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Big Data Integration and Business Analytics: A Spotlight Q&A with Quentin Gallivan of Pentaho

Originally published September 4, 2012

This BeyeNETWORK spotlight features Ron Powell's interview with Quentin Gallivan, Chairman and CEO of Pentaho. Ron and Quentin discuss why today’s organizations are demanding an analytical platform that brings together all data, regardless of where the data is stored, and how Pentaho meets that need.
Quentin, what is the importance of Pentaho’s open source heritage to the data analytics and "big data: markets?

Quentin Gallivan: I think that the big value is around innovation acceleration. As talented as our internal engineering team is, we get a dramatic boost in engineering capacity by having the open source developer community contribute to our product development, help us with the QA, and really help us deliver a modern analytics platform that brings together data integration and a full range of analytical tools. In terms of the big data landscape, open source components like Hadoop and NoSQL databases are key components today of the big data taxonomy and any big data reference architecture. Our open-source heritage there makes it easier for companies to integrate these open source and commercial software components for analytical purposes. It’s a real key value that we bring.

Now when I look at the Pentaho software suite of products, it seems to me that you have taken a hybrid approach to data integration and business analytics. Why do you believe this is the right approach for the market?

Quentin Gallivan: Our customers are demanding an analytical platform that can bring together all their data regardless of where the data is stored – whether it's in a relational database, in Hadoop, on-premise, or in the cloud. For example, if you are a VP of marketing wanting to understand customer sentiment analysis about your products, in the past all you could really do is look at transaction data sitting in your ERP system and you'd find out what the customers bought from you. In today's environment, a VP of marketing can also get data on what customers might buy in the future by not only looking at past order information but also matching up customer behavior patterns on your website and what social media is saying about your products in real time. All this valuable data is sitting in different data stores and so customers want to bring them together in one analytical platform to gain key insights and great value from data.

How big of an impact is the business having versus IT in driving business analytics solutions, especially in the midmarket?

Quentin Gallivan: We still see IT driving analytical solution purchasing in the midmarket, and the reason is that any analytics project requires data integration and data manipulation to get the project up and running before users can start to analyze the data via reports, dashboards, or ad hoc discovery. Pentaho brings a lot of value to IT in terms of providing a drag-and-drop, point-and-click experience in accomplishing the data integration part of the project. In addition, Pentaho has something for the business users in terms of providing a very self-service process for business users that want to analyze the data and look at rich visualizations around the data. Pentaho has something for everyone – for both IT as well as for the business users. In the midmarket segment, the fact that we bring data integration and analytical tools together in a single platform delivers great economic value and time-to-market for these midsize companies.

What customer use cases are you seeing around big data and big data analytics? Where do you see it all going?

Quentin Gallivan: Our big data analytics business is growing exponentially. We are starting to see emerging, repeatable use cases like clickstream analysis where online and interactive companies are trying to understand their customers’ user experience. They want to do A/B testing on new products by looking at clickstream analysis, or they want recommendation engines for analyzing a customer's propensity to buy a product. Pentaho customers BeachMint, ideeli, Travian Games and TravelTainment are great examples of big data success analyzing clickstream data.

Another category of use cases that we're seeing time and time again involves hardware companies that want to analyze activity of their devices or hardware at the customer site. Some of the use cases around the analysis would be analyzing the health of the device sitting at the customer's site so that the hardware manufacturer can be more preemptive and prescriptive in looking at the health of the device, and recommending to a customer that the customer take some remediation action before the device has an issue or the device fails. We're seeing lots of those device analytics applications going on.

The third area we're seeing a real emerging repeatable use case is in the healthcare industry. We're seeing healthcare infrastructure technology companies that are allowing providers to capture and analyze clinical operational data that's never been digitized before such as Shareable Ink. It was too hard to put in a relational database. All this free-form healthcare information that doctors, nurses and admins create is something that companies want to analyze on an efficient basis.

Are you seeing any use cases around social media at all?

Quentin Gallivan: On the social media side, we’re seeing more use cases related to product testing and new product evaluations. Companies are looking at not only what customers are buying when they roll out a new product, but again this A/B testing on clickstream activity on the website. In addition, companies like social e-commerce company BeachMint are looking at social media to analyze what customers are saying about their products. All this data combined gives a company a nice holistic view of the market acceptance of their product and what the market is saying about their product – really all dimensions of the product experience.

Now, I've seen a tremendous acceleration with ISVs and OEMs working with Pentaho. What is it about your platform that makes it so easy for ISVs to take advantage of it for their applications?

Quentin Gallivan: Our cloud-embedded analytics and ISV business now represents a significant portion of the overall Pentaho business, and it's one of our fastest growing segments. Customers in that segment, such as Marketo, HTK and AssetWorks, take our analytics software and embed it into their SaaS or cloud applications so they can provide better reporting and analytics to their end-user customers. One of the advantages of using Pentaho is that we're built on a very modern platform. Our technology architecture is the same architecture that most SaaS and cloud companies are deploying. So it's very easy to embed the Pentaho technology into those applications compared to some of the traditional business intelligence (BI) vendors that were built on a legacy architecture.

How do you see the cloud impacting business analytics and business intelligence, and what are customers expecting now and in the future?

Quentin Gallivan: We see a couple of really interesting trends starting to develop around cloud analytics. The strong adoption by SaaS and cloud applications is driving demand for the SaaS providers to embed better analytics into their applications. We're starting to see cloud applications and SaaS becoming primary delivery vehicles for enterprise analytics. That's one major trend that we continue to see.

Enterprises still have a lot of data sitting behind the firewall, and they want to merge or mash that data up to provide deeper insights into specific business categories or specific business applications. That need to combine data from the cloud with data sitting behind the firewall is another dimension where we see customer requirements starting to accelerate quickly.

We also see the convergence of big data and the cloud happening. For the most part, cloud application companies utilize data sitting in a relational database. But the cloud companies are starting to incorporate more big data or non-relational data in the way they view the business and the analytics that they provide their end-user customers. So we're starting to see a merger of cloud data and big data coming together, and that's happening much quicker than we thought it would happen. We see that as a real major theme going into the second half of this year and going into 2013.

How about international? Are you seeing tremendous demand internationally as well?

Quentin Gallivan: Yes, we are. International represents about 40% of our business today so it's a significant part of our business. Overseas we are seeing all the themes and demand drivers that we see in the U.S. We're also starting to see companies outside the United States trying to figure out big data strategies and how to incorporate their traditional business models with the new business models and solutions that help them address big data. In the SaaS and cloud environment, we're starting to see very strong adoption overseas in terms of SaaS applications and then the similar need to then provide or embed better analytics into those solutions. The same market drivers that we're seeing in the United States, particularly around big data and cloud and SaaS adoption, we're seeing happening overseas as well at about the same pace.

Quentin, thank you so much for taking the time to inform our readers about Pentaho's hybrid approach to data integration and business analytics.

  • Ron PowellRon Powell
    Ron is an independent analyst, consultant and editorial expert with extensive knowledge and experience in business intelligence, big data, analytics and data warehousing. Currently president of Powell Interactive Media, which specializes in consulting and podcast services, he is also Executive Producer of The World Transformed Fast Forward series. In 2004, Ron founded the BeyeNETWORK, which was acquired by Tech Target in 2010.  Prior to the founding of the BeyeNETWORK, Ron was cofounder, publisher and editorial director of DM Review (now Information Management). He maintains an expert channel and blog on the BeyeNETWORK and may be contacted by email at rpowell@powellinteractivemedia.com. 

    More articles and Ron's blog can be found in his BeyeNETWORK expert channel.

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