Dissecting an analyst report about cloud data warehouses

This blogpost discusses the latest Forrester report on cloud data warehouse systems and suppliers. Reports written by respected analysts such as Forrester always contain valuable information. Nevertheless it is advisable to read such an analyst report with a critical eye. Weighing individual dimensions is no exact science and results can sometimes change dramatically if you apply some common sense.

Forrester published a new report in Q1 2021 wherein they compare various “Cloud Data Warehouse” offerings. You can download the report hereA picture tells a thousand words so I immediately went to page 3 of the report to get a feeling about the findings.

Forrester summarises the supplier ranking in this matrix. Please download the original report using the included link above for more details.

My quick take was that Google was the best player with AWS & Microsoft as second best followed by Oracle and Snowflake. Seeing Oracle and Snowflake ranked similarly in data warehousing caused some cognitive dissonance in me; has Oracle transformed itself overnight / what did I miss? I therefore decided to dig into the details of the report. 

The chart uses two axes. The vertical axis represents the strength of the current offering and the horizontal one the strength of the strategy. The two axes carry equal weight; this is communicated visually by drawing concentric circles across the matrix.

If I look at this report with my CIO hat on, the two high level dimensions of key interest are: strength of the offering and TCO. The report provides no quantitative information regarding costs when comparing offerings and cost is not included in either of the two dimensions in the matrix. There is a third dimension which is market presence that is depicted by the size of each circle; this dimension also contains no information regarding TCO. 

Strategy (the horizontal axis) is a nebulous concept. When I cofounded a software startup in 2001, we were the best in the market in Strategy before we wrote a single line of code. You see I came from management consulting and powerpoint slides full of brilliant strategy, roadmaps and vision were oozing out of every orifice in my body. Sadly for me, it took us quite a few years to get a solid working platform. Strategy is easy compared to operations.

I have been a CIO for many years and out of experience with Microsoft offerings I must admit I am jaded with the company’s offerings. Its engineering is mediocre at best. A company with immense resources at its disposal is structurally unable to build well-functioning and performant sync software (OneDrive), a fast mail client (Outlook) or a highly available identity solution (AzureAD). Nevertheless analysts keep awarding them top marks in strategy.

Let me put it another way: if Snowflake and AWS receive higher marks than Microsoft for their current offerings but lower marks for strategy, how come and they have a stronger offering today? Were they lucky or have they just decided to slow down in the coming years?

My conclusion from this analysis is that the pertinent ranking information provided in the report is the vertical axis (strength of current offering). I would therefore summarise the ranking as follows:

AWS, Google and Snowflake being the strongest offerings with Microsoft sharing 6th place with Alibaba. I also suspect that once TCO figures are added, Microsoft and Oracle will fall further down the rankings.

Do you need any support in making sense of the current cloud offerings? Get in touch and sent us a message.

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