Vertica Ex-CEO: Big Data Is The Channel's Biggest New Play


Chris Lynch, the former CEO of big data technology developer Vertica who sold his company to Hewlett-Packard and eventually left HP, has resurfaced as an investor in big data firms.

Lynch, who left HP earlier this month, has taken on the dual role of evangelizing the importance of big data and investing in multiple start-ups. Lynch said big data will become one of the most important factors in the channel in the not-so-distant future.

"Big data" is data that scales to multiple petabytes of capacity, is created or collected, is stored, and is collaborative in realtime. Big data typically consists of unstructured data, which includes text, audio and video files, photographs and other data not easily handled using traditional database management tools.

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Before HP's acquisition of Vertica last year, Vertica's partners were selling $5 worth of servers, storage and software for every $1 worth of Vertica's big data technology, Lynch said.

"If resellers embrace big data, not only will they be able to offer value-added applications to customers, they will pull in $5 in traditional hardware and software sales for every $1 in big data technology sales," he said. "That's why HP bought Vertica."

And big data is very much a channel play, Lynch said. Half of Vertica's sales were through channel partners before the acquisition, a figure that grew to about 80 percent by the time he left.

Lynch said he left HP because of the incredible opportunities that will come as big data catches on.

"This is a massive opportunity," he said. "It's bigger than one company. It will be a movement. While at HP, I could only work with Vertica. But I feel I can be more relevant with smaller companies."

Today's Web businesses are driving the growth of big data, Lynch said. He cited as an example game developer Zynga, an early Vertica customer, which was able to use analytic tools to understand customers to the point where it could sell a virtual hammer for more than The Home Depot charges for a real hammer.

Such capabilities require the kind of sentiment analysis, social graphing and personalization that social media companies use to develop their business, Lynch said. And yet this is bigger than the social media market. "It's not used just by the Twitters and the Groupons and the Zyngas, but also the Wal-Marts, the Staples and the Bank of Americas," he said.

Big data is the foundation on which social media, mobility, cloud and online gaming industries are being built, and these companies need hardware, software and systems, Lynch said. Over the next year, the typical Fortune 2000 company will start getting questions from their customers and shareholders about how they are handling big data, he said.

Solution providers can lead the big data market, but many will have to invest in new skills such as Hadoop, CloudDB, Vertica, R, HTML5 and Python, he said.

"The opportunity for resellers, for good gross margins, is to go where the hockey puck will be, not where it was," he said. "Big data, in my view, is that trend."

Lynch is putting his money where his mouth is. He already has invested in five start-ups: Mortar Data, which delivers Hadoop instances quickly in the cloud; Kinvey, which develops a mobile app platform back end as a service for big data; Hopper, which leverages big data techniques to map a traveler's requirements against what Lynch called "all the data in the world;" Hadapt, a developer of a high-performance Hadoop product; and PowerInbox, which turns any e-mail system into a dynamic platform with collaboration and security.

Those five companies, plus another 15 in which Lynch is planning to invest, are part a group of about 100 start-ups in the Boston area that have either been angel-funded or have gotten Series A funding.

Lynch said he is happy to see his hometown become the center of the big data revolution.

"I feel big data can be to Boston now what the internetworking industry was to Boston in the 1990s," he said. "I feel there's a lot of talent here. I'm tired of seeing kids graduate from MIT and move west to California."