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Wayne Eckerson

Welcome to Wayne's World, my blog that illuminates the latest thinking about how to deliver insights from business data and celebrates out-of-the-box thinkers and doers in the business intelligence (BI), performance management and data warehousing (DW) fields. Tune in here if you want to keep abreast of the latest trends, techniques, and technologies in this dynamic industry.

About the author >

Wayne has been a thought leader in the business intelligence field since the early 1990s. He has conducted numerous research studies and is a noted speaker, blogger, and consultant. He is the author of two widely read books: Performance Dashboards: Measuring, Monitoring, and Managing Your Business (2005, 2010) and The Secrets of Analytical Leaders: Insights from Information Insiders (2012).

Wayne is founder and principal consultant at Eckerson Group,a research and consulting company focused on business intelligence, analytics and big data.

February 2014 Archives

Data visualization vendor Tableau Software is the darling of the BI industry these days, giving daily doses of heartburn to established BI vendors. Yet, Tableau is being chased by newer vendors with innovative technologies that offer the promise of even faster, better, and cheaper BI for business users and analysts.

One such vendor is SiSense, an Israeli firm now based in New York City, which launched in 2010 after six years of stealth development. Like Tableau, SiSense Prism is a Windows-based, self-service analysis tool that users can download from the internet and run on a single machine (desktop or server). But unlike Tableau, SiSense was designed from scratch with a scalable, memory-optimized columnar database that can comfortably handle terabytes of data and dozens of concurrent queries.

SiSense's secret sauce is the way it leverages the CPU cache on chips, includind SIMD chips from Intel and AMD, and reuses query blocks in its database. These features give it extraordinary performance and concurrency, according to company officials. The tool also makes it easy for analysts to mash up data from different sources and publish interactive dashboards.

Its new 5.0 release, SiSense polishes its front-end with HTML5, enabling users to access and create dashboards from any browser-enabled device--desktop, laptop, tablet, Web, and smartphone--increasing its ubiquity and functionality.

With only an inside sales team, SiSense has expanded quickly, boasting 500+ customers in 49 countries. Pricing starts at $8,000 for a five-user license. For more information, see www.sisense.com.

Posted February 20, 2014 11:49 AM
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Every database vendor of note has shipped a big data platform trying to capitalize on the current market opportunity and buzz surrounding big data. This includes industry heavyweights, such as IBM, Oracle, SAP, Teradata, Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft, but also many less-known vendors who are hoping to carve out a profitable niche in the emerging market that combines Hadoop with traditional database management systems and data integration and analytics software.

One of the newest entrants to join the parade is Actian, which actually isn't so new because it's built around the open source Ingres database and its 10,000+ customer base, which has provided the renamed company with cash to purchase two other databases in 2013, namely Versant and Paraccel, as well as data integration vendor, Pervasive, whose DataRush and connector software now provides the glue that binds its multiple databases with Hadoop and each other.

What looks like on the surface as a mishmash of data products ties together quite nicely for Actian's target audience: mid-market companies that want to exploit big data analytics without the hefty pricetag offered by the big boys. With $140 million in annual revenue and 150% growth in the recent quarter, Actian is the "largest of the smaller" big data vendors, according to company officials. Because of its modular architecture, Actian customers can start small with Actian Vector, a single node analytic database, and then migrate to Actian Matrix (i.e. Paraccel) as their data processing needs grow.

Already, Actian is stealing glances from IBM's mid-size customers using IBM PureData Systems for Analytics (i.e. Netezza) who now must work through IBM resellers, according to Actian officials. Expect Actian to spend heavily in 2014 to muscle its way into the big data projects, while it works behind the scenes to more tightly integrate its products into a unified data platform.

For more information, see www.actian.com.

Posted February 11, 2014 10:47 AM
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In 2014, you wouldn't think the market (or your organization) could possibly make room for another business intelligence (BI) vendor, but think again. I just took a look at Decisyon, Inc., whose flagship product, Decisyon 360, offers a unified BI and planning platform with a modern architecture (e.g. all Java and HTML5) and integrated functionality built from the ground up for collaboration, transactions, the cloud and mobile. What more could you ask?

Founded in Italy in 2005, Decisyon has 200 European customers, many of which are large brand name companies, such as Johnson & Johnson, Novartis, and Pfizer. Last year, the company moved its headquarters to Stamford, CT where it hopes to capitalize on its European success by winning the hearts and minds of U.S.-based organizations. From the demo I saw, that shouldn't be a problem.

Staffed by experienced BI and planning professionals from IBM, Hyperion, Oracle, SAP, Dell, and Outlooksoft, Decisyon has 90 employees and $10 million in venture funding with another $20 million in the works. Company officials say the company is especially strong in pharmaceuticals and financial services.

Pricing starts at about $65,000 for 20 users for a base configuration, which includes reporting, analysis and collaboration modules. Customers often later add planning, forecasting, transaction execution and/or mobile modules. Basically, you only pay for the functionality you need. Decisyon also offers two overlay applications, one for integrating social media analysis with CRM solutions and another for monitoring and managing supply chain and manufacturing processes.

The breadth and functionality of these social CRM and manufacturing/supply chain applications attest to the functional sophistication and architectural integration of the Decisyon platform. If you want to break out of the traditional BI mold and build real business-driven analytical applications, then you should look at Decisyon.

For more information, see www.decisyon.com.

Posted February 10, 2014 8:25 AM
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Big data begs a big question: does Hadoop replace your enterprise data warehouse or augment it? The two leading vendors of Hadoop distributions offer very different answers.

For Cloudera, the first vendor to offer a Hadoop distribution, the answer is an unequivocal yes. Last November, Cloudera finally exposed its true sentiments by introducing the Enterprise Data Hub in which Hadoop replaces the data warehouse, among other things, as the center of an organization's data management strategy. In contrast, Hortonworks takes a hybrid approach, partnering with leading commercial data management and analytics vendors to create a data environment that blends the best of Hadoop and commercial software. In short, Cloudera offers revolution, Hortonworks evolution.

Moreover, the two Hadoop providers have diametrically opposed product strategies. Hortonworks is an open source purist, offering only Apache Foundation certified software, while Cloudera now sells commercial software on top of its open source distribution. Hortonworks believes embedding Hadoop into existing data platforms is the fastest way to grow its services and support business, while Cloudera sees itself more as traditional software provider that profits from product sales and competes with other commercial software providers.

To support its unilateral, product-based approach, Cloudera delivers all its premium components for one price. These include real-time data (HBase) real-time queries (Impala), search (Apache Solr), in-memory processing (Spark), and data access control (Navigator). For its part, Hortonworks has worked with partners to integrate Hadoop with Windows (Microsoft), Linux (Red Hat), as well as databases, ETL, BI, and analytics tools and upgrade Hadoop to version 2, which became generally available last fall. The bottom line is that Hortonworks partners, Cloudera competes.*

It's too early to tell which vendor and strategy will succeed in the fast-moving big data marketplace. Each seems to be getting traction. In the first quarter since its announcement, Cloudera sold eight enterprise data hubs. Its customers are attracted by the low price point--Enterprise Data Hub is 10 to 100 times less expensive per terabyte than commercial data platforms--and its simple, straightforward architecture, which eliminates the need to move big data among various data processing platforms. In turn, Hortonworks announced in December that is has grown its partner community by 240% in 2013. By working closely with partners to write and contribute open source code, Hortonworks believes it's accelerating the use of Hadoop and turning it into mainstream infrastructure.

Both companies are merging the worlds of Hadoop and traditional data management platforms. It's just that Cloudera is merging them within a product line, while Hortonworks is merging them within customer accounts with hybrid software. Given how slowly the majority of organizations implement new technologies, I'd bet on Hortonworks to have steady, long-term growth. On the other hand, I'd bet on Cloudera to push the state-of-the-art in Hadoop innovation, as it already has.

* Cloudera has informed me that it has 800 partners.

Posted February 6, 2014 5:24 PM
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Visual discovery tools have surged in popularity because they are quick to deploy, easy to use, and don't require upfront IT involvement or a sizable capital investment. Upstart BI vendors, such as Tableau, QlikTech and Tibco Spotfire, have led the visual discovery charge, but enterprise BI vendors are now jumping into the game, offering comparable tools that have the added benefit of integrating with their enterprise BI platforms.

MicroStrategy was one of their first enterprise BI vendors to offer visual discovery capabilities two years ago. But unlike pureplay offerings, MicroStrategy Visual Insight was not a standalone, desktop product that customers could buy and download via the internet; they had to first purchase and install MicroStrategy's Enterprise suite, not an inexpensive or speedy proposition, or deploy MicroStrategy Express, a cloud-based front-end to MicroStrategy Enterprise.

However, MicroStrategy remedied the situation last October by releasing MicroStrategy Analytics Desktop, a free Windows-based visual discovery tool that users can download from the internet and install in minutes. The product boasts most of the data blending, visualization and publishing features that pureplay visual discovery products support, but unlike those tools, it integrates with an enterprise BI platform, namely MicroStrategy Enterprise and MicroStrategy Cloud. Although Desktop is not a front-end to those platforms, Desktop users can publish live, interactive dashboards that Enterprise and Cloud users can consume. Moreover, MicroStrategy's decision to offer Desktop for free is a bold warning shot to third party visual discovery vendors who might want to poach MicroStrategy's installed base.

Use Cases

Since MicroStrategy offers the same visual discovery capabilities in Enterprise, Cloud, and Desktop, the company positions Desktop as a self-service BI tool for people who don't have an Enterprise or Cloud license. In addition, many customers use it as a prototyping tool for building Enterprise reports and mobile dashboards. Once Desktop users create and refine a dashboard, the IT department can then incorporate any new data elements and metrics into an Enterprise or Cloud project and convert it to a pixel-perfect dashboard, if desired.

By offering visual discovery capabilities in a stand-alone Windows desktop as well as within its Enterprise and Cloud solutions, MicroStrategy has turned the visual discovery market on its head, converting it from a product category to a product feature built into an enterprise BI platform. But for customers that absolutely want a stand-alone Windows visual discovery tool, it also offers MicroStrategy Analtyics Desktop.

Posted February 2, 2014 12:22 PM
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