Dashboard Insight recently spoke with Kickfire's Bruce Armstrong about an alternative to traditional data warehousing systems, his thoughts on the open source model and why he likes to focus on the market's "sweet spot."
Dashboard Insight: Tell us about your history and that of the Kickfire team.
Bruce Armstrong: I started my career at Teradata as one of the first 20 people at the company. After working my way through development and sales, I became VP & GM of Teradata as a subsidiary of NCR, just prior to Mark Hurd running Teradata. After 15 years at Teradata, I left to become VP & GM of Sybase’s $500M+ database group. One of the products I launched was Sybase IQ, the company’s first data warehousing product. I then left Sybase to become a co-founder of Broadbase, which competed with Sybase IQ as a column-store analytic database. After Broadbase went public, my next operating role was CEO of Knova Software, which was a public company providing self-service and analytic applications to large call centers. Having sold Knova, I became CEO of Kickfire in September 2008. Our executive team and key employees have some of the industry’s deepest knowledge of database and data warehouse systems, including Raj Cherabuddi (President & Co-Founder - Sun), Joe Chamdani (CTO - Sun), Karl Van Den Bergh (VP Marketing – Business Objects), Richard Nieset (VP Sales - Agile) and Tom Muise (CFO - Tandem).
DI: How are you able to deliver an analytic appliance that brings the power of commercial data warehousing systems (such as Oracle and IBM) down to the installed base of MySQL users at a fraction of the cost?
BA: Our co-founders, Raj Cherabuddi and Joe Chamdani, were SPARC architects at Sun and developed and patented the industry’s first SQL chip and an ultra-modern column-store database. Unlike traditional data warehousing systems, which rely on massively parallel processing architectures with large numbers of processors and disks, Kickfire’s analytic appliance dramatically reduces the number of processors required by leveraging the inherent parallel-processing capabilities of the data-flow SQL chip. It significantly reduces the disks and I/O required by taking advantage of the compression and vertical orientation of the Kickfire column-store database. The result is the industry’s best price/performance for data warehousing and lowest starting price.
DI: What suggestions do you have for businesses that are comparing the commercial software model to the open source software model?
BA: Open source is a great way to start a project – it’s free and there’s usually a community to provide support, tips and techniques. When going into production, however, some open source software is not quite ready for prime-time or can suffer from performance and scalability issues. Unfortunately, commercial software can be very expensive and consume lots of hardware. Kickfire’s business model relies on companies starting with MySQL – the leading open source database – and then avoiding the high cost of commercial software and general-purpose hardware by simply installing the Kickfire analytic appliance, without changes to the database or application.
DI: What makes your market and technology focus different from those of your competitors?
BA: Most vendors in the data warehouse industry have focused on the very high-end of the market, trying to leapfrog each other with scalability claims. Our focus has been on the sweet-spot of data warehousing where 75%+ of the deployments are – that is, 1 to 5 TB. The vendors going after the high-end of the market don’t have the technology or business models to scale down to this end of the market. As such, while there is certainly competition for all the data warehouse deals today, we feel confident in our ability to win deals based on our compelling value proposition of the industry’s best price/performance, lowest starting price, and fastest time-to-value.
DI: You are not an open source company, but were selected by Network World as one of 10 Open Source Companies to Watch <http://www.networkworld.com/news/2008/090208-open-to-watch.html?netht=ts_090208&nladname=090208dailynewsamal>. How is this possible?
BA: We are an “open source-based” business, which means we strongly support the open source movement and add value to the community by offering a plug-and-play appliance that provides a 10x to 1000x performance improvement for querying and reporting.
DI: You recently announced a joint MySQL Enterprise™ marketing agreement with Sun Microsystems. How has this agreement helped to promote your data warehouse solution?
BA: We have in place a global, multi-year agreement with Sun allowing us to resell MySQL Enterprise. Recently, we strengthened our relationship with a co-marketing agreement, which calls for both parties to jointly market Kickfire to the MySQL installed base. For example, we have jointly sponsored an educational series of webinars with Ralph Kimball, one of the fathers of data warehousing, for the MySQL community. The reception so far has been overwhelming.
DI: What is the process if someone wants to evaluate your solutions?
BA: We have invested in a guided self-service experience on our website allowing individuals to explore, try and buy Kickfire. With this new capability, we provide resources for people to determine the best fit for their needs and then walk through an online demonstration of our product. At any time, an individual can simply jump to our “buy” page and be connected with a sales consultant.
DI: What can we expect to see from Kickfire in the coming months?
BA: We are committed to providing our customers with the industry’s leading price/performance data warehousing solutions that are fast and easy to deploy and manage. As we find our customers deploying our systems in rapidly growing production environments, you will see us continue to enhance our products’ performance, scalability and availability.
Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer
Bruce Armstrong is a database industry veteran who brings 25 years of technology-specific development, marketing and sales expertise to his position as Kickfire's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. Armstrong began his career at data warehousing giant Teradata Corporation where he spent 15 years as part of the team that established the company as the leader in the market. Following Teradata, Armstrong held the position of Vice President and General Manager of the Server Products Group at Sybase, where he ran the company's $700M enterprise database management business. Armstrong also served as President and CEO of publicly traded KNOVA Software and he has also held posts as a partner at Internet Capital Group (ICGE), President and CEO of CMPnet and Executive Vice President of Sales & Marketing at Broadbase Software (now KANA).
Armstrong has a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of California at Berkeley.