The Story of Alephant - What's in a Name?

The Alephant ElephantAlephant are a London-based consultancy specialising in Big Data, Hadoop Integration, and especially the HortonWorks packaging of Hadoop.

Hadoop gets its odd name from the toy elephant of the son of one of the developers, a cartoon of which is the Hadoop logo. Many companies and consultancies that work with Hadoop have found ways to work one or more elephants into their logos, and references to elephants into their names, from the Dr. Seuss-inspired HortonWorks, to the more direct PhantWorks. (The other word that crops up a lot in Big Data is 'Cloud', given its use in many Big Data solutions - this can be seen most readily in company names like Cloudera, Cloudsoft, and Cloudwick.)

The founders of Alephant had been playing with various ideas to try and get an elephant reference into a new company name. As it happens, the Managing Director and Chief Technology Officer is Alex, and the Business Development Manager and ETL Engineer is Alan. So it made sense to take the Al- from both of their names, and change the word Elephant accordingly. (As it happens, Alan is a New Zealander, so most people in the UK think he?s saying Alephant, when he is trying to say Elephant, anyway, bless him.)

Having decided we quite like the word, we were both immediately struck by the fact that the new word is effectively made up of the words Aleph, and Ant:

Aleph is a Phoenician letter that actually looks a lot like the modern letter "A", but turned on its side - the subsequent Hebrew Aleph looks nothing like this. The Phoenician Aleph is where the Greek letter Alpha takes its name (and its look) from, and is thus, indirectly, where we get the word alphabet from. (We had to make reference to the Greek connection, as Alex is half Greek.) The Hebrew Aleph is also used as a symbol in set theory to denote the cardinality (size, countability) of infinite sets, from Aleph-0 (aka Aleph-Null, where most everyday numbers can be found), to Aleph-1, Aleph-2, and so on, for the more exotic numbers. (We, here at Alephant, are proud of being trivia geeks.)

The Alephant AntThe ant aspect of the name struck us as a nice "add-on" piece of imagery, as ants are social worker insects, and Hadoop is a distributed compute technology, utilizing many machines working together. It's also nice to note that, across the 12-14,000 species of ants on the planet today, there are around 10,000 trillion ants [1]. If each ant was a byte of data in your database, you?d have 10,000 terabytes (10 petabytes). Google are said to have around 1000 times even that, at 10-15,000 petabytes (10-15 exabytes) [2].

If the elephant in the server room is the fact that you have more ants than one ant farm can handle (which is to say, more data than can comfortably fit, and be used, in one server), talk to us, at Alephant.