For big business credibility, Cloudera appeals beyond technologists

October 27, 2014, 1:20 PM UTC
Kyle Bean for Fortune

In early October, more than 5,000 people showed up in New York for a specialized data science conference “presented” by enterprise data management pioneer Cloudera and publishing company O’Reilly Media.

That’s 10 times the attendee count just a few years ago, when the big data and analytics gathering appealed mainly to IT professionals.

Those roaming the halls this year were just as likely to encounter fraud experts, customer service managers, risk management teams, and data scientists as software engineers, says Cloudera CEO Tom Reilly. One large credit-card issuer sent more than 70 people; only seven were officially with the company’s technology team.

“Enterprises are really trying to figure out how to get their arms around their data,” Reilly says. “This is not just about advanced analytics, this is about being agile with strategic business decisions.”

That’s why almost three-quarters of large enterprises are installing open source Apache Hadoop technology to orchestrate analytics reports gleaned from data distributed across multiple locations, according to Reilly. “What we say to people is that you can land all of your data, whether it’s coming out of the cloud or from your customer databases, into a hub, retaining its original format, its full fidelity. From there you can analyze, search it, and perform predictive analytics.”

With more than $1.2 billion backing it and Intel at its side, Cloudera claims the most widely adopted Hadoop technology in the world—although Hortonworks (which got $50 million from Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) over the summer) and MapR Technologies would probably argue the point. Some of Cloudera’s named customers include Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), eBay (EBAY), the U.S. Army, and Western Union (WU).

Cloudera disclosed an important milestone last week: its technology now meets strict Payment Card Industry (PCI) data security standards. That is crucial for financial services customers such as MasterCard (M), and it opens the door to broader applications in the retail sector.

What’s more, Cloudera has inked several high-profile partnerships (also revealed this month) that boost its enterprise credibility substantially. Two of the most notable: a sales alliance with data warehouse giant Teradata (TDC), and a development agreement with Microsoft (MSFT) that will bring Cloudera’s software to Windows and to the Azure cloud service. (It also has new deals with EMC and Red Hat.)

“Cloudera has built its partner strategy out very well over the last year, and this is a key win, challenging the exclusivity Hortonworks seemed to have achieved in the nascent Hadoop-on-Windows world—one that is untapped so far but will become very large,” says Gartner analyst Merv Adrian, addressing Cloudera’s pacts with Microsoft. “Similarly, Cloudera’s relationship with Teradata taps a market that represents the highest value slice of the enterprise data warehouse space.”

With dozens of startups clamoring for the chance to reinvent enterprise data management, Cloudera must deliver quickly and systematically. “The pace is unrelenting, and challengers are on every side,” Adrian says.

This item first appeared in the Oct. 27 edition of Data Sheet, Fortune’s daily newsletter on the business of technology. Sign up here.