Impartial Advice?

HP continues with its plans for the business intelligence space with an announcement of in-house data warehouse technology:

with a new business unit. The offering with be based around HP’s attempt at a “data warehouse appliance”, called Neoview. This is a competitor to Teradata and Netezza, but at this stage it is hard to tell how functional this is, since it is unclear that there are any deployed customers other than HP itself.

The timing of this announcement is curious given HP’s acquisition of data warehouse consultancy Knightsbridge. Certainly data warehousing is a big market and Teradata is a tempting target – after all, most of the really big data warehouse deployments in retail, telco and retail banking use Teradata. There are lots and lots of juicy services to be provided in implementing an “appliance”, which in fact is no such thing. An appliance implies something that you just plug in, whereas data warehouse appliances are just a fast piece of hardware and a proprietary database, still requiring all the usual integration efforts, but with the added twist of non-standard database technology. Certainly plenty of business for consultants there.

However HP’s home-grown offering will not sit well with its newly acquired Knightsbridge consulting services, who made their reputation through a quite fiercely vendor-independent culture which always prided itself in choosing the best solution for the customer. People trust independent consultants to give them objective advice, since they are not (or at least they hope they are not) tied to particular vendor offerings. Presumably HP’s consultants will be pushing HP’s data warehouse solution in preference to alternatives, and so can hardly be trusted as impartial observers of the market. An analogy would be with IBM consultants, who while they may work with non-IBM software are clearly going to push IBM’s offerings given half a chance.

If you were a truly independent consultant how would you react to a brand new data warehouse appliance with a track record only of one deployment, and that in the vendor itself? Would you immediately be pushing that as your preferred solution, or would you be counseling caution, urging customers to wait and see how the new tool settles down in the market and how early customers get on with it? If you are a Knightsbridge consultant now working for HP, what would your advice be? Would it be any different to the advice you’d have offered in December 2006 before you became part of HP?

This kind of conflict of interest is what makes thing difficult for customers when choosing consultants. It is hard to find ones who are truly independent. Of course consultants always have their own agenda, but usually this is about maximising billable hours. If they are tied to a particular solution then that is fine if you are already committed to that solution, but you will need to look elsewhere for objective advice about it.

2 thoughts on “Impartial Advice?”

  1. Thanks Chris. I just love product marketing departments, who seem to rejoice in producing, as you say “content free” material. Your final comment reminded me of an unrelated story that I always enjoyed.

    A young (later Lord) Denning reputedly once was in a complex civil case and having trouble explaining some technical point of a law to an elderly judge. The befuddled judge said: “Mr Denning, after that explanation of yours I am none the wiser”. An exasperated Denning replied: “No indeed my lord; merely better informed.”

    In this case it seems that HP’s collateral achieved neither result.

  2. Reading your piece on Neoview aroused my curiosity sufficiently to try and find out more. A look at HP’s web pages Neoview did little to satisfy my curiosity – I think that they rank as close to information free.

    The one case study makes no mention of Neoview, so presumably it didn’t play a part and the ‘Platform components’ tab says nothing about components. Follow the link from that page to ‘HP Neoview Services’ thinking “maybe this is where they describe the software services that
    underpin the platform” and you find out that these services are what HP people need do to make the platform (whatever that might be) do what you need – presumably if you needs change then HP are called in again.

    Just to make it seem more real there are further links to ‘Customer successes’. These successes may indeed be very real, but seem to have little connection to data warehousing – and make no mention of Neoview.

    So, after my visit I am no wiser as to whether or not ‘Neoview’ really exists or what form it might take.

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