You are currently browsing the monthly archive for April 2013.

Responding to the trend that businesses now ask less sophisticated users to perform analysis and rely on software to help them, Oracle recently announced a new release  of its flagship Oracle BI Foundational Suite (OBIFS as well as updates to Endeca, the discovery platform that Oracle bought in 2011. Endeca is part of a new class of tools that bring new capabilities in information discovery, self-service access and interactivity. Such approaches represent an important part of the evolution of business intelligence to business analytics as I have noted in my agenda for 2013.

Oracle Business Intelligence Foundational Suite includes many components not limited to Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition (OBIEE), Oracle Essbase and a scorecard and strategy application. OBIEE is the enabling foundation that federates queries across data sources and enables reporting across multiple platforms. Oracle Essbase is an in-memory OLAP tool that enables forecasting and planning, including what-if scenarios embedded in a range of Oracle BI Applications, which are sold separately. The suite, along with the Endeca software, is integrated with Exalytics, Oracle’s appliance for BI and analytics. Oracle’s appliance strategy, which I wrote about after Oracle World last year invests heavily in the Sun Microsystems hardware acquired in 2010.

These updates are far-ranging and numerous (including more than 200 changes to the software). I’d like to point out some important pieces that advance Oracle’s position in the BI market. A visualization recommendations engine offers guidance on the type of visualization that may be appropriate for a user’s particular data. This feature, already sold by others in the market, may be considered a subset of the broader capability of guided analysis. Advanced visualization techniques have become more important for companies as they make it easier for users to understand data and is critical to compete with the likes of  Tableau, a player in this space which I wrote about last year.

Another user-focused update related to visualization is performance tiles, which enable important KPIs to be displayed prominently within the context of the screen surface area. Performance tiles are a great way to start improving the static dashboards that my colleague Mark Smith has critiqued. From what I have seen it is unclear to what degree the business user can define and change Oracle’s performance tile KPIs (for example, the red-flagged metrics assignedvr_bigdata_big_data_capabilities_not_available to the particular business user that appear within the scorecard function of the software) and how much the system can provide in a prescriptive analytic fashion. Other visualizations that have been added include waterfall charts, which enable dependency analysis; these are especially helpful for pricing analysis by showing users how changes in one dimension impact pricing on the whole. Another is MapViews for manipulation and design to support location analytics that our next generation BI research finds the capability to deploy geographic maps are most important to BI in 47 percent of organizations, and then visualize metrics associated with locations in 41 percent of organizations. Stack charts now provide auto-weighting for 100-percent sum analysis that can be helpful for analytics such as attribution models. Breadcrumbs empower users to understand and drill back through their navigation process, which helps them understand how a person came to a particular analytical conclusion. Finally Trellis View actions provides contextual functionality to help turn data into action in an operational environment. The advancements of these visualizations are critical for Oracle big data efforts as visualization is a top three big data capability not available in 37 percent of organizations according to our big data research and our latest technology innovation research on business analytics found presenting data visually as the second most important capability for organizations according to 48 percent of organizations.

vr_ngbi_br_collaboration_tool_access_preferencesThe update to Oracle Smart View for Office also puts more capability in the hands of users. It natively integrates Excel and other Microsoft Office applications with operational BI dashboards so users can perform analysis and prepare ad-hoc reports directly within these desktop environments. This is an important advance for Oracle since our benchmark research in the use of spreadsheets across the enterprise found that the combination of BI and spreadsheets happens all the time or frequently in 74 percent of organization. Additionally the importance of collaborating with business intelligence is essential and having tighter integration is a critical use case as found in our next generation business intelligence research that found using Microsoft Office for collaboration with business intelligence is important to 36 percent of organizations.

Oracle efforts to evolve its social collaboration efforts through what they call Oracle Social Network have advanced significantly but do not appear to be in the short term plan to integrate and make available through its business intelligence offering. Our research finds more than two-thirds (67%) rank this as important and then embedding it within BI is a top need in 38 percent of organizations. Much of what Oracle already provides could be easily integrated and meet business demand for a range of people-based interactions that most are still struggling to manage through e-mail.

Oracle has extended its existing capabilities in its OBIEE with Hadoop integration via a HIVE connector that allows Oracle to pull data into OBIEE from big data sources, while an MDX search function enabled by integration with the Endeca discovery tool allows OBIEE to do full text search and data discovery. Connections to new data sources are critically important in today’s environment; our research shows that retaining and analyzing more data is the number-one ranked use for big data in 29 percent of organizations according to our technology innovation research. Federated data discovery is particularly important as most companies are often unaware of their information assets and therefore unknowingly limit their analysis.

Beyond the core BI product, Oracle made significant advances with Endeca 3.0. Users can now analyze Excel files. This is an existing capability for other vendors, so it was important for Oracle to gain parity here. Beyond that, Endeca now comes with a native JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) reader and support for authorization standards. This furthers its ability to do contextual analysis and sentiment analysis on data in text and social media. Endeca also now can pull data from the Oracle BI server to marry with the analysis. Overall the new version of Endeca enables new business-driven information discovery that is essential to relieve the stress on analysts and IT to create and publish information and insights to business.

Oracle’s continued investments into BI applications that supply prebuilt analytics and these packaged analytics applications span from the front office (sales and marketing), to operations (procurement and supply chain) to the back office (finance and HR). Given the enterprise-wide support, Oracle’s BI can perform cross-functional analytics and deliver fast time to value since users do not have to spend time building the dashboards. Through interoperation with the company’s enterprise applications, customers can execute action directly into applications such as PeopleSoft, JD Edwards or Oracle Business Suite. Oracle has begun to leverage more of its score-carding function that enables KPI relationships to be mapped and information aggregated and trended. Scorecards are important for analytic cultures because they are a common communication platform for executive decision-makers and allow ownership assignment of metrics.

I was surprised to not find much advancement in Oracle business intelligence efforts that operate on smartphones and tablets. Our research finds mobile business intelligence is important to 69 percent of organizations and that 78 percent of organizations reveal that no or some BI capabilities are available in their current deployment of BI. For those that are using mobile business intelligence, only 28 percent are satisfied. For years, IT has not placed a priority on mobile support of BI while business has been clamoring for it and now more readily leading the efforts with 52 percent planning new or expanded deployments on tablets and 32 percent on smartphones. In this highly competitive market to capture more opportunity, Oracle will need to significantly advance its efforts and make its capabilities freely available without passwords as other BI providers have already done. It also will need to recognize that business is more interested in alerts and events through notifications to mobile technology than trying to make the entire suite of BI capabilities replicated on these technologies.

Oracle has foundational positions in enterprise applications and database technology and has used these positions to drive significant vr_ngbi_br_importance_of_bi_technology_considerationssuccess in BI. The company’s proprietary “walled garden” approach worked well for years, but now technology changes, including movements toward open source and cloud computing, threaten that entrenched position. Surprisingly, the company has moved slowly off of its traditional messaging stance targeted at the CIO, IT and the data center. That position seems to focus the company too much on the technology-driven 3 V’s of big data and analytics, and not enough on the business driven 3 W’s that I advocate. As the industry moves into the age of analytics, where information is looked upon as a critical commodity and usability is the key to adoption (our research finds usability to be the top evaluation consideration in 63 percent of organizations), CIOs will need to further move beyond its IT approach for BI as I have noted and get more engaged into the requirements of business. Oracle’s business intelligence strategy and how it addresses these business outcomes and the use across all business users is key to the company’s future and organizations should examine these critical advancements to its BI offering very closely to determine if you can improve the value of information and big data in an organization.


Tony Cosentino

VP and Research Director

Just about all the CIOs I speak with are at an inflection point in their careers. Some are just biding time before retirement, but many are emerging CIOs who are driven more by a business imperative than a technological one. Today, market and cultural pressures are forcing CIOs to move quickly and be flexible. In many ways, this is antithetical to the posture of IT, which can often be described as slow and methodical. This posture however is no longer sustainable in the era of the six forces of business technology innovation that Ventana Research tracks in our BTI benchmark research.

Well-read publications such as the Harvard Business Review, the New York Times and Wired Magazine are espousing the virtues of big data and analytics. CEOs are listening and demanding that their organizations be adaptive and flexible – and most have iPads. This fact should not be underestimated, because everything you do on an iPad is easy. To bring social, local and mobile intelligence together, organizations face the challenge of slow descriptive analytics and what my colleague Mark Smith rightly calls pathetic dashboard environments. Our next-generation business intelligence benchmark research shows organizations rate the importance of business intelligence as very high, but satisfaction levels are low and have a declining trend line. At the same time, usability is growing to be the top buying criteria for business intelligence by an astounding margin over functionality (64% vs. 49%). The driver of these numbers is that expectations are being set at the consumer level by apps such as Google and Yelp!, and business intelligence applications are not living up to these expectations.

vr_ngbi_br_importance_of_bi_technology_considerationsThis is a difficult situation for CIOs because IT has heavy investments in business intelligence tools and in the SQL skills that often underlie support for them. At the same time, they need to think about what the business needs as much as what they currently have in their environment.

In the 1990s, CIOs faced a similar situation with ERP systems and the OLAP tools that were being deployed on the client side of organizations’ technology architectures. In that case, CIOs often needed to think from the perspective of the CFO and form a close partnership with the operational finance team. This was a natural partnership because both areas are number-driven and tools-oriented. In today’s environment, however, the CIO must partner with the CMO and iPad-carrying executives to drive competitive advantage through analytics and big data. The rapid revolution of big data technologies and what I have described as the four pillars of big data analytics are being adopted by business in many cases outside the scope of the CIO. Much to the chagrin of IT, those executives and marketers do not want spreadsheets and “pathetic” dashboards. They want visual discovery, they want search, they want prescriptive analytics, and they want results.  

Finally, CIOs must grapple with the fact that the business must be involved in building out IT since he can no longer have tight centralized control of all technology. Organizations have many different applications sprouting up, from visual discovery tools and business analytics that are also becoming part of the growing use of cloud computing. CIOs cannot even get a baseline on the company’s current technology environment because they often have no idea what’s happening outside of the data center. CIOs need to start learning from business users about the new technologies they’re using and collaborate with them on how they can put the business tools together with what is running in the data center. 

CIOs have been metaphorically barricaded in the data center, and the data center been a cost center, not a profit center, and certainly not an investment center.  CIOs must now reach out to business users to show value. In order to fulfill on the value promise, they will help business users make sure they can deliver on the table stakes: trusted data, secure data and governance around the data. This requires an organizational cadence that can result only from a marriage of the business side with the IT side.


Tony Cosentino

VP and Research Director

Last week, IBM brought industry analysts to its famed Almaden Research Center, where the company outlined its big data analytics strategy and introduced a number of new innovations. Big data is no new topic to IBM, which has for decades helped organizations store and use data. But technology has changed over those decades, and IBM is working hard to ensure it is part of the future and not just the past. Our latest business technology innovation research into big data technology finds that retaining and analyzing more data is the first-ranked priority in 29 percent of organizations. From both an IT and a business perspective, big data is critical to IBM’s future success.

On the strategy side, there was much discussion at the event around use cases and the different patterns of deployment for big data analytics. Inhi Cho Suh, vice president of strategy, outlined five compelling use cases for big data analytics:

  1. Discovery and visualization. These types of exploratory analytics in a federated environment are a big part of big data analytics, since they can unlock patterns that can be useful in areas as diverse as determining a root cause of an airline issue or understanding relationships among buyers. IBM is working hard to ensure that products such as IBM Cognos Insight can evolve to support a new generation of visual discovery for big data.
  2. 360-degree view of the customer. By bringing together data sources and applying analytics to increase such things as customer loyalty and share-of-wallet, companies can gain more revenue and market share with fewer resources. IBM needs to ensure it can actually support a broad array of information about customers – not just transactional or social media data but also voice as well as mobile interactions that also use text.
  3. Security and intelligence. This area includes areas around fraud and real-time cyber security, where companies leverage big data to predict anomalies and contain risk. IBM has been enhancing its ability to process real-time streams and transactions across any network. This is an important area for the company as it works to drive competitive advantage.
  4. Operational analysis. This is the ability to leverage networks of instrumented data sources to enable proactive monitoring through baseline analysis and real-time feedback mechanisms. The need for better operational analytics continues to increase. Our latest research on operational intelligence finds that organizations that use dedicated tools to handle this need will be more satisfied and gain better outcomes than those that do not.
  5. Data warehouse augmentation.  Big data stores can replace some traditional data stores and archival systems to allow larger sets of data to be analyzed, providing better information and leading to more precise decision-making capabilities. It should be no surprise that IBM has customers with some of the larger data warehouse deployments. The company can help customers evaluate their technology and improve or replace existing investments.

Prior to Inhi taking the stage, Dave Laverty, vice president of marketing, went through the new technologies being introduced. The first announcement was the BLU Accelerator – dynamic in-memory technology that promises to improve both performance and manageability on DB2 10.5. In tests, IBM says it achieved better than 10,000x performance on queries. The secret sauce lies in the ability to do column store data retrieval, maximize CPU processing, and provide skipping of data that is not needed for the particular analysis at hand. The benefits to the user are much faster performance across very large data sets and a reduction in manual SQL optimization. Our latest research into business technology innovation finds that in-memory technology is the technology most planned for use with big data in the next two years (22%), ahead of RDBMS (10%), data warehouse appliance (19%), specialized database (19%) and  Hadoop (20%).

vr_bigdata_obstacles_to_big_data_analytics (2)An intriguing comment from one of IBM’s customers was “What is bad SQL in a world with BLU?” An important extension of that question might be “What is the future role for database administrators, given new advancements around databases, and how do we leverage that skill set to fill the big data analytics gap?” According to our business technology innovations research, staffing (79%) and training (77%) are the two biggest challenges to implementing big data analytics.

One of IBM’s answers to the question of the skills gap comes in the form of BigSQL. A newly announced feature of InfoSphere BigInsights 2.1, BigSQL layers on top of BigInsights to provide accessibility through industry-standard SQL and SQL-based applications. Providing access to Hadoop has been a sticking point for organizations, since they have traditionally needed to write procedural code to access Hadoop data. BigSQL is similar in function to Greenplum’s Pivotal, Teradata Aster and Cloudera’s Impala, where SQL is used to mine data out of Hadoop. All of these products aim to provide access for SQL-trained users and for SQL-based applications, which represent the predominance of BI tools currently deployed in industry. The challenge for IBM, with a product portfolio that includes BigInsights and Cognos Insight, is to offer a clear message about what products meet what types of analytic needs for what types of business and IT professional needs. In addition further clarity from IBM on when to use big data analytics software partners like Datameer who was on an industry panel at the event and part of IBM global educational tour that I have also analyzed.

Another IBM announcement was the PureData System for Hadoop. This appliance approach to Hadoop provides a turnkey solution that can be up and running in a matter of hours. As you would expect in an appliance approach, it allows for consistent administration, workflow, provisioning and security with BigInsights. It also allows access to Hadoop through BigSheets, which presents summary information about the unstructured data in Hadoop, and which was already part of the BigInsights platform. Phil Francisco, vice president of big data product management and strategy, pointed out use cases around archival capabilities and the ability to do cold storage analysis as well as the ability to bring many unstructured sources together. The PureData System for Hadoop, due out in the second half of the year, adds a third version to the BigInsights lineup, which also includes the free web-based version and the Enterprise version. Expanding to support Hadoop with its appliances is critical as more organizations look to exploit the processing power of Hadoop technology for their database and information management needs.

Other announcements included new versions of InfoSphere Streams and Informix TimeSeries for reporting and analytics using smart meter and sensor technology. They help with real-time analytics and big data depending on the business and architectural needs of an organization. The integration of database and streaming analytics are key areas where IBM differentiates itself in the market.

Late in the day, Les Rechan, general manager for business analytics, told the crowd that he and Bob Picciano, general manager for information management, had recently promised the company $20 billion in revenue. That statement is important because in the age of big data, information management and analytics must be considered together, and the company needs a strong relationship between these two leaders to meet this ambitious objective. In an interview, Rechan told me that the teams realize this and are working hand-in-glove across strategy, product development and marketing. The camaraderie between the gentlemen was clear during the event, and bodes well for the organization. Ultimately, IBM will need to articulate why it should be considered for big data, as our technology innovation research finds organizations today are less worried about validation of a vendor from a size perspective (23%) compared to usability of the technology (64%).

IBM’s big data platform seems to be less a specific offer and more of an ethos of how to think about big data and big data analytics in a common-sense way. The focus on five well-thought-out use cases provides customers a frame for thinking through the benefits of big data analytics and gives them a head start with their business cases. Given the confusion in the market around big data, that common-sense approach serves the market well, and it is very much aligned with our own philosophy of focusing on what we call the business-oriented Ws rather than the technology-oriented Vs.

Big data analytics, and in particular predictive analytics, is complex and difficult to integrate into current architectures. Our benchmark research into predictive analytics shows that architectural integration is the biggest inhibitor with 55 percent of companies, which should be a message IBM takes to heart about integration of its predictive analytics tools with its big data technology options. Predictive analytics is the most important capability (49%) for business analytics, according to our technology innovation research, and IBM needs to  show more solutions that integrate predictive analytics with big data.

H.L. Mencken once said, “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong.” Big data analytics is a complex problem, and the market is still early. The latent benefit of IBM’s big data analytics strategy is that it allows IBM to continue to innovate and deliver without playing all of its chips at one time. In today’s environment, many supplier companies don’t have the same luxury.

As I pointed out in my blog post on the four pillars of big data analytics,vr_predanalytics_predictive_analytics_obstacles our research and clients are moving toward addressing big data and analytics in a more holistic and integrated manner. The focus shift is less about how organizations store or process information than how they use it. Some may argue that the IBM’s cadence is reflective of company size and is actually a competitive disadvantage, but I would argue that size and innovation leadership are not mutually exclusive. As companies grapple with the onslaught of big data and analytics, no one should underestimate IBM’s outcomes-based and services-driven approach, but in order to succeed IBM also needs to ensure it can meet the needs of organizations at a price they can afford.


Tony Cosentino

VP and Research Director

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