Q&A: MicroStrategy COO On BI Performance, Mobility - InformationWeek

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3/9/2010
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Q&A: MicroStrategy COO On BI Performance, Mobility

Chief Operating Officer Sanju Bansal talks about smartphone capabilities, analytics, dashboards, and the dirty secret in business intelligence: slow query response times.

For more on business intelligence, see Intelligent Enterprise.

Devices like the iPhone will slash mobile BI query speeds -- as long as the underlying BI architectures don't get in the way. So says MicroStrategy Chief Operating Officer Sanju Bansal, a 20-year company veteran who has more than a few bold things to say about performance, analytics, dashboards and the competition.

InformationWeek: MicroStrategy highlighted mobile BI during its January users' conference, but we haven't noticed much uptake for related products. Do you know something we don't?

Sanju Bansal: I agree that the current state BI mobility is a yawner. When you look at the current tools, including our own, they tend to present simple graphs and grids. But after studying what's happening with smart phones, it's clear that Apple, with the iPhone, is picking up momentum and market share pretty aggressively. Apple has shipped about 70 million iPhone and iTouch devices, and they will probably ship another 50 million units this year. Within two years, there will be more than 200 million devices in the market that run that operating system and browser stack.

What makes these smart phone devices interesting but that is not well understood is that the impedance to queries is dramatically lower. Not only do they know where you are because they have built-in GPS capabilities, they also have built-in cameras and other sensors. If you're a manager in a retail store, for example, the device already knows where you are and you can take a picture of the barcode on any item with the camera; with barcode lookup services, the device knows what the item is within about half a second. Before, if you wanted to look up the sales or inventory of a product, you had to look up and enter the product name or code and you had to enter your location.

The challenge is going to be performance, because people don't want to wait much longer than about two seconds for query results. The dirty secret in BI is that performance is still a problem. In most corporate environments, query response times are anywhere from 20 to 45 seconds. That's obviously way too long for a mobile device.

InformationWeek: So what is MicroStrategy doing about the problem?

Sanju Bansal: When we launch our new mobile offering for smart phones in the second half of this year, you'll see deep integration with native sensors. Second, you'll see tight integration with other software on iPhones and other devices, like mapping. We're also working hard on the BI performance part of the equation. Our goal is sub-five-second and, in many cases, one- to two-second response time.

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