Google MapReduce has, until recently, been one of those esoteric technologies that excite engineers and all-round geeks. That's all changed, however, as databases get larger and more complex - and there's an ever-growing business imperative to provide more detailed information, the fuel for all companies these days.

In more fruitful times, companies could always throw more hardware at the problem but that's less of an option these days too.

Hence, the appeal of MapReduce and hence the need too for initiatives such as VectorWise, announced earlier his year by Ingres and which has just been taken up by its first users

It's interesting to compare MapReduce and VectorWise. The former has been used within the techie community for some time. VectorWise was announced with great fanfares and, by virtue of the contribution from Intel, is sure to have a major impact on enterprise databases.

But MapReduce has now been penetrating enterprises. A chat with Aster Data's director of product marketing, Stephanie McReynolds reveals how far-reaching this shift is going to be. "A lot of companies are looking to replace technologies," she says, "we've merged the technologies to create SQL-MapReduce to bring the best of both technologies."

The point is that MapReduce is far too complex to be understood, or handled, by a business analyst but it offers a more efficient framework than SQL. According to McReynolds, the real breakthrough for enterprises is being to able to use their existing SQL interface.

And it's initiatives like this that have taken MapReduce from the engineering department to the enterprise.