Having recently completed the 2023 Data Platforms Value Index, I want to share some of my observations about how the market is evolving. Although this is our inaugural assessment of the market for data platforms, the sector is mature and products from many of the vendors we assess can be used to effectively support operational and analytic use cases.
Our Value Index for Data Platforms represents technology vendors and products that provide both analytic and operational data platform capabilities. It is designed to provide a holistic view of a vendor’s ability to serve a combination of both operational and analytic workloads with either a single data platform product or set of data platform products.
It is an interesting time to evaluate the state of the market, however, as vendors evolve products in response to changing customer demands related to infrastructure and application requirements. Vendor strategies continue to be shaped by the shift to cloud computing. All vendors make products available for deployment on the various cloud platforms, but there is significant variation among vendors in cloud strategies. The more advanced have re-architected data platforms to be cloud-native, but while some data platforms are only available in public cloud (and sometimes only one public cloud), others support availability across multiple public clouds as well as on-premises private cloud and hybrid environments. Almost one-half (49%) of participants in Ventana Research’s Analytics and Data Benchmark Research are currently using cloud computing for analytics and data, of which 42% are using more than one cloud provider. Adoption of cloud computing environments has led to the increasing adoption of object stores as the underlying data persistence layer for data platforms, with separate cloud products and services providing the data management, processing and query functionality.
Data platforms are also increasingly available as managed services that are supported and maintained by the vendor, removing a level of administrative burden from users, with automated management and monitoring delivered using artificial intelligence and machine learning. There remain significant differences in the level of automation and intelligence delivered by data platform providers today. Much of the intelligence delivered by data platform providers to date has focused on automating mundane administrative functionality, in keeping with the fact that database administrators have traditionally been the primary users of data platform products. However, data platforms increasingly also provide capabilities targeted at employees in multiple roles. There are some specific roles that we evaluated as part of the Value Index that are becoming increasingly important, including developers, data engineers and data architects.
Engaging with developers is particularly important as we believe that the industry is on the brink of significant change. I assert that through 2026, emerging relational and non-relational database providers will primarily be adopted for new applications, with incumbent relational database vendors deployed for the majority of existing operational workloads. The Data Platforms Value Index evaluated vendors’ ability to facilitate adoption and build community engagement through the use of serverless options, flexible licensing, self-service, development language support and the availability of open-source utilities as well as code libraries, scripts and tutorials.
While there remain functional differences between data platform vendors in terms of execution, it is our observation that all data platforms — including traditional incumbents and providers of new and emerging databases — offer functionality that would address the majority of core data platform requirements. It is in addressing the remaining requirements that the greatest disparity between data platform functionality lies. Given that the data platforms sector is highly competitive, it is understandable that vendors therefore emphasize the differentiating functionality that addresses specific use cases and data platform requirements. However, our research also highlights another area in which data platform vendors can stand apart from the rest: in demonstrating the ability to deliver business value and return on investment as well as a desire to work with potential customers to identify value and develop a business case that will help justify an investment.
This is an area in which there is a significant gap between established vendors and new and emerging providers, and one that presents opportunities for new players to compete more effectively. Examples of resources that could help close this gap include:
- Articulation of the potential business value of differentiating capabilities.
- Information and assistance in developing a business case to justify investment.
- Pricing calculators, particularly in relation to cloud services with complex cost variables.
- Total cost of ownership and return on investment models that address broader saving and benefits beyond pure cost.
Many new and emerging vendors are beginning to address these needs. However, even though vendors have some capabilities, few are promoting them widely. Given the relative parity of data platforms in terms of core functionality, it is incumbent on new and emerging vendors to highlight not just differentiating capabilities, but also assist prospective customers in understanding the potential costs, benefits and overall business value of those differentiating capabilities. Developing resources that address these needs will help customers formulate the business case to driver further adoption and demonstrate the decreasing maturity gap between established vendors and new and emerging providers.
The results of our analysis are reported in our 2023 Data Platforms Value Index. We encourage you to review the results and consider how each of these vendors can support the needs of your organization.