October 19, 2005

Subjects in which I’m particularly interested

Throughout my 24-year career as an industry analyst, my top-level question has always been: “What aspects of the industry/sector/market/company are worst understood, or most overlooked?” Most commonly, the answer lies somewhere in the overlapping areas of technology, market positioning, and ongoing sector consolidation. And any discussion of technology and positioning depends heavily upon the way customers actually adopt and use new stuff.

It’s no different now. Most of my efforts recently have been devoted to DBMS (like always), text technologies, and analytics in general. In DBMS I’m making the very strong technological case that vendor consolidation is overrated, and that we’re in an era when 1000 specialty database flowers will bloom. The survivors will eventually all be tied together by XML-based SOAs. (Some of my friends at big DBMS vendors are not very happy with me right now.) My arguments against the prevailing wisdom may be found at a specialty blog on database management techology, called DBMS2. I plan to add more positive comments on the interesting new technologies soon.

In text technologies, there are a whole lot of point products. Despite booms in certain areas, such as text data mining, these are only scraping the surface of user requirements. What’s needed – and surely coming – is a dramatic evolution into one or more much larger product categories. How long that takes is unknown, however; right now the two pillars of the market (search and text data mining) are as industry segments go quite far apart. I also have started a specialty blog to track this area, with the simple name of Text Technologies.

My most active area of research these days is probably analytics. Certainly it’s my oldest interest of the three I cited, dating back to my student years, when I basically focused on decision theory for my dissertation and post-doctoral research. I think that, after decades of false alarms, the center of gravity in enterprise computing has REALLY shifed from OLTP to decision support. At least, that’s true at the larger enterprises; SMB are still playing catchup in the transactional area.

While I think there are lots of interesting technological issues in analytics – and indeed no enterprise analytics vendors’ product line is close to fully-baked – what really matters here is understanding the users. Vendors blithely claim that they’re going to foster a whole cultural transformation, in which top-to-bottom decision-making will suddenly become rational and numerate. Yeah, right. In tracking the evolution of the analytic technology business(es), nothing is more important than being realistic about how this stuff is and will be actually used.

I plan to write about these and other areas in the days and months ahead. Stay tuned – and, as always, if you would like to disagree with or add to what I have to say, please please let me know. My research, as always, depends on you.


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