Tuesday, June 9, 2009

CEO responds to my post on the Kickfire market

I had the unexpected and pleasant surprise of having the Kickfire CEO himself responding to my previous post on the Kickfire market (this is no doubt thanks to Curt Monash being kind enough to point his large readership to it). Even though my Kickfire post was positive on the whole, I did raise some questions about their go-to-market strategy, and I want to give more prominence to the response (beyond just a comment thread), especially since it corrected an inaccuracy in my original post. At the end of this blog posting, I will provide my own comments on the Kickfire response.

Here is the response of Kickfire CEO Bruce Armstrong, in his own words:

"Thanks for the post on Kickfire, Daniel.
Some comments:

1) We actually came out of stealth mode as a company at the April 2008 MySQL User Conference, where we announced our world records for TPC-H at 100GB and 300GB;

2) Our product went GA at the end of 2008, which we formally announced at the April 2009 MySQL User Conference along with one of our production reference customers, Mamasource, a Web 2.0 online community doing clickstream analysis that hit performance and scalability limitations with MySQL at 50GB;

3) Our focus is on the data warehouse "mass market" with databases ranging from gigabytes to low terabytes, where over 75% of deployments are today according to IDC/Computerworld survey 2008;

4) We chose MySQL as a key component because it has emerged as a standard (12 million deployments) and 3rd-most deployed database for data warehousing according to IDC;

5) While we do take over much of the processing with our column-store pluggable storage engine and parallel-processing SQL chip, we feel it's important to minimize any changes to a customer's database schema and/or application and to allow transparent interoperability with third-party tools;

6) Having come from 15 years at Teradata (and after that Sybase and Broadbase), I know that the high-end of data warehousing is very, very different from the mass market - both are techincally challenging in their own right and require very different product and go-to-market approaches;

7) Finally, regarding Oracle and whether they would "embrace" Kickfire (the question I was asked by Jason on the Frugal Friday show), we believe the data warehouse mass market could create several winners - and having recently raised $20M from top-tier silicon valley investors, we believe we have the resources to be one of them.

Thanks again for the post - we look forward to more from you and the

My comments on this response (note: please read the tone as positive and collaborative --- I might need a job one day):

(1 and 2) I went back to the TPC-H Website, and believe I was indeed incorrect about Kickfire topping TPC-H in 2007 (I might have been thinking about ParAccel instead of Kickfire). According to the Website, Kickfire topped TPC-H in April of 2008 (though assumedly the product being tested was finished sometime earlier than that in order to leave time for auditing the results, etc). That said, there still does seem to be a double launch. The second sentence of the press release from April 14th 2008 said the company "officially launches this week" while the 1st sentence of the press release from April 15th 2009 announces the launching again. But I think what Bruce is saying is that in one case it was the company and in the other case it was the product.

(3 and 4) The point of my post was that I think the market is smaller than these numbers indicate. Sure, there are a lot of MySQL deployments, but that's because it's free. The number of people actually paying for the MySQL Enterprise Edition is far less, but those are probably the people who'd be willing to pay for a solution like Kickfire's. Furthermore, as pointed out in the comment thread of the previous post, a lot of people who use MySQL for warehousing are using sharded MySQL, which is nontrivial (or at least not cheap) to port to non-shared-nothing solutions like Kickfire and Infobright. Finally, the amount of data that corporations are keeping around is increasing rapidly, and the size of data warehouses are doubling faster than Moore's law. So even if most warehouses today are pretty small, this might not be the case in the future. I'm a strong believer that MPP shared-nothing parallel solutions are the right answer for the mass market of tomorrow. Anyway, the bottom line is that I'm openly wondering if the market is actually much smaller than the IDC numbers would seem to suggest. But obviously, if Kickfire, Infobright, or Calpont achieves a large amount of success without changing their market strategy, I'll be proven incorrect.

(5) Agreed.

(6) I'd argue that Bruce's experience at Teradata gave him a lot of knowledge about the high-end market. I'm not sure it automatically gives him a lot of knowledge about the mass market. That said, he probably has more knowledge about the mass market than an academic at Yale :)


  1. I still think you have pure, enterprise, high end data warehousing in mind. I think of Kickfire another way, as a MySQL accelerator.

    Just because MySQL is free doesn’t mean the data it contains is worthless and the companies aren’t willing to pay to support their data infrastructure. Typically people costs are the highest in any database deployment, and the cost of people trying to optimize a poorly performing database can get very expensive very fast.

    I see numerous companies who have built solutions on top of MySQL trying to get more value out of that data by running increasingly demanding analytical style queries. This is particularly important in Web business where the data is their only method for understanding their customers. MySQL tends to bottom out performance wise once you start running ad-hoc queries over 100GB of data. Kickfire is one of the quickest/cheapest/easiest solutions to gain improvement for such situations. It could only be a stop gap solution for some organizations. But given the option of spending $50k today for an immediate “fix” or waiting 3-6 months and spending $250-500k+ for a more pure solution, I know what many organizations will choose.

    Agree though, appliances are a difficult sell and history has shown hardware and software companies haven’t mixed well. This has also limited their distribution to the US which slows their growth. I am unsure why they can’t get their appliance into Europe, one of MySQL’s strongholds. So the future for them isn’t necessarily a slum dunk, but they are offering something different which makes them interesting at least.

  2. Hi Tony,

    Thanks for the comment. All good points. Of course, what you are describing is some subset of the total MySQL market. The million (or should I say billion?) dollar question is: is this subset big enough to be called a "mass market"? Kickfire is betting that the answer is "yes".

  3. Hi Daniel,

    Thanks for your considered response to Bruce's post. One point of clarification. Kickfire certainly sees MySQL as a key component of the Mass Market we are targeting but not the sum total of that market. Our definition of Mass Market is data warehouses from gigabytes to a few terabytes. The MySQL base is therefore a subset of this market. Thanks, Karl