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3/10/2010
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Tibco Brings Analytics to Spotfire Business Users

Spotfire Statistics Services option exposes S+ and R models within a layman's data-analysis and data-visualization environment.

Stepping up its emphasis on analytics, Tibco Software yesterday released Tibco Spotfire 3.1, an upgrade of the vendor's in-memory data analysis and visualization environment that can now tap advanced statistical and predictive analytics.

Tibco put the spin of its announcement on Spotfire 3.1 being "better than BI, smarter than spreadsheets." The description underscores that the product starts with a flexible desktop tool that gives users hands-on access to data and greater control than conventional BI software. At the same time the software is more powerful than a spreadsheet, supporting development of interactive applications, reports and dashboards.

For those already familiar with Spotfire (and competitors including Tableau and QlikTech), the real headline in yesterday's announcement was the introduction of Spotfire Statistics Services. The optional server-based offering marks the integration of software from Insightful, a small but well-established analytics vendor acquired by Tibco in 2008. Tibco still offers Insightful's S+ line of statistical modeling and data mining software. But with the new, derivative server module for Spotfire, authors and power users can embed S+ and R statistical models within the reports, visualizations and dashboards they create for broader business-user consumption.

"Whether they are using our Professional or Web Player client, users can send data to these models, have them execute and get data back for what-if analyses," said John Callan, director, product marketing for Tibco Spotfire. "They wouldn't have to understand the deep-rooted statistics behind the models, nor would they have to know anything about S+ or R programming."

Compatibility with the open-source R programming language was added by Tibco, and it opens up access to a large and fast-growing portfolio of data models developed by the R community. Models and algorithms are available for a wide range of analyses including retention, churn, survival and multivariate analysis methods. Information Builders is another BI vendor that has tapped into R, and SAS and IBM SPSS are also embracing R software.

Access to analytics is fast becoming commonplace in leading BI products, but vendors have yet to eliminate the need for high-level expertise at some point in the in the deployment. For Spotfire customers, as with competitive offerings, that stage is in the creation or adaptation of models and algorithms to application-specific uses.

"The workflow starts with a statistician or group of statisticians creating a model in either S+ or R; that part is not going away," Callan confirmed.

Upgrades to the core Spotfire product in version 3.1 include new user-interface controls including pull-down menus, list boxes, text boxes, sliders and button controls. The upgrade also adds user-defined variables and parameters said to greatly reduce the need for IT programming and configuration. New visualization options have also been added, including heat maps, bar- and line-chart overlays and a lasso data-selection tool.

Tibco says new Web mashup APIs available in Spotfire 3.1 can be used in combination with Simplified Application Data Services to analyze data from enterprise data sources, such as SAP NetWeaver BI, SAP ERP, Salesforce.com, Siebel eBusiness Applications, and the Oracle E-Business Suite.

Citing diverse requirements, Tibco declined to detail pricing of the Spotfire Statistics Services option or supporting Tibco Spotfire S+ authoring client. Tibco Spotfire Professional desktop software, which lets users access data in flat files, spreadsheets and relational data sources, is $3,000 per user/per client for a three-year license. Lower-cost monthly and annual licenses to the software are also available (starting at $79) at the Tibco Spotfire WebStore.

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