Acquiring Versant –Interview with Steve Shine.
“So the synergies in data management come not from how the systems connect but how the data is used to derive business value” –Steve Shine,
On Dec. 21, 2012, Actian Corp. announced the completion of the transaction to buy Versant Corporation. I have interviewed Steve Shine, CEO and President, Actian Corporation.
Q1. Why acquiring an object-oriented database company such as Versant?
Steve Shine: Versant Corporation, like us, has a long pedigree in solving complex data management in some of the world’s largest organisations. We see many synergies in bringing the two companies together. The most important of these is together we are able to invest more resources in helping our customers extract even more value from their data. Our direct clients will have a larger product portfolio to choose from, our partners will be able to expand in adjacent solution segments, and strategically we arm ourselves with the skills and technology to fulfil our plans to deliver innovative solutions in the emerging Big Data Market.
Q2. For the enterprise market, Actian offers its legacy Ingres relational database. Versant on the other hand offers an object oriented database, especially suited for complex science/engineering applications. How does this fit? Do you have a strategy on how to offer a set of support processes and related tools for the enterprise? if yes, how?
Steve Shine: While the two databases may not have a direct logical connection at client installations, we recognise that most clients use these two products as part of a larger more holistic solutions to support their operations. The data they manage is the same and interacts to solve business issues – for example object stores to manage the relationships between entities; transactional systems to manage clients and the supply chain and analytic systems to monitor and tune operational performance. – Different systems using the same underlying data to drive a complex business.
We plan to announce a vision of an integrated platform designed to help our clients manage all their data and their complex interactions, both internal and external so they can not only focus on their running their business, but better exploit the incremental opportunity promised by Big Data.
Q3. Bernhard Woebker, president and chief executive officer of Versant stated, “the combination of Actian and Versant provides numerous synergies for data management”. Could you give us some specific examples of such synergies for data management?
Steve Shine: Here is a specific example of what I mean by helping clients extracting more value from data in the Telco space. These type of incremental opportunities exist in every vertical we have looked at.
An OSS system in a Telco today may use an Object store to manage the complex relationships between the data, the same data is used in a relational store to monitor, control and manage the telephone network.
Another relational store using variants of the same data manages the provisioning, billing and support for the users of the network. The whole data set in Analytical stores is used to monitor and optimise performance and usage of the network.
Fast forwarding to today, the same data used in more sophisticated ways has allowed voice and data networks to converge to provide a seamless interface to mobile users. As a result, Telcos have tremendous incremental revenue opportunities BUT only if they can exploit the data they already have in their networks. For example: The data on their networks has allowed for a huge increase in location based services, knowledge and analysis of the data content has allowed providers to push targeted advertising and other revenue earning services at their users; then turning the phone into a common billing device to get even a greater share of the service providers revenue… You get the picture.
Now imagine other corporations being able to exploit their information in similar ways: Would a retailer benefit from knowing the preferences of who’s in their stores? Would a hedge fund benefit from detecting a sentiment shift for a stock as it happens? Even knowledge of simple events can help organisations become more efficient.
A salesman knowing immediately a key client raises a support ticket; A product manager knowing what’s being asked on discussion forums; A marketing manager knowing a perfect prospect is on the website.
So the synergies in data management come not from how the systems connect but how the data is used to derive business value. We want to help manage all the data in our customers organisations and help them drive incremental value from it. That is the what we mean by numerous synergies from data management and we have a vision to deliver it to our customers.
Q4. Actian claims to have more than 10,000 customers worldwide. What is the value proposition of Versant’s acquisition for the existing Actian`s customers?
Steve Shine: I have covered this in the answers above. They get access to a larger portfolio of products and services and we together drive a vision to help them extract greater value from their data.
Q5. Versant claims to have more than 150,000 installations worldwide. How do you intend to support them?
Steve Shine: Actian already runs a 24/7 global support organisation that prides itself in delivering one of the industry’s best client satisfaction scores. As far as numbers are concerned, Versant’s large user count is in essence driven by only 250 or so very sophisticated large installations whereas Actian already deals with over 10,000 discreet mission critical installations worldwide. So we are confident of maintaining our very high support levels and the Versant support infrastructure is being integrated into Actian’s as we speak.
Q6. Actian is active in the market for big data analytics. How does Versant’s database technology fit into Actian’s big data analytics offerings and capabilities?
Steve Shine: Using the example above imagine using OSS data to analyse network utilisation, CDR’s and billing information to identify pay plans for your most profitable clients.
Now give these clients the ability to take business action on real time changes in their data.Now imagine being able to do that from an integrated product set from one vendor. We will be announcing the vision behind this strategy this quarter. In addition, the Versant technology gives us additional options for solutions for big data for example visualisation and managing meta data.
Q7. Do you intend to combine or integrate your analytics database Vectorwise with Versant’s database technology (such as Versant JPA)? If yes, how?
Steve Shine: Specific plans for integrating products within the overall architecture have not been formulated. We have a strong philosophy that you should use the best tool for the job eg OODB for some things, OLTP RDBMS for other etc. But the real value comes from being able to perform sophisticated analysis and management across the different data stores. That is part of the work out platform integration efforts are focused on.
Q8. What are the plans for future software developments. Will you have a joint development team or else?
Steve Shine: We will be merging the engineering teams to focus on providing innovative solutions for big Data under single leadership.
Q9. You have recently announced two partnerships for Vectorwise, with Inferenda and BiBoard. Will you also pursue this indirect channel path also for Versant’s database technology?
Steve Shine: The beauty of the vision we speak of is that our joint partner have a real opportunity to expand their solutions using Actian’s broader product set and for those that are innovative the opportunity for new emerging markets
Q10. Versant recently developed Versant JPA. Is the Java market important for Actian?
Steve Shine: Yes !
Q11. It is currently a crowded database market: several new database vendors (NoSQL and NewSQL) offering innovative database technology (NuoDB, VoltDB, MongoDB, Cassandra, Couchbase, Riak to name a few), and large companies such as IBM and Oracle, are all chasing the big data market. What is your plan to stand out of the crowd?
Steve Shine: We are very excited about the upcoming announcement on our plans for the Big Data market. We will be happy to brief you on the details closer to the time but I will say that early feedback from analysts houses like Gartner have confirmed that our solution is very effective and differentiated in helping corporations extract business value from Big Data. On a higher scale, many of the start ups are going to get a very rude awakening when they find that delivering a database for mission critical use is much more than speed and scale of technology. Enterprises want world class 24×7 support service with failsafe resilience and security. Real industry grade databases take years and many $m’s to reach scalable maturity. Most of the start ups will not make it. Actian is uniquely positioned in being profitable and having delivered industry grade database innovation but also being singularly focused around data management unlike the broad, cumbersome and expensive bigger players. We believe value conscious enterprises will see our maturity and agility as a great strength.
Qx Anything else you wish to add?
Steve Shine: DATA! – What a great thing to be involved in! Endless value, endless opportunities for innovation and no end in sight as far as growth is concerned. I look forward to the next 5 years.
Steve Shine, CEO and President, Actian Corporation.
Steve comes to Actian from Sybase where he was senior vice president and general manager for EMEA, overseeing all operational, sales, financial and human resources in the region for the past three years. While at Sybase, he achieved more than 200 million in revenue and managed 500 employees, charting over 50 percent growth in the Business Intelligence market for Sybase. Prior to Sybase, Steve was at Canadian-based Geac Computer Corporation for ten successful years, helping to successfully turn around two major global divisions for the ERP firm.
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