March 1, 2011

No market categorization is ever precise

I’ve been on a terminology binge recently, defining terms such as machine-generated data, analytic platform, internet request processing, and transparent sharding. So perhaps this is a good time to introduce

Monash’s Third Law of Commercial Semantics

No market categorization is ever precise.

The reasons this is true may be flippantly summarized as:

A more sedate set of reasons goes something like this.

A market category usually will have both core members and non-core. A faithful description of the core will fail to cover some outliers. But try to include the whole thing and you’re apt to be unhelpfully vague. Whichever choice you make, the categorization is imperfect. For example, my recent proposal of “Internet Request Processing” is awkward in those relatively few cases where wide-area networks are not accurately described by the term “internet.”

Market categories often merge due to deliberate product integration. This is particularly true in the software industry. For example, through the early 1980s, accounts payable, purchasing, and inventory applications were three separate things — but developers then noticed that all three should really be driven by the same vendor file or table, and it became rare to see them marketed separately.

Even absent deliberate integration, products often pick up desirable features from other categories. Examples may be found anywhere a “low-end” product adds a few “high-end” features. Others may be found in the way DBMS both old (Oracle) and new (SAP HANA) are extended in the hope they will be all things to all people.

The issues aren’t just on the vendor side; users’ technical strategy decisions may not map well to vendors’ product categories. In part, this is another version of the product integration point; users like to reduce the number of vendors they use, and hence may place exaggerated weight upon the alleged integration and completion of various product lines. Beyond that, as my consulting experiences consistently show, organizations interweave use cases in really interesting ways. Thus, user and use-case categorizations are no more accurate than product-oriented ones.

And last but not least, marketing claims are commonly exaggerated. :) Categorizations based on reality are somewhat different than those based on what vendors — or sales-driven analyst firms — claim.

Comments

31 Responses to “No market categorization is ever precise”

  1. Examples and definition of machine-generated data | DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services on March 1st, 2011 2:46 am

    [...] “machine-generated data” is ideal, please be so kind as to recall one thing  — no product category definition can ever be perfect. Categories: Data warehousing  Subscribe to our complete [...]

  2. Analytic platforms defined | DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services on March 1st, 2011 2:47 am

    [...] So what do you think? And, if you basically approve of the term, should there be an “s” in “analytic(s) platform” or not? In any case, please remember one thing  — no product category definition is ever perfect. [...]

  3. Internet Request Processing and IRP DBMS | DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services on March 1st, 2011 3:19 am

    [...] Comments will be extremely welcome. But please be so kind as to recall one thing  — no technology category definition can ever be perfect. Categories: OLTP  Subscribe to our complete [...]

  4. Transparent sharding | DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services on March 1st, 2011 3:20 am

    [...] Comments will be extremely welcome. But please be so kind as to recall one thing  — no technology category definition can ever be perfect. Categories: Parallelization  Subscribe to our complete [...]

  5. 2011 Forrester Wave for Enterprise Data Warehouse Platforms | DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services on March 3rd, 2011 3:08 am

    [...] not necessarily the best way to address the numerous use cases for analytic DBMS technology. And product category names are commonly problematic anyhow. So I don’t much mind this overloading of the EDW term. But in one respect I think the [...]

  6. Terminology: Investigative analytics | DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services on March 3rd, 2011 3:54 am

    [...] (While that definition seems pretty clean, deciding what is or isn’t an investigative analytics tool or product may be a bit murkier, in line with Monash’s Third Law of Commercial Semantics.) [...]

  7. The three principal kinds of analytic business benefit | DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services on March 10th, 2011 2:26 am

    [...] Finally, there are some examples of analytic pattern detection that don’t fit my trichotomy very well, especially in the areas of financial services (algorithmic trading) and research science. Well, as I’ve noted before — no categorization is ever perfect. [...]

  8. Short-request and analytic processing | DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services on March 30th, 2011 1:59 am

    [...] processing have turned out to be imperfect, as per discussion at each of those links. But then, no category name is ever perfect anyway. I’ve finally settled on short request processing, largely because I think it does a [...]

  9. Terminology: poly-structured data, databases, and DBMS | DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services on May 17th, 2011 8:17 am

    [...] And as always, no technology categorization is ever precise. [...]

  10. Eight kinds of analytic database (Part 1) | DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services on July 5th, 2011 3:17 am

    [...] try eight categories instead. While no categorization is ever perfect, these each have at least some degree of technical homogeneity. Figuring out which types of [...]

  11. Renaming CEP … or not | DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services on August 25th, 2011 9:59 pm

    [...] more about the category without repeatedly apologizing for its name. And so, always bearing in mind Monash’s Third Law of Commercial Semantics, here’s where I’m coming [...]

  12. “Big data” has jumped the shark | DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services on September 11th, 2011 8:23 am

    [...] frequently observe that no market categorization is ever precise and, in particular, that bad jargon drives out good. But when it comes to “big data” or [...]

  13. Defining NoSQL | DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services on October 2nd, 2011 7:32 pm

    [...] a simple plain English definition for NoSQL?” After reminding him of my cynical yet accurate Third Law of Commercial Semantics, I gave it a serious try, and came up with the following. More precisely, I tweeted the bolded [...]

  14. Terminology: Operational analytics : DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services on November 8th, 2011 2:10 am

    [...] But as in all definitional discussions, please remember that nothing concise is ever precise. [...]

  15. Terminology: Data mustering : DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services on November 28th, 2011 2:10 pm

    [...] aren’t truly enterprise-wide. In other words, it means “not just a data mart”. No category name is perfect, but I think that one works reasonably [...]

  16. Some issues in business intelligence : DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services on January 4th, 2012 7:57 pm

    [...] enterprises. However, this is a hard market to analyze, for at least two reasons. First — as is often the case — the distinction among large-enterprise-wise, smaller-enterprise-wide, and departmental BI [...]

  17. Hadoop-related market categorization : DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services on February 7th, 2012 1:49 am

    [...] I wasn’t the only one to be dubious about Forrester Research’s Hadoop taxonomy (or lack thereof). GigaOm’s Derrick Harris was as well, and offered a much superior approach of his own. In Derrick’s view, there’s Hadoop, Hadoop distributions, Hadoop management, and Hadoop applications. Taking those out of order, and recalling that no market categorization is ever precise: [...]

  18. Comments on the analytic DBMS industry and Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for same : DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services on February 8th, 2012 12:17 pm

    [...] 1010data on the Magic Quadrant is somewhat arbitrary. Stuff like that is bound to happen, given the inherent difficulties of defining market categories. Anyhow, my thoughts on 1010data [...]

  19. Kinds of data integration and movement : DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services on March 12th, 2012 3:53 am

    [...] with, and even more to criticize in the way of omissions. Fire away! Just please recall — no market categorization is ever precise. Categories: Clustering, Data integration and middleware, EAI, EII, ETL, ELT, ETLT, Hadoop, [...]

  20. Terminology: Relationship analytics | DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services on May 7th, 2012 9:06 am

    [...] both because it’s longish and because it might over-connote a social-network focus. But then, no other term would be perfect either. So we might as well stick with [...]

  21. Five different kinds of business intelligence | DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services on July 16th, 2012 2:45 am

    [...] that all up — and subject as always to Monash’s Third Law of Commercial Semantics — I’ll go for now with a five-fold business intelligence [...]

  22. DBMS2 analytic glossary — a new project | DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services on August 19th, 2012 2:21 am

    [...] software terminology is too often mired in confusion. I hope to lessen that by publishing a series of web pages that define and describe various [...]

  23. That multi-tenancy discussion revisited | DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services on October 4th, 2012 2:53 pm

    [...] in mind Monash’s Third Law of Commercial Semantics, No market categorization is ever [...]

  24. Oren on December 27th, 2012 4:06 pm

    Just continues to be a really helpful article!

  25. Data(base) virtualization — a terminological mess | DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services on January 5th, 2013 12:49 pm

    [...] of different technologies are all claiming to be in the space. A terminological mess has ensued, as Monash’s First and Third Laws of Commercial Semantics are borne out in [...]

  26. Monash’s First Law of Commercial Semantics explained | Strategic Messaging on March 23rd, 2013 11:53 pm

    [...] Edit: Monash’s First Law is special case of Monash’s Third Law of Commercial Semantics: No market categorization is ever precise. [...]

  27. Messaging and positioning | Strategic Messaging on April 7th, 2013 11:24 am

    [...] Product category, even though product categorizations are never precise. [...]

  28. Analytic application themes | DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services on April 25th, 2013 3:42 am

    [...] Yeah, yeah, I know — not all the named companies are in exactly the right market category. But that’s hard to avoid. [...]

  29. More notes on predictive modeling | DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services on July 12th, 2013 3:37 am

    [...] knows exactly what data mining does or doesn’t include — the term is a poster child for Monash’s Third Law — but whatever it is, it seems central to the SAS and SPSS product lines. Simply using [...]

  30. Rules for names | Strategic Messaging on November 3rd, 2013 1:33 am

    [...] naming the category of product or technology something goes in. Clients are well aware that no market categorization is ever precise. Still, words must be chosen, collateral must be prepared, and talks must be given to rapturous* [...]

  31. Short lists of concise claims | Strategic Messaging on July 29th, 2014 12:16 am

    [...] Last year, I summarized some principles of enterprise messaging. This post builds on those, within the limitation that nothing concise is ever precise. [...]

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