Vertica's revenue from the "low millions" at the time of the acquisition to "middle-double-digit millions" today, George Kadifa, executive vice president of HP Software, told All Things D Tuesday.

[Related: HP Vertica Continues Losing Top Talent To Big Data Startups]

Kadifa, who joined HP in May and previously was a venture capitalist and CEO of application service provider Corio, expects Vertica's growth to continue on its healthy pace. "I can see us getting to $100 million with Vertica. And there’s no reason it can’t be a billion-dollar business," Kadifa told All Things D.

Vertica's realtime analytics platform is highly regarded in the big data space and can handle large volumes of data in physical, virtual and cloud environments. As HP CEO Meg Whitman looks for unique and innovative assets to define HP's future, she would be hard-pressed to find better examples than Vertica.

Vertica has more than 70 high-profile customers, including Verizon, Mozilla, Comcast, Twitter and Zynga. Vertica works best in business-to-consumer settings that require instantaneous delivery of information, according to one source familiar with the technology.

"Being able to run a query on how many people are playing your game online, or how many are buying the machine gun in 'Mafia Wars,' is where Vertica really excels," one HP partner told CRN, speaking on condition of anonymity to preserve his relationships with other database vendors.

"If you're looking for something more general-purpose, Vertica is not the right call. But if you are looking for a cheetah, no one else out there can do what Vertica does."

HP is using a direct sales model for Vertica, so HP partners that wish to buy it through distribution are out of luck for the time being. This won't be an issue if HP is able to continue landing large, high-value deals, but without channel distribution, hitting the $1 billion target might be challenging.

HP did not respond to a request for comment on if or when it is planning to bring Vertica to the channel.

Vertica does not have the nationwide coverage that would be necessary if the channel were to get involved in touting the technology, and the big data skills necessary to sell and deploy Vertica present a significant barrier to entry for newcomers, the source told CRN.

Another issue Vertica faces is the steady exodus of its talent to big data and cloud startups. In the past five months, Vertica's CTO, vice president of marketing, and several top salespeople and engineers have left HP, landing at start-ups Hadapt, Cloudant, Cloudera and others.

The issue isn't that people are leaving: Big data is an intensely competitive field and VC-funded startups are aggressively recruiting talent wherever they can find it. And Vertica has been able to hold on to most of its top engineers, a source familiar with the situation told CRN in July.

However, given the current instability at HP, it's fair to wonder if at least some of the departed Vertica employees have left because they are not willing to stick around while Whitman tries to turn things around. She has said this process could take several years, but the big data space is moving a whole lot faster than HP at the moment.

PUBLISHED SEPT. 26, 2012