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Hortonworks CTO weighs in on Cloudera merger

Besides marrying technologies from Hortonworks and Cloudera, the two companies could also come up with new product components after their merger is sealed

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The merger between Cloudera and Hortonworks could see the development of new product components as the two big data companies build out a combined technology stack, according to a senior Hortonworks executive.

Speaking to Computer Weekly on the sidelines of DataWorks Summit in Singapore, Hortonworks CTO Scott Gnau said the combined portfolio will also include some of the best components from each company, providing customers with a broader and deeper big data platform.

Noting that the two companies are complementary and will build on each other’s strengths, Gnau said Hortonworks has developed an open source technology stack based on Hadoop that helps enterprises manage the entire data lifecycle, while Cloudera has been boosting its machine learning and artificial intelligence capabilities in enterprise data warehousing.

To ease customers’ concerns over the future of their investments, Gnau said the technology they are using today will remain relevant after the transaction, and that “we will continue supporting the technology for a period of time”.

On 4 October 2018, Hortonworks and Cloudera said they would join up in an all-stock deal that valued the combined company at $5.2bn.

Some analysts have suggested the merger was aimed at cloud rivals that have been offering managed big data services, even as Hortonworks has inked partnerships with cloud suppliers such as Amazon, Google, IBM and Microsoft.

Gnau said the merger will allow the two companies to compete better in the market on a larger scale, and they will become more financially sustainable, “giving us the opportunity to invest in the business”. Both firms have been unprofitable.

Before news of the merger broke, Hortonworks had already linked up with Red Hat and IBM to turn Hadoop into a cloud-native big data platform that supports containers and microservices.

Gnau said the partnership will allow Hortonworks to develop a containerised architecture, offering what he called a “frictionless hybrid” approach to big data management, whether the data is stored on-premise or in the public cloud.

“But there is still a lot of engineering work to be done,” he said. “While many of those technologies are certainly very appealing from a stateless web application perspective, we are in the data business, which is very stateful because you don’t want to lose the data.”

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Having been in the IT industry for more than 30 years, Gnau has seen the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region adopt new technology at a slower rate, often 18 months behind the US and Europe – but that is no longer the case.

Gnau does not see such a lag in the big data space, because the technology serves very large-scale enterprises, such as telcos, very well, he said.

“Some of our APAC customers are leading the world in how they are deploying and leveraging the technology, including one that is so far ahead that it is challenging us to bring new and more sophisticated technologies to the market faster,” he said.

Besides telcos, Hortonworks has also seen plenty of demand from manufacturing, oil and gas, agriculture, as well as financial services industries, said Gnau.

“There had been a perception in the marketplace that we were weak in financial services because some of our competitors were saying they were very strong in that sector, but that’s just not the case,” he added.

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