THE AWAKENING OF THE SLEEPING GIANT
Teradata recognized as one of the world's most proven and powerful databases for data warehousing.
By VAL SCHAUER
Sep 30 - Oct 06, 2002
Once upon a time, in 1884, John H. Patterson founded the National Cash Register Company, producer of the first mechanical cash register. The company evolved through research, inventions and acquisitions and over time became known not only for its registers, but also its retail POS systems, scanners and ATMs. With its increased scope, the company changed its name to NCR Corporation. There came a time when executives of the company were pleased with the nearly every aspect of operation with perhaps the exception of its lesser-known computer business. So, in 1992 NCR purchased a sleeping giant called Teradata Corporation, acquiring its advanced and unique commercial parallel processing technology. However, it would still be some time before Teradata received proper recognition and became recognized as one of the world's most proven and powerful databases for data warehousing.
The acquisition of Teradata Corporation was made with relatively little fanfare, explains Mark Hurd, COO of Teradata, a division of NCR, and president of NCR. However, Teradata was destined for greatness. Teradata unobtrusively existed as a business unit of NCR for a number of years until Hurd was appointed to the leadership of Teradata in 1999. In July of 2000, NCR created two operating divisions within the company, placing all data warehousing and analytical solutions under the Teradata Division, of which Hurd was appointed COO. Early in 2001, they pushed the emphasis further by implementing a new branding approach for this business, thus awakening the sleeping giant. Recognition of the Teradata database with its patented parallel architecture was fuelled by the creation and association of the Teradata Division, and increased adoption of the product ensued. Customers, including thirty per cent of the Fortune 500, now use Teradata to make better, faster, more profitable business decisions by using data to uncover new opportunities for growth, efficiency and improved customer relationships.
Notes Hurd, "The Teradata database is the foundation of the world's most successful data warehouses. With hundreds of installations, it supports customer warehouses of less than 10GB through mega-sized warehouses with tens of terabytes and thousands of users. The inherent parallelism of the Teradata database contributes not only to its industry-leading benchmark performance, but also to its low cost of ownership. Additionally, its patented parallel architecture allows Teradata customers to easily handle the extreme processing requirements of advanced data warehousing."
The Teradata warehouse brings together all of a company's data into a single repository for a completely integrated, 360-degree view of the business. It combines Teradata's high-performance parallel database technology, a full suite of data access and management tools, robust data mining capabilities and world-class scalable hardware while maintaining full parallelism without limitation in terms of anticipated volume. Additionally, Teradata offers world-class, leading-edge business and analytic solutions in e-business and CRM as well as industry solutions for retail, manufacturing, travel, communications, finance, insurance and government.
Teradata's solutions have earned numerous prestigious industry awards, including a 2001 DM Review World Class Solution Award for Business Intelligence with The Coca-Cola Company, DM Review Readership Awards in both the CRM and Data Acquisition and Integration categories in 2001, and a sixth place ranking in the 2001 DM Review 100. This year, Teradata customers also received eight of The Data Warehousing Institute's 15 Best Practices Awards. However, Teradata's current stature cannot be explained by the rebranding alone. It took a certain amount of foresight to really put into perspective the notion that the hardware side of NCR was being commoditized and that services and software were really key.
Hurd explains that the catalyst for the focus on Teradata was a result of an acquisition. "The acquisition of NCR by AT&T in 1990 was really a takeover, and it was huge," begins Hurd. "AT&T had a lot of ideas about what NCR could do and could be which really spread the company very thin. NCR had acquired Teradata and was also driving and taking an aggressive position in the PC marketplace. It was trying to build a midrange server capability. It had a proprietary product line based on proprietary operating systems. The company was just trying to cover way too many bases."
"By 1995, about four years into the AT&T acquisition, the company was losing too much money for anyone to ignore. Then, in September of 1995, AT&T announced it would separate into three independent companies AT&T, Lucent and NCR by the end of the following year. It was clear that we could not survive long-term as a commodity hardware provider. That's when CEO Lars Nyberg made the tough decision to get out of the PC business. He focused the company on a few things. Teradata was one of those. It was the hidden gem," continues Hurd. "NCR's tough decisions and desire to claim stake in the world of data warehousing combined with the global explosion of data led the company's leadership to discover what they really had in Teradata and contributed to the formation of Teradata, a division of NCR."
The legend of Teradata was born in part because the timing of the new focus on data warehousing was superb as it coincided with a veritable explosion of data — data that was begging to be managed by Teradata's enterprise data warehouses. This space was underserved in terms of companies that could capably deliver robust and reliable technology solutions.
The problem companies are facing now is silos of data. Many customers still don't have their data consolidated — and, according to Hurd, that's a huge mistake. "In most cases," explains Hurd, "I actually don't think it's a strategic decision to create silos of data. It's a decision that's actually absent of strategy — it's something that just happens. Data marts are easy. They fall below the radar screen and they give some short-term, quick return. However, they become a problem because disparate silos not only give you isolated views, but actually give multiple views of the same original data set. It's evident that the CEOs are underserved. We have CEOs in the market today who have plunked down millions and millions of dollars on the latest IT tricks and they're still saying that they don't have any meaningful analytic information about their businesses. Coming into this job, I clearly underestimated the number of silos of information that exist all over the world."
Hurd notes that information is tied up in leadership, process and technology. "Leadership at the CEO level needs to drive enterprise initiatives. The CEO must put the leadership in place to say the information is important. If he doesn't, data marts and silos of information will be proliferated which works contrary to enterprise information sharing." Hurd argues, "The only way you win is through superior service; and the only way you get to superior service is through accessible, meaningful, real-time information. Information is a differentiator. CEOs must be able to look into their businesses; and while they may be looking at summary trends, they need to be able to look at these trends across the entire company and know they're based on details."
Indeed, Hurd believes the consequences of not having an enterprise data warehouse can be devastating. He cites a number of once well-respected companies now embattled in accounting scandals as examples of companies that could have benefited from an enterprise warehouse solution. "Once you lay the foundation, the opportunities for breakthroughs are huge because you have everyone from the supply chain manager to the CMO and the CEO operating off of one set of data. When you get that right, great things happen to you. You can activate data and get it in near real time. You're operating off the truth. You get headlights into the business — the ability to get a complete enterprise view of the information," explains Hurd.
"We're looking to help businesses take their data, define their enterprise data model, activate the data, turn it into information and get it into the hands of the masses that can start to use it when it counts. I really believe we have a chance to revolutionize how we do business and upgrade the entire information environment," states Hurd.
The business is still evolving, and there are many opportunities awaiting Hurd's division. He admits that there are many people encouraging him to raise his hand and claim victory because he turned a commodity business that wasn't making money into a successful business that is an important piece of the curve in terms of helping customers solve problems. Hurd, however, will not do this. "Many have contributed to our current success. It started with Lars' strategic decision to exit the PC business and 'bet the farm' on Teradata. I know our business has tremendous opportunity, and I focus on the opportunity in front of us as opposed to what we've already accomplished. Solving business problems reliably and earning the position of being a trusted ally to get that accomplished is a great position in the marketplace," says Hurd.
"There are plenty who wonder why we don't just send a press release explaining that our mission is accomplished — we've increased market share, become profitable and helped hundreds of customers. In short, just claim victory and fade off into the sunset." While this would make a neat ending for a fairy tale of a sleeping giant, expect even greater achievements from Teradata to bring true business intelligence to its customers. As Hurd says, "We're certainly not stopping here. In fact, we've only just begun..."
(Val Schauer is an editor of DM Review magazine. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)