Does Salesforce Have the Integration Hoodzpah to Back up Wave Hoopla?

Loraine Lawson
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The Hadoop Challenge for Business Intelligence and Analytics Users

Tech news today is filled with headlines about Salesforce Wave. So you might say Salesforce’s launch into analytics is a marketing success. The real question, though, is whether Wave has the data integration power to back up the recent Internet buzz.

Salesforce certainly seems to think so. Keith Bigelow, SVP and GM for Salesforce analytics cloud, told the UK-based site Computing that Salesforce has six data integration partners, all optimized to “target the ETL [Extract, Transform, Load] workflow straight into the data analytics cloud,” rather than simply targeting a legacy data warehouse.

Certainly, Wave works with some of the big-name integration vendors — provided they aren’t potential competitors. The Salesforce press release specifically mentions Dell Boomi, Informatica, Jitterbit and Mulesoft as data integration partners, as well as several big-name systems integrators. Informatica even issued its own press release on its partnership with Wave, noting that its Cloud portfolio “seamlessly integrated with Wave.”

“That's not just Salesforce data or data from our other partner apps, but all of their connectors as well, so for example, it's useful for financial services where Informatica has brilliant adaptors to that data,” Bigelow said.

His Q&A with Computing goes a long way to answer a number of questions about Wave and how it will handle data. For instance, from this post, we learn that:

  • While Salesforce has a data quality group called, it also relies on partners (again, he mentions Informatica specifically) who can provide data quality for external data.
  • If you want, you can filter data migration for the delta data points.
  • Salesforce has 2,400 app exchange customers whose data is in the Salesforce cloud and thus native to any Wave analytics.
  • Data is stored in key value pairs, then compressed and encoded. This means Salesforce can store “masses of data,” Bigelow says, with search more like Google than a relational database.
  • While current Salesforce dashboards and reporting happen in Oracle, the analytics data is moved to a cloud-based NoSQL store. Salesforce owns the stack.

Given that the announcement officially happened today, most of the news is based on Salesforce’s own announcement. Umbel Product Manager Rishi Shah was one of the few voices today offering a more critical view, possibly because Umbel offers an audience analysis platform that will likely face competition from Wave.

Shah predicted Wave Analytics Cloud would face the same three pitfalls its competitors face: limited data access, a shortage of dedicated staff at the end-user companies available to use it, and real actionability.

Data Analytics

“For the data to be actionable, the Business Analyst has to find something – an interesting piece of information, say – that is large enough to warrant action that goes beyond emailing his manager,” Shah writes, adding that in some cases, Wave lacks the ability to access systems in a “secure and compliant manner that respects user privacy while improving the productivity of said analyst.”

I’m not saying he’s right — after all, this is just the first iteration of Wave — but his statement may represent both Wave’s greatest weakness and its greatest sales point. While security and compliance are certainly major issues for any analytics program, Salesforce hasn’t gained market share by playing by IT best practices. Instead, it has won over business users with its simplicity, and in fact, its ability to circumvent IT’s policy and infrastructure complexities.

There’s little of that kind of drudgery in Salesforce’s flashy demonstration or Bigelow’s remarks about the test run with pilot customers in his Q&A:

“This is the first product I've created when users giggled, they laughed when they use it. We changed the interface to optimize for them since their feedback. It should feel more like Angry Birds than getting angry at IT because you can't get the report you want.”

Concerns about security, compliance and even strategic advantage will be hard sells against that.

Loraine Lawson is a veteran technology reporter and blogger. She currently writes the Integration blog for IT Business Edge, which covers all aspects of integration technology, including data governance and best practices. She has also covered IT/Business Alignment and IT Security for IT Business Edge. Before becoming a freelance writer, Lawson worked at TechRepublic as a site editor and writer, covering mobile, IT management, IT security and other technology trends. Previously, she was a webmaster at the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and a newspaper journalist. Follow Lawson at Google+ and on Twitter.

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