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Salesforce.com Unveils Wave Analytics Cloud

Salesforce.com enters $38 billion analytics market with a NoSQL-based platform that puts five-button data-analysis basics on smartphones.

share and collaborate on analyses via Chatter will be $125 per user, per month. Subscriptions for "Builder" users who administer the system and manipulate data will be $250 per user, per month.

The choice of NoSQL for an analytics platform is surprising, given that query capabilities tend to be crude by comparison to SQL. But the upside of the approach is that it is flexible, according to IDC analyst Dan Vesset, who likened Wave to search-oriented BI platforms like Oracle Endeca and Fast Search and Transfer (acquired several years ago by Microsoft).

"With this kind of tool the data is self-organizing, and the dimensions fall out of the data as it's ingested, so you don't need pre-build cubes," Vesset explained. "It's a good choice for the architecture because it offers an easy way to navigate data."

[Want more on the competition? Read Microsoft Cloud Bundle Challenges Salesforce.com.]

Wave will be open to partners and customer data. At Dreamforce this week more than 30 Wave ecosystem partners are expected to demonstrate how they will work with the platform. One of those partners is Kenandy, which built its cloud-based ERP application on Force.com. Using Wave, Kenandy customers will be able to analyze their EPR transactional data, as well as third-party enrichment data from sources such as Nielsen, to improve trade-promotion planning, according to Kenandy CEO Sandy Kurtzig.

"They'll be able to combine this data and then very quickly find correlations and graphically display them," Kurtzig told InformationWeek in a phone interview. "It's going to help our customers see trends among their customers and then make better decisions around demand planning."

To get data into Wave, customers can work with long-standing Salesforce data-integration vendors including Dell Boomi, IBM Cast Iron, Informatica, Jitterbit, Mulesoft, and SnapLogic. Security permissions for access data can be inherited (and extended) from Saleforce.com's security scheme and hierarchies, according to Bigelow.

Wave is built for the basics of BI dashboarding and data visualization. Advanced capabilities such as predictive analytics will be added by partners including C9, Fliptop, Predixion, and Wise.io, all of which focus on machine learning. "Rather than relying on traditional technologies, we wanted to focus on partners that can learn from the data to inform their predictions," said Bigelow.

Will Wave be something just for Salesforce.com customers, or will it have a wider play as a cloud-based BI and analytics platform for a broader base of users? Bigelow says Wave will appeal to a lot of companies that are stuck with shelfware and that want something far more usable for end-users. It's way too early to predict the platform's appeal.

"In the short term, this is great for existing Salesforce customers," said IDC's Vesset. "It's not going to be an enterprise BI play any time soon, but Salesforce is big enough in the CRM space where it could have real impact on sales, marketing, and service organizations."

If Salesforce can evolve without become overly complex -- perhaps adding a fifth button to "predict" the answers to the five to ten most-frequent sales, service, and marketing questions -- it just might satisfy the years-old thirst for data-driven insight into what has happened and what will happen in the days, weeks, and months ahead.

What will you use for your big-data platform? A high-scale relational database? NoSQL database? Hadoop? Event-processing technology? One size doesn't fit all. Here's how to decide. Get the new Pick Your Platform For Big Data issue of InformationWeek Tech Digest today. (Free registration required.)