unbounded data, continues to have a profound impact on business intelligence, business analytics and data warehousing.Big, or at least
This week we saw a few particular developments in this area, as Endeca and SAP announced the next versions of some key products, and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer gave some insight into Microsoft's big data strategy.
Steve Ballmer Talks Big Data
I've speculated before that Microsoft's future could be in big data. Specifically in providing data-as-a-service via Bing APIs and brokering data through the Azure DataMarket. We've also looked at some of Microsoft's investments in big data and machine learning technology. So it was nice to see some validation coming from Steve Ballmer and other Microsoft executives in an Information Week interview this week.
Ballmer says Microsoft is staking its big data future not on traditional business intelligence products, but on things like the DataMarket. Although Bing and Azure are part of two separate divisions at Microsoft (Online Services and Server & Tools Business respectively) the two are cross-pollinating. Satya Nadella from the Online Services division took over the SBT division after Bob Muglia departed Microsoft. According to Information Week, Nadella is applying lessons learned about scale and availability at Bing to Azure.
Ballmer also emphasized the role Bing plays on collecting massive amounts of data that can be used to power analytics.
Endedca Releases Latitude 2
Information Week points out that Microsoft doesn't yet have tooling for actually dealing with those streams of data that the Bing APIs or Azure DataMarket can provide. Perhaps Microsoft will release some tools for that sort of thing, but for the time being it looks like enterprises will be on their own for figuring out what to actually do with that information.
One possibility is working with Endeca Latitude, which just released version 2.0 of its product this week.
Endeca started with its product InFront, a customer-facing product that lets customers compare pricing and other information in order to make better purchasing decisions. Latitude is a product that moves Endeca's technology to business side, enabling decision makers to analyze both structured and unstructured data.
Dealing with unstructured data is the key to the next generation of business intelligence tools.
SAP Announces New Versions of Crystal Reports and BusinessObjects Edge
This isn't lost to the major players in the BI market. This week SAP announced the new versions of two of its flagship products: SAP Crystal Server 2011 (formerly Crystal Reports Server) and SAP BusinessObjects Edge Business Intelligence 4.0.
Crystal Server is a "self-service" BI reporting tool for non-experts. SAP hopes the new version will enable more employees from sales and marketing who might not have much BI or development experience work with its tools to glean insights. Crystal Server will include the SAP BusinessObjects Explorer.
For more more experienced BI users is Edge 4.0, which will add support for unstructured information from sources such as social networks.
IBM: Business Intelligence and Analytics is the #1 Priority for Midmarket CIOs
So we've seen what vendors are pushing, but is this what customers actually want? IBM recently released The Essential CIO - Midmarket CIO Study 2011 (PDF), which found that: "To increase competitiveness, 83 percent of Midmarket CIOs have visionary plans that include business intelligence and analytics, followed by mobility solutions (72 percent) and virtualization (67 percent). When asked to rank the impact of external forces, the newest ranking by CIOs more closely matched the list that CEOs identified in our 2010 study."
Of course this is a vendor study, so it will naturally skew towards what the vendor wants. And IBM has placed large bets on big data and analytics. But it's a good indicator that this there's a real demand for analytics solutions.