Salesforce.com enters $38 billion analytics market with a NoSQL-based platform that puts five-button data-analysis basics on smartphones.
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Salesforce.com announced its highly anticipated analytics cloud on Monday, delivering what it's touting as a "disruptive" platform designed for everyday business users, not just data gurus and analysts.
The analytics cloud, called Wave, is Salesforce.com's sixth -- counting its sales, service, marketing, community, and mobile-app clouds -- and it's a grab at a global software and services market that IDC says reached $38 billion in annual revenue in 2013. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff leaked the analytics cloud plan a month ago via Twitter, just 10 months after declaring at Dreamforce 2013 that Salesforce "does not intend to move into the traditional, horizontal analytics market." But then, it's fair to say that the Wave platform does not take a traditional approach to business intelligence.
For starters, Wave is designed first and foremost for mobile interaction, with five simple smartphone buttons for data-analysis: filter, group, measure, view, and drill. These options for filtering and grouping data and then visualizing and drilling down on the results cover the vast majority of analyses that users generally need, according to Keith Bigelow, a BusinessObjects veteran who joined Salesforce two and a half years ago to spearhead the development of an analytics cloud.
"The user interface design was inspired by gaming interfaces, and we make full use of the touch interface so it's a tactile experience that's unique in the market," said Bigelow, general manager and senior VP of big data and analytics. "The system automatically generates queries behind the scenes as you select filters, group, and double-click to drill down on data visualizations."
Simplicity is also inherent in Saleforce.com's choice of a key value store as the back end of the Wave platform. This NoSQL database makes it possible to store any data -- structured or variably structured -- without the rigidity of the predefined schemas required for conventional relational and multi-dimensional (OLAP) databases.
Saleforce.com Wave is designed for mobile-first interaction on smartphones, but tablet and desktop interfaces make the most of data visualizations.
"We can ingest log data as well as rows and columns, and because of the inverted index that we've put on top for our query engine, we can federate across data sets that have historically not been easy to bring together," Bigelow said. "We ingest the data with minimal metadata about key values, and then we can join across data sets irrespective of source."
In place of SQL, the lingua franca of data warehousing, Salesforce says its home-grown database uses what it calls the Salesforce Analytic Query Lanague (SAQL). But Salesforce is not interested in teaching users how to use SAQL, said Bigelow. This language is strictly for power users, developers, and Salesforce administrators, so they combine and transform data and create custom queries that users can then explore with their simple filter, group, measure, view, and drill buttons.
Wave will be generally available on October 20, with mobile apps available from the Apple and Google Android app stores. Subscriptions for "Explorer" business users, who can explore data, create visualizations, annotate, and
Doug Henschen is Executive Editor of InformationWeek, where he covers the intersection of enterprise applications with information management, business intelligence, big data and analytics. He previously served as editor in chief of Intelligent Enterprise, editor in chief of ... View Full Bio
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