UPDATED 12:45 EST / JUNE 21 2012

Why Do So Many Big Data Companies Have Jungle Animals for Logos?

Have you noticed that many logos of big data companies feature jungle animals?  Have you ever wondered why?  I have.  Logos aren’t there just for fun–they signify something and often have an interesting back story.   Take Amazon’s logo for example; notice the arrow that points to the letters A and Z?  It means that they have everything from A-Z and deliver from A-Z.  Clever, huh?

So let’s look at some of the interesting logos on big data companies and find out what these animals have to do with big data in particular.


Hadoop’s logo has an elephant pushing the word Hadoop.  Hadoop was created by Doug Cutting who has a son with a toy elephant named Hadoop.  As for where his son got that name, that remains a mystery.


HortonWorks, Yahoo! and Benchmark Capital’s contribution to Hadoop, also has a logo with elephants.  According to some, since Hadoop was named after a toy elephant and uses an elephant logo, Yahoo and Benchmark thought it would be cool to use Dr. Seuss’ elephant, as in Horton of “Horton Hears a Who!” for the name and the logo.


Project Serengeti is a new initiative from VMWare that will enable enterprises to quickly deploy, manage and scale Apache Hadoop in virtual and cloud environments.  But before it became an IT term, Serengeti was known as an ecosystem in a geographical region in Africa and hosts the largest terrestrial mammal migration on earth.  Thus, their logo also features an elephant since it’s the largest land mammal on earth, and is included in the great Serengeti migration.  If you haven’t noticed it yet, several companies connected with Hadoop also sport an elephant on their logo.


PostgreSQL uses Slony-I, an asynchronous  master-slave replication system that provides support for cascading and failover.  Slony is the plural term of elephants in Russian.  The term was used as a “tip of the hat” to Vadim Mikheev, who came up with some of the core ideas Slony-I uses.  The elephant in the the logo is called “Slonik” which actually means “little elephant” in Russian.  And if you’re wondering, slon is used to refer to a single elephant.


In 2001 MySQL revealed a new logo, a jumping dolphin, which signifies the speed, power, precision and good nature of the MySQL database and community.  Not a jungle animal, but a wild and intelligent species nonetheless.

“We’ve been discussing a new logo for at least a year”, said main developer and MySQL AB founder Michael “Monty” Widenius. “I am personally concerned about the survival of endangered species, and I liked the idea of the dolphin as soon as it came up. It combines great symbol value with a powerful, modern design.”

The MySQL dolphin is named “Sakila” which came from Ambrose Twebaze, an Open Source software developer from Swaziland, Africa after winning the company’s “Name the Dolphin” contest.

Apache Tomcat

The Apache Tomcat came from the mind of James Duncan Davidson who was working on a servlet reference implementation project which he hoped would become open sourced.  He wanted to be published in the books by O’Reilly Media, which feature book covers with animals.   That’s why Davidson named his project Tomcat, stating that the name fits since the tomcat can fend for itself, just like his baby.  He eventually got his wish and his book cover.


“The Infochimps name stemmed from several ideas. First and foremost, we wanted to make managing big data so easy that even a chimp could do it. Plain and simple. Managing big data at scale and integrating all of the necessary components and tools is difficult, but you shouldn’t have to worry about data operations and infrastructure; instead you should focus on the insights you can get from the data. Let Infochimps handle the rest.

The second idea came from the “infinite monkey theorem” which basically states that a monkey hitting keys, at random, on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type a given text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare. “So our belief is that millions of chimps — maybe not so randomly — can create the world’s largest data marketplace and infrastructure for managing big data. At Infochimps, our mission from the beginning has been to democratize the world’s access to data — and since then we’ve been unlocking the power of big data for everybody, not just data nerds.”

And here’s a perk: when asked the meaning behind the Infochimps logo, they sent along some additional background on a couple other tools they power, including the Ironfan technology leveraged for none other than VMware’s recently launched Serengeti.

Wukong and Ironfan, specifically, are based on the Journey to the West, an ancient Chinese folk novel. Sun Wukong is a monkey born from a stone who acquires supernatural powers through Taoist practices. He is strong, fast, magical, a skilled fighter, and can transform himself into various things. Our tool Wukong brings superpowers to developers and makes Hadoop so easy a chimp can use it. Princess Ironfan is also a character in the Chinese novel – and we use the analogy to describe our tool Ironfan’s ability to easily “fan” cluster configuration information across servers (iron).

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