Software group’s Big British Gas deal

WANdisco chief executive David Ridhards, front centre, and members of the team outside the Silicon Valley and Sheffield company's Electric Works headquarters.
WANdisco chief executive David Ridhards, front centre, and members of the team outside the Silicon Valley and Sheffield company's Electric Works headquarters.
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Sheffield and Silicon Valley-based software group WANdisco has secured the first part of what could be a major contract with British Gas for its ‘Big Data’ application.

The deal comes as the Electric Works-based firm announced that bookings have increased by 86 per cent and that it was splitting the roles of chairman and chief executive as a result of its continuing growth.

British Gas has turned to WANdisco after deciding to replace its business-wide database technology due to its high cost, lack of functionality and inability to handle the large volumes and variety of data required for new Big Data applications.

Big Data applications include analysing economic trends, combating disease and crime, predicting the weather and complex problems in physics, where the collections of data that are being used are so large that they would be difficult or impossible to store and manipulate locally on desktop computers.

British Gas has chosen WANdisco’s technology – known as Non-Stop Hadoop for Hortonworks – to store and manage its business critical data Hadoop.

It is named after a toy elephant belonging to the son of one of its inventors and is a system for storing and processing large amounts of data.

Hortonworks is a framework that allows it to be processed by clusters of computers.

WANdisco’s patented Non-Stop technology is said to be the first and only technology that ensures continuous availability of data held on clusters of computers in different locations.

British Gas is starting with a large test installation, after which it could roll out the technology.

The group’s chief information officer, David Cooper, said: “We are implementing WANdisco’s Non-Stop Hadoop technology, which we believe will enable us to roll out Hadoop for critical applications in our data centres.

“Our residential and business customers will benefit from new applications such as smart meters that make it possible for them to take greater control of their energy use.”

WANdisco’s David Richards said: “Like so many organisations, British Gas is implementing Big Data to reap the benefits of storing and querying massive amounts of data that previously could not be achieved.

“In the process, British Gas will rid itself of the high cost and limited functionality of traditional enterprise database technology with a new strategy based on Hadoop. Both internal users and external customers will benefit from the new applications British Gas will now be able to deploy.”

Mr Richards has been WANdisco’s executive chairman and chief executive, but, following the appointment of former Sage chief executive Paul Walker as non-executive chairman, Mr Richards will focus on his role as chief executive.

Paul Walker joined Sage in 1984, becoming the FTSE 100 listed company’s finance director in 1987 and serving as chief executive from 1994 to 2010.

He has been a non-executive director of Experian since 2010 and is non-executive chairman of digital rights business Perform and hazard detection and life protection technology company Halma.

David Richards said: “Paul and I will work together over the coming years to develop WANdisco into a major global player in the technology sector. WANdisco is a fast growing company and we are at a hugely exciting time in our development. The board and I believe this structure will best support our growth plans as we scale the business.”