Now that the first anniversary of Osama Bin Laden's death shed renewed light on the needle in the haystack side of data analysis that helped catch him, investors might wonder how to take advantage of it.
To be sure, the top technology players such as Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL), the world's biggest database developer, International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE: IBM) and Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN), the No. 1 e-retailer, Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) are all players now.
What smaller companies remain for investors to consider now or to watch for?
Here are three, with good track records and the promise of more, which by themselves could be targets of the bigger players or grow organically.
First, Teradata (NYSE: TDC), a longstanding expert in data warehousing and analytical software that ended up as part of AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), the No. 1 telecommunications carrier, then was spun off into NCR (NYSE: NCR) before resuming independent existence.
One of the masters of the data warehouse domain, the company was run for years by Mark Hurd, who left NCR to run HP; now he is co-president of Oracle.
Oracle, which has experienced slower growth after acquiring Sun Microsystems in 2010, might not want to acquire another server maker. But the Dayton, Ohio computer company might fit in well with someone else, or acquire other software developers to expand into the data sector.
Indeed, on Wednesday, Teradata said it would acquire private eCircle of Munich, a German specialist in integrated marketing management. Terms weren't disclosed.
On Thursday, Teradata is scheduled to report first-quarter financial results. Analysts expect earnings to rise 18 percent to 52 cents a share from 44 cents a year ago. Revenue is expected to increase 16 percent to $586.8 million.
Teradata shares are selling just below their 52-week high of $72.27, at $71.74, up 65 cents, in late Wednesday activity. The company's market value is $12 billion.
Another oldtimer is Informatica (Nasdaq: INFY), the Redwood City, Calif., neighbor of Oracle that has remained out of its clutches. Informatica last week reported first-quarter results that beat analyst estimates. Net income jumped 21 percent to $26.5 million, or 24 cents a share, as revenue gained 17 percent to $196 million.
Noting the company is now the largest independent leader in data integration, CEO Sohaib Abbasi said. He told investors Could [computing] continues to be our biggest growth opportunity.
Trading well below its 52-week high of $62.42, Teredata shares Wednesday rose 65 cents to $47.77, valuing the company around $5.2 billion.
Another company, Opera Solutions, is still private but roped in $84 million in its first capital raising last September, from Silver Lake Sumeru, Accel-KKR, Invus Financial Advisors, JGE Capital and Tola Capital.
The New York data company specializes in predictive analytics, for financial services as well as marketing, entertainment, supply chain and automotive clients. Its value is estimated around $500 million.
Dozens more private companies remain in the field, which will expand more with ever-increasing amounts of data traffic required to be managed, sliced, diced and analyzed.