QlikTech announced this week that it has completed the acquisition of privately-held data-integration vendor Expressor.
Is this move a shift at QlikTech to expand its focus to enterprise extract, transform, and load (ETL)? I don't think so, and in meeting with Donald Farmer, VP of Product Management, and Jeff Boehm, VP of Product Marketing in New York this week, they were quick to confirm that QlikTech is not pursuing the ETL space. Instead, the deal is about metadata re-usability and data governance.
One of the biggest shortcomings of QlikTech's current QlikView product is the lack of a metadata layer, and it's a drawback that has led to deals being lost to competitors such as Tableau and Tibco Spotfire. Customers have to use scripts to extract data from source systems or a data warehouse and load into QlikView's in-memory engine. Calculations (which QlikView calls expressions) are specific to each sheet within a dashboard application. So if the extraction, transformations, and calculations for a widely used measure such as "Customer Churn" change, a designer might have to change a lot of scripts and sheets. Some designers foster re-usability through shared scripts, but it's a work around.
[ Want more on QlikView? Read QlikTech Promises 'Gorgeous Genius'. ]
The Expressor deal, the terms of which were not disclosed, gives QlikTech a graphical user interface for the data-extraction process. The company is positioning Expressor as a way of doing data modeling in process, iteratively and simultaneously building the ETL and the business application.
I visited Expressor at QlikView's partner conference earlier this year, and I was impressed by the product's ease of use. However, maintaining calculations beyond the initial data load is a challenge that QlikView must still address, one that Tableau took steps to address in its version 7 release last fall. Tibco Spotfire, meanwhile, has had a metadata layer for years, with its Information Links. Neither competitor has the same degree of scripting and ETL capabilities that QlikView offers. That gives QlikView a leg up when accessing complex, disparate data, but it's a challenge for less sophisticated users when trying to access a single source.
The Expressor acquisition is a good one for QlikTech, but the company needs also to address the following challenges:
* Improving ease of use/maintenance, particularly for the designer. QlikView has been emphasizing this as a theme in its next version .
* Inability to articulate and position its data-mart capabilities, while also allaying IT's concern about data chaos.
* Lack of flexibility on when to leave data on disk or in a data warehouse versus loading into in-memory; QlikView's approach is currently all or nothing.
The Expressor acquisition also will require QlikTech to address concerns about its move into the broader ETL space at its larger data-integration partner, Informatica.
For a more detailed review and side-by-side comparison of QlikView to other BI tools, visit BI Scorecard . Be sure to take the 2012 Successful BI Survey , which tracks BI adoption and causes of success and failure with BI tools.