Suddenly but not surprisingly, EMC has jumped headlong into the data warehousing (DW) market via strategic acquisition. Now that the deal is in the works, it’s clear that EMC perceived a “low-hanging plum” in one of its established DW partners, and simply made the right offer at the right time.

The EMC/Greenplum deal signals that the DW market is probably moving into a new round of consolidations. Just as Oracle acquired Sun in part to offer fully one-stop integrated DW appliances (i.e., Oracle Exadata over Oracle Sun hardware), EMC comes from the other end of the telescope: acquiring a DW software vendor to layer on top of its hardware and possibly leverage its other software technologies at a later date. In this way, EMC now becomes one of the few DW appliance vendors that can provide a reasonably full stack of hardware and software from its own portfolio.

When I say “reasonably full” in this context, I’m referring to the hardware (EMC is storage, but will still rely on third-parties to provide the server and interconnects), database (Greenplum has extended/customized BizGreSQL), query planning/optimization, data-loading, and workload management (Greenplum has built its own technology in those three areas). In this regard, EMC/Greenplum will be one of several “integrated one-stop hardware/software stack” DW appliance vendors on the market: IBM, Oracle/Sun, and HP are others. Interestingly, all of these vendors also supply hardware to rival “hardware-less” DW appliance vendors, and it’s likely that EMC/Greenplum, like these companies, will offer its own optimized DW-appliance stack while offering an equivalent degree of hardware optimization for partners.

For EMC, this deal puts this major IT vendor on a new footing in the DW market. No longer will EMC simply be a provider of storage systems for customer deployments and a provider of storage systems pre-integrated with partner DW appliances (e.g., those from Microsoft, Oracle, ParAccel, and Greenplum). EMC will also be the provider of fuller integrated DW appliance and cloud/virtualization solutions, incorporating Greenplum’s shared-nothing massively parallel processing grid architecture; leveraging Greenplum’s analytic database, query planning/optimization, data loading, workload management, advanced analytics libraries, and other platform  software; and integrated with EMC hardware (and potentially with a broader range of solutions in EMC’s deep information management and virtualization product portfolio).

Clearly, EMC’s cloud offerings and Greenplum’s “enterprise data cloud” push are closely aligned; in fact, that strategic alignment probably explains why EMC made Greenplum an offer.

For Greenplum, the deal signifies that it is rapidly moving into the top tier of enterprise DW platform vendors. Greenplum has achieved considerable customer adoption momentum in the past few years, as have other DW pure-plays such as Netezza (which has around three times as many customers), Vertica (which has slightly more customers than Greenplum), Aster Data (which has maybe one-half to one-third of Greenplum or Vertica’s customer counts), and ParAccel (which has slightly fewer customers than Aster Data).

The key near-term significance of the acquisition is that EMC will likely invest considerable resources expanding Greenplum’s R&D, sales, marketing, service and support, and partner ecosystem. The likely long-term consequence is that Greenplum will continue to innovate in R&D across the wide range of approaches—including massive parallelism, solid-state-drive integration, in-memory deployment, in-database analytics, hardware acceleration, intelligent persistence, fast loading, elastic self-service mart provisioning, and efficient compression—where they have distinguished their offerings.

For their respective customers, the deal brings a significant new group of products and technologies to EMC’s broad portfolio, benefiting its global customer base. Greenplum customers have nothing to worry about, as EMC is extremely likely to protect and evolve their investments as well as provide its full global service and support resources and extensive partner, ISV, and professional services ecosystem. Though EMC and Greenplum will not provide details of their joint roadmap until the deal closes, EMC has indicated plans to set up Greenplum as an ongoing brand within its new Data Computing Division.

This new division, in addition to continuing and deepening Greenplum’s existing directions (such as Enterprise Data Cloud) is likely to focus on Greenplum synergies with other EMC products/technologies. Customers are likely to see ongoing integration between Greenplum and EMC’s extensive portfolio of hardware, software, virtualization, and information management brands, especially CLARiiON (networked storage), VPLEX (virtual storage), Control Center (provisioning complex environments) VMWare (virtualization), Atmos (cloud services), Avamar (secure backup and recovery), Captiva (content capture and processing), Centera (secure enterprise-wide information archive), Infra (IT service management), and Documentum (enterprise content management).

In addition, EMC will probably converge Greenplum’s small but fast growing partner community into its own ecosystem over the coming year. Also, this acquisition very possibly sets the stage for further, complementary EMC acquisitions in analytics segments such as BI, ETL, MDM, predictive modeling, data mining, and text analytics. One distinct possibility is acquisition of a specialized vendor of Hadoop tools  to supplement Greenplum’s strong MapReduce capability.

All in all, this is an exciting development. Who says important mergers and acquisitions must wait till everybody’s back from summer vacation?