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The Hadoop ecosystem is going through the same stages of explosive maturation as the social networking space had before it, with the top players now gearing up for public offerings to fuel their growth ambitions. Cloudera fired the opening shot last week with the closing of a $160 million round that bumped up its valuation to $1.8 billion, and today Hortonworksannounced fresh funding of its own.

Rob Bearden at Structure Data 2014.

The company bagged $100 million in Series D financing from asset management powerhouse BlackRock, Passport Capital and all of its existing backers, which include several other high-profile institutional investors as well as Yahoo. Hortonworks spun-off from the Internet giant in 2011, taking with it most of the original Hadoop development team and their vision for open source data analytics. The firm’s commitment to the community is what sets it apart from rivals Cloudera and MapR, which incorporate varying proportions of proprietary technology into their offerings. Hortonworks on the other hand offers its software for free and provides premium services on the side, a business model that has won prominent customers like eBay, Samsung and Cardinal Health.

“The Hadoop market is heating up, that’s clear. This raise from Hortonworks, which comes just a week after a massive raise by Cloudera, indicates to me that the race is on to be the first Hadoop pure-play vendor to go public,” said Jeff Kelly, a senior analyst at Wikibon, where he covers the Big Data market. “Hortonworks’ maturation as a company in just two-plus years of life has been remarkable to watch. With this investment and a slew of important reseller arrangements starting to kick into high-gear, 2014 has the potential to be a breakout year for the company.”

Hortonworks said that the new funding, which brings its total raised to a relatively humble $148 million, will be used to extend its product roadmap and scale global operations. Meanwhile, CEO Rob Bearden told media that the round also sets the stage for a public offering that will take place in the second half of this year or early 2015. That likely positions the company for an earlier IPO than MapR, but the jury is still out on Cloudera: As the oldest and largest distributor in the industry, the firm is poised to take center stage when the Hadoop gold rush reaches Wall Street. However, it remains to be seen whether it will seize the moment.

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