Saturday, March 3, 2012

Miles' Law and the Evolving Hadoop Ecosystem

So you're likely asking what is Miles' Law and what the heck does it have to do with Hadoop?"

Miles' Law says: "Where you stand depends on where you sit". The concept is probably as old as Plato, but the maxim originated from Rufus E. Miles, an assistant secretary who served under three U.S. Presidents, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson.

Although Miles used the phrase in reference to a bureau employee who had left to join another government agency in the 1940s, it certainly speaks to what we're seeing in 2012 within the Hadoop movement.

The various vendors are jockeying for position whether they're a legacy incumbent with expensive, proprietary kit or an emergent commercial open source company with inexpensive tools to build an early adopter sales pipeline.

This week's Strata Conference in Santa Clara was a sold-out show, and since Strata 2010, Hadoop has gained real enterprise traction. It's being used to solve high-value business problems in nearly every industry segment today. This rapid adoption is gaining so much steam that the industry stalwarts like IBM, Oracle, Microsoft, and EMC are getting in on the action, establishing partnerships with Hadoop distribution vendors Cloudera, Hortonworks and MapR. And all are carefully casting Hadoop in a somewhat subservient role to their existing portfolio of products so as not to canabalize them.

Playing nice to drive interoperability while preaching the traditional holistic, enterprise top-down mantra is what these big incumbent vendors will stand by. After all, they're sitting on huge cash cow businesses representative of the old, monolithic, centralized paradigm where expensive processor core licenses, long-tail maintenance fees and SAN storage prevail.

Oracle and EMC probably have the most to lose as the Hadoop ecosystems evolves and matures. That's because the best use cases for Hadoop are all about off-loading computational intensive tasks away from expensive Oracle cores and storing huge amounts of raw data away from expensive SAN storage.

Big, new markets just like new roles in government drive change in strategy, allegiances, attitudes, and perspectives. It will be interesting to see how the Hadoop/Big Data movement evolves and what strategies the various players develop to capitalize on their respective positions of strength to successfully compete.

In any ecosystem, where you stand depends on where you sit.