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Platfora Delivers ‘Hadoop for Dummies’

Platfora describes its user-friendly widgetry as the first scale-out in-memory business intelligence platform for Hadoop

Platfora, a start-up with an ace or two in the hole, came out of stealth mode this week with the intention of taking the finicky, balky, ornery Hadoop mainstream and disrupting the $35 billion business analytics market.

The company's aces include Andreessen Horowitz, the young VC with the seemingly Midas touch, and In-Q-Tel, the CIA's venture capital arm, which together put $7.18 million into the new venture. Both, shall we say, have some pretty interesting contacts.

Platfora describes its user-friendly widgetry as the first scale-out in-memory business intelligence platform for Hadoop.

That's the fancy geek description.

Its founder Ben Werther, a former Apache Cassandra and Greenplum product strategy guy, describes the solution more trenchantly.

Hadoop, he says, is like a big cardboard box carelessly filled with Big Data. His widgetry can figure out what the data is and what it means and turn it into pictures without teams of IT staff reorganizing a data warehouse. In fact it eliminates data warehouses and ETL (extract, transform, and load) software altogether. Users can question the data right after it's collected.

Compared to what can be done now he's promising a "Hadoop for Dummies" that may mean the end of the data warehouse.

Platfora is a fundamentally different kind of BI platform. It transforms the raw data in Hadoop into interactive, in-memory BI without a traditional data warehouse and its inherent limitations. End users get a beautiful web-based analysis interface using HTML5 technology - the first of its kind.

Platfora pulls data out of Hadoop into an in-memory data processing engine, making access to the data extremely fast. It leverages Hadoop to do the heavy lifting, processing massive Big Data into highly efficient, in-memory data stores (think datamarts-on-the-fly).

The start-up's biggest innovation, however, rests with how the layers work together seamlessly. It automatically refines the in-memory data based on the questions users ask.

Werther says, "Everyone talks about the promise of Big Data, but the real innovation lies in the data agility and exploration made possible by Hadoop. Businesses want immediate answers - they can't wait days or months for insight into their own data. Unless businesses can explore and interact with this data, the promise of Hadoop is lost."

Scott Weiss, an Andreessen Horowitz general partner and a Platfora board member, says, "Platfora up-ends traditional business intelligence, unlocks the potential of Hadoop and puts the power of data in the hands of the end user."

In his opinion, "The legacy BI vendors don't have the product architecture for Hadoop or Big Data and we believe this opens the door for a new franchise to be built."

Platfora was built from the ground up to present Hadoop raw data in new ways. Its key components include:

  • Unbounded In-Memory BI: Platfora's so-called Vizboards let business users build stunning interactive visualizations. Vizboards are web-based, using HTML5 canvas technology, and feature a layer for sharing and collaboration.
  • High-Performance In-Memory Data Processing Engine: Using its trademarked Fractal Cache technology, Platfora's in-memory data processing engine is natively connected with Hadoop. As the core of the platform, Fractal Cache automatically refines itself without IT's intervention.
  • Hadoop Data Refinery: The company's Adaptive Job Synthesis automatically builds MapReduce jobs and pushes them down to Hadoop to produce aggregated in-memory representations of the data.

Platfora works with existing clusters of machines running Cloudera, Amazon Web Services, MapR and Hortonworks although at the moment Cloudera appears to be its favorite. They're partnering.

Platfora, which has less than 30 people but growing, has the widgetry in beta with 10 Fortune 500s and Global 2000s and maybe the odd web company. Werther claims there's another 70-80 companies chomping at the bit to get in and use it. Once when he showed the stuff off, he got a standing ovation, a unique experience in his career. Nonetheless, the company's being methodical. The beta will be gradually expanded. And the widgetry should go GA round about February, upsetting folks like IBM and Oracle with its new take on taxonomy.

It will be licensed on a per-server basis and can be deployed on-premise in an enterprise data center or in the cloud.

Unlike other BI software, Platfora won't be priced by the number of users. Data analysts as well as business users across organizations will be able to access and interact with their data. The company's got this crazy democratizing idea about putting the data in the hands of people who need it most without complex and rigid foreplay.

Pre-Platfora, Hadoop's annual growth rate was expected to be more than 60% year-over-year according to IDC.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at) or paperboy(at), and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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