Short list of BI hot buttons includes dashboards, self-service, mobile, in-memory, cloud, collaboration and, of course, big data.
4. In-Memory Goes Mainstream
In-memory technology saw several major releases in 2012, and that makes 2013 an opportune year for companies to implement this technology. In-memory was initially an approach leveraged by a few OLAP systems (like TM1, now part of IBM Cognos) and a few specialty vendors (like QlikTech and Tibco Spotfire).
Now all leading BI platform vendors have in-memory solutions, with Oracle being the last to join the ranks with its Exalytics appliance, which runs the TimesTen in-memory database. Kicking off 2013, SAP announced the ability to run its core transactional (OLTP) applications on the Hana in-memory database. Nonetheless, debate about when to use in-memory or when to use an analytic appliance, columnar database or disk-based data warehouse will continue, driven by constraints including available expertise, analytic demands and cost.
Other noteworthy 2012 in-memory announcements included:
-- Microsoft Hekaton, an in-memory transaction support within SQL Server, expected in 2014 or 2015
-- IBM Cognos 10.2, which includes dynamic, in-memory cubes for relational data sources
-- SAS LASR Server, which combines in-memory processing with Hadoop infrastructure for large-scale analytics and visual discovery.
5. Big Data Generates Big Interest
Reminiscent of the Gold Rush era, there's money to be had (and to invest) in big data, but only a few, as of yet, are striking it rich.
Big data such as Web clicks, tweets, and genomic data are critical in certain industries, such as ecommerce, gaming, advertising, and healthcare. Some associate big data only with Hadoop and with the demise of the data warehouse. However, I see Hadoop and NoSQL solutions as being only a part of the architecture for handling structured and unstructured data. The traditional data warehouse, analytic appliances and BI vendors all have roles to play here.
So in 2013, companies in certain industries will indeed embrace new solutions from big data startups including Datameer, Karmasphere, Platfora, and SiSense. Others will leverage big-data connectors from their existing BI tools. The majority of companies are still grappling with basic data access, so big data will continue to be just an interesting cover story.
6. Cloud Becomes Just Another Option
Cloud is another area of BI that is grabbing a lot of headlines, but to date, not a lot of deployments. Cloud accounts for only 3% of total BI revenues, according to Gartner. Cloud BI would seem to fall, then, in the domain of "nice to have." But if you talk to CIOs, many would welcome the chance to outsource the problem of infrastructure maintenance and instead focus on higher-value IT investments. BI in the cloud provides that opportunity, along with flexibility to handle elastic (variable) workload demands.
Security concerns were initially the biggest barrier to cloud BI deployments. There's now greater acceptance that cloud BI can be secure. The question becomes whether a cloud provider can do a better job than you can in ensuring reliability and security, though doubts were recently raised by yet another Amazon blip during the make-or-break Christmas season.
BI vendors have had to re-architect their products to be cloud-ready, both with multitenancy and the ability to work with data retained on premises. In 2013 we will see more POCs and trial-use of BI cloud products. Cloud will increasingly become a routine deployment option rather than a product differentiator. Oracle says it will preview a cloud-based reporting and analytics offering in the first half of the year. Also look for Pentaho to release a new, multitenant architecture.
7. Collaboration Goes Beyond Social
Did you think that social networking and collaboration would just be passing fads -- or ways to share photos and look up old flames? In the midst of Hurricane Sandy, many used Facebook and Twitter to find hotel rooms, places to shower and to charge cell phones. It was a study of contrasts of those who knew how to use the technology and those who didn't -- I couldn't find Jersey Central Power & Light's Twitter handle. New Jersey Governor Christie started off with useless tweets, like "watch my live stream" -- uh, not on limited battery power. But he eventually provided more useful tweets, such as when specific communities would get power restored.
I still get the sense that most vendors add collaboration without a clear vision or passion for what sharing can bring. A few BI vendors seem to get it, most notably Panorama and Lyzasoft. Some BI buyers tell me their users don't ask for these types of features, to which I recall that nobody initially asked for mobile phones, either. When I read about how, for example, United Health Group and the Mayo Clinic will be sharing and mining data across boundaries, I think collaboration in BI has the potential to bring the best data to the best analysts.
These are my predictions for the biggest trends in the year ahead. Wherever your priorities lie, enjoy the journey!
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