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Richard Hackathorn

Welcome to my blog stream. I am focusing on the business value of low latency data, real-time business intelligence (BI), data warehouse (DW) appliances, use of virtual world technology, ethics of business intelligence and globalization of business intelligence. However, my blog entries may range widely depending on current industry events and personal life changes. So, readers beware!

Please comment on my blogs and share your opinions with the BI/DW community.

About the author >

Dr. Richard Hackathorn is founder and president of Bolder Technology, Inc. He has more than thirty years of experience in the information technology industry as a well-known industry analyst, technology innovator and international educator. He has pioneered many innovations in database management, decision support, client-server computing, database connectivity, associative link analysis, data warehousing, and web farming. Focus areas are: business value of timely data, real-time business intelligence (BI), data warehouse appliances, ethics of business intelligence and globalization of BI.

Richard has published numerous articles in trade and academic publications, presented regularly at leading industry conferences and conducted professional seminars in eighteen countries. He writes regularly for the BeyeNETWORK.com and has a channel for his blog, articles and research studies. He is a member of the IBM Gold Consultants since its inception, the Boulder BI Brain Trust and the Independent Analyst Platform.

Dr. Hackathorn has written three professional texts, entitled Enterprise Database Connectivity, Using the Data Warehouse (with William H. Inmon), and Web Farming for the Data Warehouse.

Editor's Note: More articles and resources are available in Richard's BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel. Be sure to visit today!

July 2007 Archives

An interesting development in the Business Intelligence (BI) marketplace was the acquisition of Inxight by Business Objects (BOBJ). As a spin-off of Xerox PARC, Inxight has been noted for its deep technology in text analysis and visualization. Although it sold packages to many corporations, the primary business model was based on OEM technology licensing to larger software vendors who then incorporates juicy tech-tidbits into established product lines.

What is the leverage of these tech-tidbits for BOBJ? Adam Binnie, Senior Director of Product Management, explained that a key tech-tidbit is Awareness Server, which has been part of Inxight's SmartDiscovery line.

The capabilities are impressive! Using a federated search across internal/external and structured/unstructured information, Awareness Server compiles the results in a meaningful manner using content filtering and relevance ranking. As an impressive addition, the View by Concept display organizes search results into a visual tree structure of matching categories.

It is obvious that the text analysis capability of Awareness Server is world-class. There is a lot of potential here to enhance the BOBJ product line with a unified search tool, making this powerful technology pervasive within corporate BI.

Many vendors have attempted to incorporate text analysis into mainstream BI tools but often with disappointing outcomes. What will be different about BOBJ's effort? Or, will these gems gather dust in the bottom levels of some menu selection? A key issue is the degree of deep integration of Awareness Server into the Universe metadata. Will I be able to search (query) into my data warehouse as a big semantic web using the BOBJ infrastructure?

We should watch these developments at BOBJ.

Posted July 27, 2007 10:58 AM
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I received an email from Tera-Tom, a good colleague who has established a solid reputation designing and implementing large-scale data warehouse (DW) systems based mainly on Teradata. His full name is Tom Coffing, CEO of Coffing Data Warehousing.

His email stated that Tera-Tom is morphing into Netezza-Tom, DATAllegro-Tom, and even Greenplum-Tom. In other words, he is incorporating these DW appliance products into his system integration work. This announcement caught my attention, having recently completed a research study with Colin White on "Data Warehouse Appliances: Evolution or Revolution" for the BI Network. A key issue is whether DW appliances are mature and robust enough to support enterprise DW systems. Tom seems to think so!

I chided Tom a bit by challenging him to declare that DW appliances are now respectable for enterprise DW by large corporations.

I received the following reply: "There are some big companies like Amazon.Com that truly are using appliance vendors as their EDW. It depends on what queries are running. Because appliances have recently come of age, many companies already had their EDW in place. So, many of the largest, most loyal, and staunch supporters of traditional EDW vendors have begun implementing a multi-vendor strategy. Instead of allowing a single hardware vendor to hold them hostage, they have utilized appliances to perform certain EDW functions. It is a strategy that improves performance, saves costs, and gives them options and negotiating power. If you have seen the recent pricing on traditional EDW products, you might want to keep your options open. The bottom line is that traditional EDW vendors are no longer the only games in town. I thought I would never say that so I am almost as surprised as you."

So, Tom is observing that mature DW companies are moving to a multi-platform strategy that may appropriately include DW appliances. And, the reasons are not all technical.

I think that the observations by Appliance-Tom are a sign of the times for enterprise data warehousing. They are a-changing...

Posted July 26, 2007 10:24 AM
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You have heard of the sports fantasy leagues for soccer, basketball and American football. You pick the best players for your own team and then, depending on the actual performance of the players, your team is awarded points. It is a popular game, with over 15 million people involved generating about $2 billion annually, according to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association.

An article in the Los Angeles Times caught my eye because fantasy games are being applied in other areas. There are now fantasy games about the US Congress, music recording, box office movies, fashion, celebrities, soap operas and even husbands. The last one was intriguing. You select from a pool of real-life husbands who are polled on what they would do in various relationship situations. If your fantasy husband called the divorce lawyer, you lose points!

How does this relate to Business Intelligence in corporations?

Imagine a fantasy game about your company. This 'serious' game is open to all employees who have dreams of running the company. Establish several performance criteria, like sales, cost-of-goods and new accounts for the month. Teams choose their mixture of corporate strategies. Based of predictive analytics from the BI system, the corporate simulator cranks through the numbers and computes a performance dashboard for each team. (Here is where the miracle occurs!) Calculated performance is compared to actual, so that the fantasy teams compete against the actual management team!

Yuck it up! Give cash prizes for best performance. The Board of Directors might consider changes in top management slots based on the results. American idol meets Corporate America.

It is the next-gen version of the suggestion box. Besides, it has the potential of getting employees to think more deeply about their company and realize that big decisions are tough ones.

Posted July 24, 2007 7:12 AM
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As professionals in Business Intelligence and Data Warehousing, we live and die by the creed of Business by the Data. Deep inside, we know that, if we do our job properly, our companies will be managed better and will perform successfully because with better data comes better decisions. Right?

It is funny! After many decades of struggle, we are entering an era of BI/DW where that creed will be proven correct or exposed as a cruel lie. The evolving practice and technology of BI/DW are awesome! I never cease to be amazed at what innovative companies are doing and what innovative vendors are offering.

Today there was a WSJ article (front left column of Marketplace) that caused me to think deeper on this issue.

The article rambles but makes a useful point. "Managers can be so focused on perfecting today's business that they lose sight of tomorrow's" - that was a quote from a book by Sutton & Pfeffer entitled "Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths & Total Nonsense".

The point is that the data used in management discussions to make decisions is often filled with misleading and even false assumptions. In particular, we focus too much on the past and (with real-time BI) the present, without thinking deeply and clearly about how our business will change next month and especially this week. Those constant changes are so fundamental to the nature of business. Data from our BI systems often clouds our better judgments, which a hundred years ago would have been labeled common sense.

This echoes an old problem. Whatever we would print a report on the line printer, the data often seemed inconsistent or even mysterious, until we carefully analyzed the application programs that maintained the data. There buried in some COBOL clause was a hidden crucial assumption about how the data was to be used, created on a whim by a programmer meeting a deadline. Thus, the quest to capture meta-data merged.

The same is now true of analytics. Buried in the calculations are crucial assumptions that permeate our dashboards. Guess what? Those assumptions are deeply hidden, may or may not be valid, and affect business performance in a big way.

Therefore, Business by the Data - yes but be careful. It would be better to say Business by Insights, which can be stimulated by data from BI systems. Always ask why when viewing data. Clear thinking will never be replaced by sophisticated analytics.

Posted July 23, 2007 8:18 AM
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Last night the New Tech Meetup was a kick! Web 2.0 was spelled a dozen different ways as creative business ventures were pitched. The agenda is simple. Five startups get 5 minutes to present and 5 minutes of discussion. Each time I found myself going through the same cycle - thinking what a dumb idea and then thinking what a great idea by the end.

First up was StartupWeekend.com - a dumb (not!) idea of forming a company, crafting a business plan, and producing a product - all in a marathon weekend from Friday evening to Sunday midnight - all with a bunch of bright but naive folks. They are naïve because they don't realize that it takes months of hard effort to get a new company off the ground. Right? Or maybe not!

About seventy geeks showed up, formed into task groups, and went to work. In the end, the company had 56 cofounders, and a working version of their website VoSnap.com. It is a social networking site to assist people in making decisions, both big and small ones, tapping the wisdom of a small crowd. If their social decision-making insights prove useful, pieces may appear in MySpace and other large social networking communities.

Second startup was FeedIt.com - a dumb (not!) idea of paying for your latte via cell phone. Isn't paying with your Visa card just as easy? Not when you factor in the detailed information that the merchant collects about its customers, enabling the generation of highly personalized offers.

Third startup was Villij.com - a dumb (not!) idea of sharing your travel experiences. The secret sauce is in the tagging so that others can easily relate to your travel interests.

The final startup was Printfection.com - a dumb (not!) idea of printing clothing on-demand. The secret sauce is the quality of ink-jet printing on fabric at a low cost without much manual intervention. They have a $2 special. Try it!

Oh, almost forgot! Don Dodge, director of Microsoft's Emerging Business Team, talked about his background (amazing!) and new responsibilities as ombudsman for innovative startups. It seems that Microsoft is sincerely assisting new ventures with objective advice and cutting-edge technology? What a dumb (not!) idea for Microsoft.

My compliments go to Robert Reich to taming this herd of geeky cats into a pleasant and informative event. It has become a unique asset for the Boulder/Denver entrepreneur community.

Posted July 10, 2007 6:23 PM
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