Category Archives: Nerds

What Happened at Basho Technologies, NoSQL Pioneer?

Introduction

Basho has been a very likeable company.

Named for a Japanese poet, the company has long had a great technical reputation and a strong sense of style and panache in this often too-nerdy industry.

basho-transparent-vertical-logo

Basho was founded in 2008 by a group of engineers and executives from Akamai Technologies with the goal of creating a new database platform that offers extreme high-availability, low latency, linear scalability and a decentralized architecture that would be easy to use and manage.

I wanted to preface this by saying I have no special or insider information about the company, and that this news analysis is largely conjecture based on available public information reported by The Register, on Wikipedia, on Linkedin and on Cruchbase.

Another caveat is that this piece contains logical conjecture about the operations of a privately held company.

I strongly encourage you to do your own research and draw your own conclusions, as mine may be wrong. I also want to say that I work for Hazelcast which also plays in the NoSQL market, although we would not consider Basho/Riak to be a direct competitor. Sure it’s possible to do some similar things with both products, but we have not encountered Basho/Riak as a commercial competitor in our business much, we mostly compete against Oracle Coherence, and Pivotal Gemfire, and to a lesser extent, Software AG Terracotta.

With these caveats in mind, please have a look at my analysis. I am very open to any evidence-based logical arguments that support or disprove any of my conjectures.

So what is happening at the company?

Today, The Register reported that the CEO, CTO and Chief Architect have either left or are planning to leave the company.

This is quite a lot of executive turnover.

So what is the underlying story of this? As a caveat the rest of this story is speculative. But it’s based on the evidence that I will provide here.

What is the history of Basho?

The history of Basho is easy to see for yoursef on Crunchbase.

basho-transparent-vertical-logo Screen Shot 2014-03-11 at 7.50.56 AM

 

First observation: these are somewhat unconventional venture capitalists in the deal.

Screen Shot 2014-03-11 at 7.52.57 AM

Chester Davenport led the latest round of series F which was the 11.5M deal deon in 2012.

The majority of the F round $6.1M of this  came out of Japan from IDC Frontier, a subsidiary of Yahoo Japan as reported in TechCrunch.

In 2011 the company raised 7.5M from Trifork. There are no Trifork board members. The board consists of Mr Davenport, Earl Galleher (founder),Robert L. Reisley Co-Founder and Managing Director of Evergreen Industries, LLC, Atsushi “Ash” Yamanaka General Manager, IDC Frontier Inc. and Anthony S. Thornley Director, Callaway Golf.

The board hired Donald Rippert as CEO in June 29th 2011. Mr Rippert is clearly an operational guy, having previously worked for Accenture as its CTO for seven years (Linkedin Profile Here).

Since Trifork came in in Feb of 2011, it seems clear that Trifork encouraged or sought the help of an operational CEO to build the Basho business.Screen Shot 2014-03-11 at 8.05.38 AM

Mr. Rippert was CEO of Basho for 1 year and four months until October 2012. He is currently employed at IBM.

Who was the new CEO of Basho after that?

The CEO hired in November of 2012 was Greg Collins.

If you look at the funding history of the company, a new CEO was again hired four months after a new round of funding, this round being led by Georgetown Partners and Mr Davenport.

Based on his job history, he is *NOT* an operating CEO. My conjecture is, that he was hired to sell the company. This is the kind of experience he demonstrated as a principal at Cape Fear Advisors and in previous roles (Linkedin Profile).

Screen Shot 2014-03-11 at 8.08.12 AM

So what happened?

This part is conjecture again. The rhythms of Mergers and Acquisitions are often complex and involve multi-party transactions.

Given the strategic and corporate development strength of Mr Collins, he most likely was working on such a multiparty transaction. The departure of such a CEO after 1 year and 3 months suggests that a large transaction promised to the board failed to materialize.

My personal comment is that none of this is any reflection on Mr Collins, deals of sufficiently large size often have a 50/50 chance of happening due to the probability of buyers doing due diligence on other options including buying other companies or even not buying any company.

So what is going to happen?

Linkedin shows 107 employees at Basho Technologies. If you assume a fully loaded cost per employee of $150k USD, this results in a burn rate of over $16M USD per year, not including the costs of facilities, marketing and other expenses.

This is a difficult piece to write, as I have been an admirer of the company and I personally wish all of these employees well, but if you do the math, they last raised 11.5M in 2012, and their burn rate must be in excess of $16M a year. The unknown variable is the total revenue from operations.

What does this mean for the NoSQL business?

The NoSQL market is alive and kicking. It seems to me that given multiple CEOs each lasting less than a year and a half and each riding on new investor money, that this has been tough for the company. I think the lessons in this story, including conjectures, are more particular to this company than to the industry as a whole.

 

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Miko on Slashdot: Data Science is Dead

Original piece here
http://news.dice.com/2014/03/05/data-science-is-dead/

Data Science is dead.

Science creates knowledge via controlled experiments, so a data query isn’t an experiment. An experiment suggests controlled conditions; data scientists stare at data that someone else collected, which includes any and all sample biases.

Now, before you drag out the pitchforks: I’m not a query hater. You won’t see me standing outside the Oracle Open World conference with a sign that says “NO SQL” on it. Queries are fine. Smart people don’t always have the right answer, but they need to ask the right questions. Yes, building a query is like “forming a hypothesis,” but at that point we enter the realm of observational or “soft” science. Yes, by this standard, Astronomy and Social Sciences are also not sciences. I have no idea what Computer Science is, but no, it’s not a science either.

Oh what’s that? Your kind of “Data Science” includes things such as A|B Testing, and your “experiments” actually involve executing designs that affect the world? Allow me to retort: that’s not Data Science, that’s actually doing a job. You might have a job title like Product Management or Marketing. But if your job title is “Data Scientist,” you are effectively removing yourself from the actual creation of data.

I do sympathize. I appreciate that it’s no longer sexy to be a Database Administrator, and I guess the term “Business Analyst” is a bit too 1980’s. Slapping “Data Warehousing” on a resume is probably not going to land you a job, and it’s way down there with “Systems Analyst” on the cool-factor scale. If you’re going to make up a cool-sounding job title for yourself, “Data Scientist” seems to fit the bill. You can go buy a lab coat from a medical-supply surplus store and maybe some thick glasses from a costume shop. And it works! When you put “Data Scientist” on your LinkedIn profile, recruiters perk up, don’t they? Go to the Strata conference and look on the jobs board—every company wants to hire Data Scientists.

OK, so we want to be “Data Scientists” when we grow up, right? Wrong. Not only is Data Science not a science, it’s not even a good job prospect. In the immortal words of Admiral Akbar: “It’s a trap.”

These companies expect data scientists to (from a real job posting): “develop and investigate hypotheses, structure experiments, and build mathematical models to identify… optimization points.” Those scientists will help build “a unique technology platform dedicated to… operation and real-time optimization.”

Well, that sounds like a reasonable—albeit buzzword-filled—job description, no? There is going to be a ton of data in the future, certainly. And interpreting that data will determine the fate of many a business empire. And those empires will need people who can formulate key questions, in order to help surface the insights needed to manage the daily chaos. Unfortunately, the winners who will be doing this kind of work will have job titles like CEO or CMO or Founder, not “Data Scientist.” Mark my words, after the “Big Data” buzz cools a bit it will be clear to everyone that “Data Science” is dead and the job function of “Data Scientist” will have jumped the shark.

Yes, more and more companies are hoarding every single piece of data that flows through their infrastructure. As Google Chairman Eric Schmidt pointed out, we create more data in a single day today than all the data in human history prior to 2013.

Unfortunately, unless this is structured data, you will be subjected to the data equivalent of dumpster diving. But surfacing insight from a rotting pile of enterprise data is a ghastly process—at best. Sure, you might find the data equivalent of a flat-screen television, but you’ll need to clean off the rotting banana peels. If you’re lucky you can take it home, and oh man, it works! Despite that unappetizing prospect, companies continue to burn millions of dollars to collect and gamely pick through the data under respective roofs. What’s the time-to-value of the average “Big Data” project? How about “Never”?

If the data does happen to be structured data, you will probably be given a job title like Database Administrator, or Data Warehouse Analyst.

When it comes to sorting data, true salvation may lie in automation and other next-generation processes, such as machine learning and evolutionary algorithms; converging transactional and analytic systems also looks promising, because those methods deliver real-time analytic insight while it’s still actionable (the longer data sits in your store, the less interesting it becomes). These systems will require a lot of new architecture, but they will eventually produce actionable results—you can’t say the same of “data dumpster diving.” That doesn’t give “Data Scientists” a lot of job security: like many industries, you will be replaced by a placid and friendly automaton.

So go ahead: put “Data Scientist” on your resume. It may get you additional calls from recruiters, and maybe even a spiffy new job, where you’ll be the King or Queen of a rotting whale-carcass of data. And when you talk to Master Data Management and Data Integration vendors about ways to, er, dispose of that corpse, you’ll realize that the “Big Data” vendors have filled your executives’ heads with sky-high expectations (and filled their inboxes with invoices worth significant amounts of money). Don’t be the data scientist tasked with the crime-scene cleanup of most companies’ “Big Data”—be the developer, programmer, or entrepreneur who can think, code, and create the future.

Miko Matsumura is a Vice President at Hazelcast, an open source in-memory data grid company. He is a 20-year veteran of Silicon Valley.

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Deflating the Hype Over In-Memory Databases: How Oracle 12c and SAP HANA got the Future Wrong

Deflating the Hype Over In-Memory Databases (via slashdot)

Moore’s law has doubled transistor density on both RAM memory and processors since the beginning of industrial computing. RAM doubling continues unabated, providing previously unheard-of supplies of main memory. However, we have reached the fundamental…


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Real-time web eats its own shit: Google buys, then does not buy ICOA

The power and the freedom of the press is a flaming sword. That it may be a faithful servant to all the people, use it justly… hold it high… guard it well.” -Steve Wilson, Illustrated Press

Don’t Hate the Playah, Hate the Game.

Dozens of top tech journalists were caught in a hoax today on PRWeb announcing the acquisition of ICOA by Google for $400M.

Top news brands including:
TechCrunch
TheNextWeb
SlashGear
ZDNet
Telecom Paper
Forbes
VentureBeat
USA Today

and many others

The fact that this story broke and unbroke so fast is evidence of a new culture of Journalism that is somewhat toxic–an atmosphere of mutually assured destruction in an arms race of who can publish the news fastest and itchy trigger fingers across the journalistic profession.

Nobody in the broader readership much cares if a news story breaks in a hour, three hours or within seconds of the announcement. It’s a kind of snotty one-upmanship within the tech press community that drives press people to shoot first and ask questions later.

Some of the most experienced and savvy press folks I know were caught up in this sting and I absolutely dont blame any of these fine individual journalists. What I blame is the toxic atmosphere of one-upmanship which places more emphasis on who is king of the pecking order in journalism by breaking stories faster than others. This is masturbatory.

What the tech community needs is a brain that sits between the ear and the mouth, not some kind of trigger happy echo chamber. I’m not pointing the finger at any specific individual–even the person who perpetrated this hoax. This could not have happened if the community valued measured, thoughtful, analytical reporting.

Every journalist I have a personal relationship with that I know probably longs for the days when you could afford the luxury of fact-checking, interviewing and actually analyzing and writing intelligent news.

I don’t point any fingers in this blog post, but Kara Swisher savagely beat down TechCrunch over this in a series of blistering twitter posts referencing their role in this journalistic debacle:

To all those in the journalism industry, writers, bloggers, editors, I humbly ask you to work together to build a news culture that values disciplined, analytic, fact-based and professional journalism over what’s out there right now, a self-important, toxic, masturbatory echo chamber. Shame on you if you helped to perpetuate this sad culture of journalism.

I sincerely hope this incident results in editorial meetings and some accountability and process-improvements across the industry. I don’t think any disciplinary actions are called for, I think this is a cultural problem across the industry. Because of this, I feel the industry should take this opportunity to take a look at itself and understand better its role in serving the public.

Journalism is not a game of one-upmanship. It is a flaming sword. Hold it high, guard it well.

 

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