Is Cloudera the Next Oracle? CEO Mike Olson Hopes So

11/4/10

Cloud computing is expected to commoditize entire sectors of the IT industry over the next few years, and to create entirely new classes of big companies as well.

One of those big companies will be Cloudera, says Mike Olson, the firm’s CEO. Or at least he hopes it will be Cloudera, a Palo Alto, CA-based startup that Olson, a database expert, is modeling after Oracle. The two-year-old startup raised $25 million last week in a Series C round led by Meritech Capital Partners.

“For 22 years, I watched Oracle,” Olson said in an interview this week. “I competed against Larry Ellison for a bunch of years before I finally sold him a company [Sleepycat Software, an open source embedded database engine] in 2006. What Oracle did in the ‘80s and what it’s done since—that lesson is not lost on me. I think Cloudera can be every bit as transformative.”

Cloudera sells tools and consulting services so that what Olson calls “ordinary IT staffs”––people who are trained in computing but don’t have PhDs in computer science-–-can run Hadoop, an open source implementation of a platform that Google built around 2004 to store and analyze the enormous amounts of data it was generating from its search indexes and logs.

Although he didn’t realize it at first, Google was solving a problem that had never been solved before, Olson says, because the problem hadn’t existed: large-scale analysis of data, which Google engineers figured out how to distribute over a large network of standard computers instead of loading it all onto one big machine.

Google’s system didn’t interest him much at first––it was missing a lot of the transaction processing features of high-end relational databases, he thought, and most of the database industry ignored it. But after he’d worked at Oracle for a couple of years, Olson says he realized that relational databases-–-which link data by common characteristics, breaking the hierarchical tree structure for data used by mainframes—weren’t built to solve the problems that Google was trying to solve.

Furthermore, he says, he saw that “Web properties weren’t any different from ordinary enterprises. We were five years early, but everybody––banks, insurance companies––would have this same data problem. Data was so big and so common, and it was growing so quickly, that these techniques would need to move into the enterprise.”

Olson co-founded Cloudera two years ago, in October 2008, along with Jeff Hammerbacher, who’d worked with Hadoop at Facebook, and Amr Awadallah, who’d worked with the software at … Next Page »

Deborah Gage is a technology writer based in the Bay Area. Follow @

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  • Anne

    Are Individual investors of interest?