Like an up-and-coming baseball club adding another big bat to its lineup, Hortonworks has hired Ingrid Burton as chief marketing officer. So what's next? The safe bet is a heavier emphasis on big data customer outcomes, with plenty of Open Enterprise Hadoop messaging mixed into the conversation.

Burton has a healthy mix of enterprise marketing experience from her time at SAP, Silver Spring Networks, Plantronics and Sun Microsystems. She arrives to Hortonworks only a few weeks after Hadoop Summit -- which attracted a mix of IT executives, data scientists and consulting firms that are striving to deploy and optimize the big data platform.

That conference gave Hortonworks executives a timely platform to address Hadoop adoption rate questions raised by Gartner, while also announcing new technologies and customer engagement milestones. 

Step Inside Hortonworks

In a range of Information Management interviews at the June summit, Hortonworks leaders including President Herb Cunitz, VP Shaun Connolly, VP of Product Management Tim Hall, and VP of Product Alliance Marketing Matthew Morgan described how the company is shifting the big data and Hadoop conversation toward customer outcomes.

Hortonworks VP Shaun Connolly insisted that Hadoop's glass is half-full, pointing to current adoption rate comparisons vs. the early days of relational databases -- as well as Hortonworks' own Q1 2015 financial results, which beat Wall Street's expectations.

"We're now in the early majority of market adoption," added Cunitz. "That's fantastic, especially since the volume of data won't slow down. As you add more sensors [to the Internet], the volume of data increases exponentially."

Cunitz also pointed to Hortonworks' growing ecosystem of customers -- including Home Depot, Rogers Communications, Schlumberger, Symantec and Verizon -- and global systems integrators. "The global SI's are just coming online at scale," he said. "It's like the rebirth of the supply chain management or ERP markets from 15 years ago -- or more. Those companies get to write a whole new set of analytics apps. This time around, the applications are for the digital supply chain rather than the physical supply chain."

Asked if Hortonworks will develop an app store of sorts for consultants and customers, Cunitz said something in that area could be of interest. "What companies would like is a platform of building blocks and reusable templates. They want to pull from a curated, approved catalog -- but that's not exactly an app store." Translation: Stay tuned for updates.

Technology Enhancements

Of course, Hortonworks also continues to pump innovation back into its core platform. "We have a responsibility to provide the Open Enterprise Hadoop that customers demand," said Hall. "More and more mission-critical applications are being put on Hadoop. Our approach is not just a batch reporting system. Real-time stream processing is getting more and more important to customers."

With that priority in mind, Hall says Hortonworks Data Platform (HDP) is far more than Hadoop. Instead, HDP is a collection of critically important ecosystem components -- such as YARN for real-time streaming and other needs.

Another big push involves remote customer support -- recently launched as SmartSense. Part of Hortonworks' subscription service, the software company will proactively monitor and manage customers' Hadoop clusters.

Simplify, Simplify

So where does Hortonworks go from here -- especially as Chief Marketing Officer Ingrid Burton enters the company? Information Management's interview with VP of Product Alliance Marketing Matthew Morgan -- completed in early June, ahead of Burton's arrival -- potentially provides some clues.

At the time, Morgan insisted that Hortonworks is becoming the Macintosh of Hadoop. "Our approach changes who can use the product," he asserted. "We want to expand the user pool, automate it, and make it so organizations can think of HDP as the standard database platform."

Going forward, Morgan predicted that Hortonworks will spend less time describing what HDP is  -- and more time describing how you can leverage Hortonworks' software to help your business. It's a safe bet Burton will build on that theme in the months ahead.

Plenty of Competition

Of course, the Hadoop and big data markets are filled with rivals -- including established IT giants and peer Hadoop upstarts like Cloudera and MapR. Information Management had the opportunity to meet with executives from both of those companies in recent weeks.

We'll share more perspectives in the days head. We'll strive to offer an ongoing reality check on Hadoop adoption rates, while exploring the software and cloud companies that deliver the underlying solutions.

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