There's big news in the world of business intelligence today. Not quite as big as the flurry of BI acquisitions that happened back in 2007, but pretty big nonetheless.
As PCWorld reports, vendors Jaspersoft, Talend, Vertica and RightScale are teaming to offer a cloud-based BI stack that includes open source BI (Jaspersoft), data integration (Talend), an analytic database (Vertica) and application management (RightScale).
Curt Monash of Monash Research says the offering makes the most sense for SMBs or departmental deployments. The vendors are also selling it as a good and cost-effective option for companies interested in running periodic BI projects or those that want to create analytic "sandboxes" in the cloud.
The SMB market for BI is relatively untapped. Only about half of the SMBs surveyed by AMI-Partners last year were using BI. Many of them are likely put off by the perceived costs and complexity. In theory, BI in the cloud should reduce both.
The CIO of the Associated Grocers of Louisiana (AG), a retailers' cooperative serving 260 independent supermarkets in five states, listed several advantages to using BI in the cloud in a blog post from last year. Chief among them, he said, were the flexibility it gave the cooperative to learn as it went along and to phase in capabilities as desired. The money quote:
Others at AG share my concern of embarking on a large-scale implementation of an enterprise-level BI system because initially, AG had very little understanding of the scope, requirements and benefits, which is why justification was so difficult. If we had been able to justify an enterprise-level tool early in the project, it would still have taken years to implement. Our current mode of implementation allows us to learn at a very small cost and create a desire and appetite for more capability over time.
A cloud-based model makes particular sense for companies or departments that want to start small with their BI efforts and then build on early success, an approach advocated by a number of experts that I wrote about earlier this summer.
I see a possible snag, based on how the software will be sold. According to the article, customers will need to sign contracts with each of the four vendors. Each vendor will also provide support for its component of the stack. This seems needlessly complicated even if, as Talend's VP of marketing tells PCWorld, processes are in place to make sure the sales and support processes go smoothly.
Of course, as the article notes, the four-vendor solution might also appeal to smaller resellers or consultants who could target the same audiences and employ their expertise to create customized applications for them. In those cases, they'd be responsible for managing vendor relationships.