Partly Cloudy

BI software is going downmarket while hardware make data markets and ETL operations unnecessary.

In recent conversations with industry activist and profiteers, I have concluded that there is a hole in one market and another market that is morphing from maturity.


During a recent IDC briefing I sat with Robert Eve, the marketing VP at Composite Computing. Composite is in the data virtualization business, making seemingly endless pools of unrelated data more usable. We mutually concluded that the advent of certain technologies (commodity hardware, exponentially expanding bandwidth, cloud computing) combined with near real-time business pressures will reduce or eliminate traditional extract, transform and load (ETL) operations. Things are moving fast in business and computing technology is changing data center options.

Business agility will overrule other decisions.

Not everyone believes this trend.  I exchanged email with Bill Hewitt, the CEO at Kalido.  His company – which lives in the more traditional data warehouse market – sees growing rules of governance expanding traditional ETL operations and data marts.  As slick as real-time business intelligence is, harmonizing the data and documenting the source of business decisions remains a mandate.

Missing is management of these new wave computing monster. The concept of the cloud is still relatively new, despite industry ex-leaders like Sun announcing that they will jump into the game. Cloud management remains the domain of Google, Amazon and other organizations with more computing iron than a NASA wet dream and the staff to support it. Yet the concept of private clouds (or as I’ll coin the next industry abbreviation, p-clouds) is being discussed.

And like teenage sex, everyone is talking about it and hardly anyone is doing it.

Thus, there is a hole in the market. Vendors need to develop a management suite that handles all the misery of cloud management. Auto-discovery, server classification, network segment management, virtualization, provisioning, monitoring, redundancy, failover and alerting. Nobody I know of has all that in one package. Openview, Tivoli and other products are partial solutions. But for clouds to be effective, all computing resources in the cloud must be abstracted and managed as such.


Writing code to do this? Talk to me about marketing it.

While clouds may soon make the average data center one huge abstracted gizmo, the need to make sense of all that data grows. The formerly hot BI sector is showing its stretch marks, displaying occasional hot flashes but largely cooling and going down market. The BI market is morphing in part because the high end is saturated and in part because the promise of BI hasn’t paid off as well as many enterprises had hoped.

One sign of a mature market is when large numbers of customers never got their ROI but still use the product.

It is also a sign when you have two or more Open Source contenders in the space. I chatted with a very animated Brian Gentile, CEO at Jaspersoft. I mentioned my and Robert Eve’s observations on clouds and data marts, and Brian concurred. The early trend is toward throwing hardware at the problem, reducing the delays and distance between the information consumer (i.e. info worker) and supplier (i.e. database). Brian reminded me that the BI sector has been around for 25 years and is fragmenting, which is why the Open Source vendors are making headway and why Jaspersoft in particular is doing well since their code can be easily embedded into other applications.

Other BI vendors are going vertical, to find markets in which they have or can recruit subject matter experts and thus add industry specific smarts. This is a short-term play because vertical-focused business consultants are using Jaspersoft and Pentaho (because they are free) to craft industry specific reports (and sometimes openly sharing these), and then leading their clients to deploy the same software. This results in downstream sales for the Open Source solutions.

The forecast for p-clouds is cloudy but will be very sunny for a fast moving solution provider. BI is sunny but growing cloudy as winds blow lower caste users from the original BI market leaders to the new dogs. And the poor IT admin has to rack and rack and rack more gear to feed the voracious cloud of tomorrow.