Actian buys Amazon database partner ParAccel

Database vendor Actian has acquired ParAccel, a scale-out, analytic database company whose technology underpins part of the Amazon Web Services Redshift data warehouse service. Terms of the deal are undisclosed.

For Actian, the deal means it has a big data offering to round out its current suite of database product that include the Ingres relational database, the Versant object database and the Vectorwise analytic database. Vectorwise is a single-server product best suited for data volumes between 1 and 50 terabytes, CEO Steve Shine told me, but ParAccel is a true big data technology designed to scale across many machines and potentially petabytes of data.

ParAccel has a litany list of big customers, as well as some major license deals for its massively parallel database technology. The most impressive is probably AWS, which uses ParAccel to power the analytic capabilities of its cloud-based Redshift data warehouse service. Amazon actually led a sizeable investment round in ParAccel that closed in July 2011. (I’ve seen it estimated between $15 million and $20 million.)

Actian is a relatively quiet company given its roughly $150 million in annual revenue — mostly outside the United States — but it could get a lot more attention soon. This is its fourth acquisition in the past five months, with the most recent being data integration and big data analytics specialist Pervasive Software, a deal that closed earlier in April. Now, Shine explained, it has database products to cover numerous use cases, as well as the tools to ensure quality control and merge data from many sources. Actian closed its acquisition of Versant in December.

The company also has a Hadoop story now. Pervasive’s DataRush platform can run on top of Hadoop and churn through lots of data MapReduce-style, but, it claims, much faster. ParAccel also integrates with Hadoop, meaning users can move data from Hadoop to ParAccel for faster, deeper analysis than MapReduce enables.

One has to assume ParAccel didn’t come cheap for Actian.¬†ParAccel has raised, I believe, $93 million in venture capital since 2007 (it’s somewhat opaque about this information), and its competitors have sold for between $300 million (Greenplum to EMC) and $1.7 billion (Netezza to IBM) in 2010. HP also bought Vertica for an undisclosed amount in 2011.

Actian CEO Shine wouldn’t comment on the price, other than to say he expects big data will easily be the company’s biggest growth sector in terms of revenue over the next several years and that he wasn’t about to miss out on it.

“The market opportunity is enormous,” he said. “Absolutely enormous.”

I must say, though, I did not see the Actian acquisition coming. I predicted in 2011 that ParAccel would be acquired, but I expected it would happen a lot sooner and the buyer would be a much larger company.

For a little more on ParAccel, here’s an interview GigaOM did with Co-founder and CTO Barry Zane at our Structure: Data conference in 2011.