Big data is hot, but infrastructure-level platforms such as Hadoop, which focus on storage and processing, still need help to take them into the mainstream. They need a killer app or two that will let companies analyze, visualize and act on all that data without hiring a team of Stanford Ph.Ds, or that will let developers write big-data apps without having to reinvent the wheel.

Here are five startups (in alphabetical order) either in stealth mode or just out of it that could help take Hadoop and its ilk to the promised land.

1. BloomReach

The stealth-mode BloomReach is taking a very targeted, very hands-free approach to big data for its customers. It’s offering a SaaS-based product that job listings say is for “helping leading online businesses uncover the highest quality, most relevant content sought by their consumers, when and where they want it.” Founded by a team with roots at Google, Cisco, Facebook and Yahoo, among other companies, BloomReach has, according to one estimate, about 160 customers — all of them among the top 10,000 websites, and most of them in the retail space. Among its core technologies and methods are Hadoop, Lucene, Monte Carlo simulations and large-scale image processing.

2. Continuuity

Continuuity, the just-launched stealth-mode startup by former Yahoo VP and chief cloud architect Todd Papaioannou, wants to make it easier to build applications that can leverage both cloud computing and big data technologies. As Papaioannou told me recently, most developers shouldn’t have to go through what Yahoo, Facebook and others did in order to write large-scale, data-driven applications. He also said “the data fabric is the next middleware” and noted that the company name is a play on “continuum.” You figure out what it’s up to.

3. Odiago

Odiago is the brainchild of Hadoop and analytics experts Christophe Bisciglia and Aaron Kimball, and aims to improve the state of web analytics. Its first product, Wibidata, which is in private beta, lets websites better analyze their user data to build more-targeted features. It’s built atop Hadoop and HBase, but also plugs into companies’ existing data-management and BI tools. Current customers include Wikipedia, RichRelevance, FoneDoktor and Atlassian (with whom it shares office space).

4. Platfora

Platfora, which launched in September with $5.7 million in funding, wants to make big data analytics accessible to the masses. Founder and CEO Ben Werther, formerly of Greenplum and NoSQL startup DataStax, told me when Platfora launched that its intuitive, visually stunning interface will make Hadoop-based analytics so easy even a history major could use it. Platfora’s product isn’t available yet, but the company is currently hiring, with an emphasis on frontend and user-experience skills.

5. SkyTree

Skytree is probably the stealthiest of the group, but it’s also is one of the more ambitious — because it’s trying to bring high-performance machine learning to mainstream companies. Machine learning is an impressive technique in which the system itself gets smarter as it digests more data, but it usually doesn’t find its way out of research environments or cutting-edge analytics teams. Skytree is putting together an impressive team, including co-founder Alexander Gray, who also teaches machine learning at Georgia Tech and spent six years at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The company will officially launch later this quarter.


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