HP Is Losing Some Rock Star Big Data Engineers

Andrew Lamb, former HP Vertica engineer, is now with startup Nutonian

HP wants to establish itself as a leader in big data, a technology that quickly crunches through massive amounts of business data.

But HP has lost several highly regarded engineers to big data startups over the past year, particularly from Vertica, the Cambridge, Mass.-based in-memory database startup HP acquired in March 2011 for $350 million.

HP lost two of Vertica’s top engineers and a VP last month. 

So far, about half of the 127 Vertica employees that joined HP in the acquisition have left, according to one former employee.

The latest is Andrew Lamb, a former IBM and Oracle engineer who joined Vertica in 2007. He left to become chief architect at Cambridge-based big data startup Nutonian. At Vertica, Lamb was responsible for query optimization, which lets databases run quickly and efficiently.

Min Xiao, who joined Vertica as a sales engineer in 2006 and worked his way up to director of corporate pre-sales and professional services, is now field engineering lead at Data Tamer, a Cambridge-based startup founded last year by MIT professor Dr. Michael Stonebraker and seed investor Andy Palmer.

Stonebraker and Palmer co-founded Vertica in 2005 and have worked together on a number of other startups, including VoltDB and CloudSwitch. 

Ari Daskalakis, Vertica’s VP of pre-sales and professional services, also left HP last month, two sources told Business Insider. It’s unclear where he ended up. His LinkedIn profile doesn’t yet say and HP didn’t respond to a request for clarification.

Competition for big data talent is fierce, especially in the Boston region, so it’s not exactly shocking that talented engineers are leaving now, about two years after the acquisition. That’s when their so-called “golden-handcuffs” come off.

So this exodus isn’t an indication of problems in the Vertica unit, one source said.

“HP Vertica is stable, and here to stay,” the source said. “The key [people] are slowly being replaced with the kind of people who will stick [around] for the longer haul.”

Still, it’s not great for HP either.

Vertica’s in-memory database lets organisations process large amounts of data very quickly. It’s a highly regarded technology, and HP CEO Meg Whitman talks about it as a potential game changer. Autonomy and HP’s growing SAP HANA business are also part of HP’s big data portfolio.

HP is responding with some poaching of its own. In March HP hired Jim Finnerty from IBM’s Netezza unit, where he’d been since 2011. Finnerty is now senior technology manager of advanced database optimization at HP, filling the role vacated by Lamb.

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