For several years Hewlett-Packard has been investing in its data warehouse technology, HP Neoview. The product dates from HP’s acquisition of Compaq in 2002, which acquired Tandem Computers in 1997 (a company started by HP engineers in the 1970s). The HP Neoview product line originates in what Tandem called NonStop SQL and now runs on the HP Neoview operating system. HP’s business intelligence (BI) offering also is called Neoview. I wrote about this product line in late 2008 (See: “Can HP Neoview Survive and Thrive?”); at the time, HP was engaged in a mutual effort with Oracle called Exadata. Of course, a lot has changed since then: Oracle has purchased Sun Microsystems and is pushing its database on the former Sun servers and storage. Since late 2008, HP has struggled in a very competitive environment at the high end of the data warehousing market and has not made significant front-office investments to promote its products. I recently had a chance to talk with the management and technology team of HP Neoview about their advancements over last six months and the direction they plan in the coming years.

HP announced recently HP Neoview Advantage, which the company summarizes at their product site. Technically, it is a massively parallel processing (MPP), shared-nothing database platform. HP Neoview blends analytic and transaction processing and takes a step forward in parallel processing by exploiting the latest in pipeline processing and optimization, which allow it to scale upward as needed to complete tasks. Neoview Advantage has a series of impressive technology and data advancements in adaptive segmentation, data skew-buster methods, workload management services and real-time data-loading. An advantage of this platform is the use of standards-based commodity components from HP, which are not as flexible as some hardware but are designed to integrate and perform at peak levels. Essentially, this is a new hardware infrastructure with bladed modularity that reduces the size and energy needs of the platform, which are dramatically improved from the previous release. Advancements in the suite of administration and management tools provide capabilities that many database administrators have become accustomed to on other databases. HP’s expansion of its consulting services through the acquisitions of Knightsbridge and EDS should assure organizations that they can get qualified assistance in implementing it on-site or in outsourcing the entire project to HP.

HP positions Neoview Advantage as a business intelligence solution, but really it is a data warehouse appliance that competes against established suppliers such as IBM, Netezza, Oracle and Teradata and also newer players in the market including Aster Data, Greenplum, Kognitio and Vertica, each of which has a specialized approach to the technology. HP managers realize they have not only to go after the top end of the market but also to move downstream and compete against these smaller players that are dedicated to the market and well-acquainted with data warehousing professionals.

HP also has to fill out its platform and tools for what the industry generally understands as BI, to provide for analysts and business users the ability to access and integrate data. HP is collaboratively marketing and in some cases selling third-party products to make HP Neoview a complete BI package.

Since last fall, HP has partnered with Informatica to provide data integration, data quality and master data management (MDM) to support data-related processes; the two are jointly competing against IBM and Oracle in data integration. On the BI front end, HP  partners with MicroStrategy, which I have recently reviewed, and for analytics with SAS, along with working toward deeper integration with Microsoft. Additionally in late 2009, HP  announced a deeper technology partnership with SAP that will integrate SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse and SAP BusinessObjects (See: "SAP Brings Business Intelligence and Business Analytics Advancements to Industry") with HP Neoview. This extends an already close partnership at the server, storage and consulting levels and is important for both organizations in data scalability and competition against Oracle in having a robust data warehouse for enterprise applications; it is possible that the partners might include MicroStrategy’s support of SAP BW, which I recently reviewed (See: “MicroStrategy Has a Bounty of BI for Organizations Using SAP“).

To date, HP has not engaged in sustained marketing to promote its data warehousing solution and demonstrate that it has world-class capabilities. Despite being the largest technology company in the world, HP should not assume that its brand alone will provide immediate validation and entry to the short list of technology providers every time. If HP wants to advance its market position and win more customers, it will need to invest further in such promotion. While HP’s people say they realize this, it is not clear if management is making the necessary changes; although it appears to be putting more sales people onto the task, eventually it will come back to addressing branding and positioning across the world through diligent marketing. Another challenge is to get more enthusiastic support from customers in discussing their deployments and use of the technology; this is not much of a problem for other data warehousing vendors.

HP has a great opportunity in the market, but will need to make further changes in the front-office operation to achieve more success. It has an advantage in the Neoview technology’s ability to operate in mixed analytical and transactional modes; Oracle and others are still working on the configuration and technology to operate at similar levels of efficiency and computing power. But as we know, the best technology does not always win the sale, and this market segment has a number of strong competitors that are not going to give up easily. This year will be critical for HP to demonstrate an ability to grow and actually impact the well-established data warehouse and business intelligence markets. My guess is that if it does not make sufficient progress, the company will be forced to look at acquisitions to grow and make more of an impact in the market.

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