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It’s kind of ironic that Teradata (NYSE:TDC), which actually invented the big data, data warehouse is being grilled about its big data strategy. Hold that thought.

The crux of the first day of Teradata’s Third Party Influencers conference, a kind of Vegas summer camp for selected partners and analysts, was about how Teradata is expanding its footprint as it competes as an independent in an avenue of giants.

As part of the tour, we were given a nostalgic glimpse at a 1998 – 99 vintage slide showing Teradata’s definition of an Enterprise Data Warehouse; it’s the definition of the classic galactic enterprise storehouse that never really became the single repository of all things analytic over the years. But for organizations like Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) or eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY), it provides the core research for the big analytic problems that such businesses require.

Teradata has recalibrated this vision to an “Integrated Data Warehouse” which is a more realistic notion in a world that has become so interconnected to the point where it’s ridiculous to think that you can centralize wisdom in a single place. Instead, the idea is to think beyond single purpose data warehouses, not necessarily to consolidate every departmental data mart in sight, but to put together places where you might have several intersecting fonts of wisdom. For instance, in a consumer products company, you might want to stage a warehouse that covers customer and product data, because there are going to be synergies when you start doing analytics to segment your customer base, because product preferences may provide some richness to the demographics.

In the past year, Teradata has done a couple of acquisitions that could reshape its course going forward. Acquisition of Aprimo, an integrated marketing campaign management provider that competes with IBM’s recently-acquired Unica places Teradata into the applications space, although – like IBM – it still positions itself as not being in the applications business. Sure, Aprimo provides Teradata with a chance to sell an additional product to consumer product companies, but today’s session provided little insight as to the long-term synergies that it will provide to the mother ship.

As to the applications issue, well, that’s a natural issue that any vendor in the middle or data tiers has got to confront because: (1) the enterprise software market continues to consolidate, and vendors can’t stand still when it comes to growing their footprint and (2) the natural direction to embed more logic in the middle or data tiers will thrust otherwise agnostic software vendors into the apps space whether they consciously intend to get there or not.

In Teradata’s case, it’s been gradually heading this direction for years with its vertical industry data models, so at some point, as the company strives to aim higher up the value chain, it has to add more logic that could be construed as applications. Same thing for IBM with its vertical industry oriented middleware frameworks.

But ironically what drew the spotlight was the plan for Teradata and its other acquisition, Aster Data. Ironic because it wasn’t even on the official program today — Tasso Argyros, who co-founded Aster Data, won’t be speaking until tomorrow. It prompted questions from the peanut gallery as to how Teradata was going to get into the big data market, which prompted Teradata to throw out the challenge to those of us cynical questioners as to how would we define big data. “I hate [the term] big data,” stated Randy Lea, VP of product marketing and management, as the term has become one of those buzzwords that means all things to all people.

The irony of course is that Teradata’s heritage was having a platform that could house bigger data warehouses; it essentially invented the original Big Data market 30 years ago, when Big Data was measured in megabytes. But there is a different vibe to big data today, not only in volume, but the variety of forms – and some say, the velocity at which it comes in. We’d also add, it also has a different vibe when it comes to governance, whether that means archiving or dealing with privacy and confidentiality over data that was theoretically made public in a social network, but not necessarily in the context of a marketing database maintained by a third party.

Although parts of the briefing veered into non-disclosure territory, we still left the day with confirmation of our existing belief that in the long run there will be convergence of traditional SQL data warehouse platforms with the new Advanced SQL technologies associated with MapReduce and other capabilities that allow them to process ridiculous amounts of data, fast. We also believe that there will not only be convergence between SQL and MapReduce (already happening and public with many vendors), but also with the principles of NoSQL data stores. From that standpoint, it was quite interesting that almost every third question from the audience was in some way related to, what will Teradata do with Aster Data?

Disclosure: No positions

Disclaimer: Author is an analyst with Ovum; the opinion stated does not necessarily reflect that of Ovum.