Who's making money from big data?

Research firm Wikibon finds IBM, Intel rake in most big data dollars today, but innovating upstarts will shape market's future

If the big data market exists, it's worth more than $5 billion today, according to research company Wikibon, and it's controlled primarily by leading IT heavyweights. When those enterprises' investments are coupled with ongoing innovation from dozens of up-and-comers, that figure will hit $10.2 billion by 2013 and pass $53 billion by 2017.

Or maybe not. Wikibon's calculations need to be taken with a grain or two of salt, as the company itself readily acknowledges. As it stands, there isn't a big data market per se. Rather, there are dozens of companies offering hardware, software, and services that loosely fall under the general big data umbrella -- that is, products and services for processing and analyzing sets of data that are too large for traditional database tools and technologies to handle. Big data applications can range anywhere from collecting unstructured social networking data to gauge consumer trends to advancing scientific research in medicine or climate change to predicting the accuracy of flight delays to improving computer security.

Wikibon's assessment reveals that big-name vendors like IBM, Intel, HP, and Oracle have staked a claim in the burgeoning big data space, thanks in part to their deep roots in the enterprise and in part by scooping up pure-play big data upstarts in recent months. Still, independent upstarts like Cloudera and 1010data are making inroads, delivering much-needed innovation to the space. Forty-four percent of the total $5 billion in big data revenue comes from services offerings, whereas 31 percent comes from hardware sales and 25 percent from software.

Wikibon found that IBM owns the biggest share of big data revenue at just over $1 billion. Intel's big data revenue is $765 million, while HP has the third-highest amount with $550 million. Those figures represent, at most, around 1 percent of the respective companies' total revenue. Teradata sits in the fifth spot with big data totaling $220 million, which represents 10 percent of its total revenue.

Wikibon also highlighted what it dubbed pure-play big data companies -- those making 50 percent of more of their revenue selling big data products and services. Notably, three of the top four have all been recently acquired: Vertica, whose big data revenue totals $84 million, is a subsidiary of HP. Aster Data, which raked in $52 million in big data, was bought by Teradata last March. Greenplum made $43 million in big data money and is now owned by EMC.

Other leaders among the big data pure players, according to Wikibon, include Splunk, which earned $45 million of its $63 million in revenue from big data. Cloudera (now partnered with Oracle on a Hadoop appliance) raked in $18 million entirely from big data. 1010Data, meanwhile, derived half of its $30 million in revenue from big data endeavors. Rounding out the list of pure players are Think Big Analytics with $8 million in revenue, MapR with $7 million, and Digital Reasoning with $6 million.

Wikibon credited the more petite pure players out there for fueling much of the big data innovation and cautioned hungry IT heavyweights from gobbling up these smaller fish too quickly. "Acquiring vendors would be wise to allow current big data pure-plays to continue operating and, more importantly, innovating as largely independent entities, or risk stifling the very innovation that is fueling the big data market's tremendous growth," wrote Jeff Kelly, principal research contributor at Wikibon.

That list of influential pure players is expansive, touching on various areas of the broad big data space. Cloudera and Hortonworks, for example, "are responsible for the majority of contributions to the Apache Hadoop project that are significantly improving the open source big data framework's performance capabilities and enterprise-readiness," noted Kelly.

Meanwhile, companies like Splunk, HPCC Systems, and DataStax have honed promising non-Hadoop big data platforms.

Vertica, Greenplum, and Aster Data (again, all of which have been acquired) deserve credit for giving the data-warehousing market a jolt with "massively parallel, columnar analytic Databases that deliver lightening fast Data loading and real-time analytic capabilities," Kelly wrote.

Young companies including ClickFox, Tresata, and 1010Data have made viable "big data as a service" -- cloud-based offerings that let small and medium-sized business take advantage of big data.

This story, "Who's making money from big data?," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.