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How Fast Will it Take BI to Move Outside the Firewall to the Cloud?

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David Linthicum: How fast will it take BI to move outside the firewall to the cloud?

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  • BI in the cloud offers very easy usability and accessibility to your information from any device, anywhere.

    The limiting factor in many cases might be the hesitation companies may have moving their sensitive data to a third party server somewhere. Even this concern may go away after sometime. Then the question that still remains might be how do you get the data to the cloud where you have your BI? If dirty data and data collection are still problems when all of this is centralized and in-house, I cannot imagine what the problems might be when trying to do this in the cloud.

    So data security and ease of data collection may be the concerns that determine how fast BI moves to the cloud.

  • Nari is very right about the fact that Security and data availability is a big barrier to entry when it comes to Strategic or classical BI on the cloud. And it shall remain that way till a more standardized approach to data availability and security is not formulated by the enterprises.

    Having said that, enterprises will be able to see the value of SOA as a Data/Information enabler and WS-Security to possibly help alleviate the security concerns to an extent on the wire( Other security concerns will require some kind of a governing body to enforce related policies as required)

    On the contrary transactional data can still be made available and this is where the barrier to entry for Operational BI products on the cloud would be much easier as these could be easily exposed as Services and the SaaS based OBI products on the cloud would be able to provide the necessary business intelligence for users to take informed decisions as the right time.

  • BI in the cloud is already happening. But it is different BI: different data (think SFDC and not SAP), different audiences (think everybody in front office and not CxO in CxO suite) and different velocity (changes to data and metadata happening daily and hourly). And the cloud is actually the only place where this can be done efficiently. Anybody discussing WS* is focused on a wrong problem...

    Roman Stanek, Founder, CEO, GoodData

  • I agree with Roman that its a different type of BI we are looking at. But it also is important what problem you are trying to solve! If its just reading spreadsheet data and reporting on it then its more of spreadsheet BI on the cloud :-) but if you look at enterprise data then the problem is bigger; your data sources are disparate and security is a prime concern. Well, Web services is just one way to go about it from a SOA standpoint; there could be certainly other ways to approach the problem but definitely it needs a set of standards to expose enterprise data whether its WS* or something else...

  • No offense, but isn't is a typical IT perspective: front office data equals spreadsheets. Many of our customers consider SFDC being the company system of record and the back office data is just extension of it. Once again: it is different BI for different audiences delivered differently...

  • A hybrid approach can provide a secure way to access on-premise data sources (connector behind the firewall) and combine this information with other SaaS applications such as SFDC, NetSuite etc. I agree with the comment that many more users are possible with BI in the cloud, but these can span front-office and back-office processes. I also agree with the lower time granularity - the difference in my mind is operational BI vs traditional, strategic BI.

  • Not sure if the "cloud" needs to be outside of the firewall, and it all depends on what information and enterprise environment you're talking about.

    In general "Cloud" based reporting and management of enterprise business intelligence offers significant advantages - consistency of formatting and reporting, more consistent analysis, ability to better integrate distributed enterprise operations, etc. (e.g., Consider a worldwide enterprise supply chain management environment.)

    I agree that the issue is going to be security, but we're assuming that the "cloud" is hosted by some third-party centralized utility. I agree with Wayne that a hybrid envrionment of intra and inter enterprise environments, some behind the "firewall" and some external depending on the requirements will be the more likely scenario.

  • Roman, I think the challenge is getting front-office users more comfortable with something OTHER than spreadsheets. I sold BI years ago and that was an issue then and I still observe it as an issue. With that said, the delivery methods available make it easier to lower that friction to adoption...

  • I agree wholeheartedly with the points Nari brings up: security and integration are the two biggest challenges for BI in the cloud.

    I think cloud BI will continue to grow for very specific set of needs and circumstances -- primarily for layering BI over pre-existing cloud applications, such as as salesforce.com. As Soumadeep points out, it's a different type of BI for different needs.

    However, because of the challenges mentioned above, I think the growth of cloud-based BI is limited and will not overtake in-house systems anytime in the near future. Much of the cloud buzz lately has been focused on reducing costs, which can also be easily done by utilizing more pragmatic and/or tactical BI solutions in-house – without putting critical data at risk or creating integration hurdles.

  • BI moving to Cloud is not a question of "if" but "when" and this "when" is not too far in the horizon. The technology is improving, the offerings are maturing. As proven in the past, small players will use cloud BI as an opportunity to reduce their time-to-market, save costs and provide more efficient service to their clients. Whereas, big players will wait on the sides until they are forced to do so by the market conditions. There are definitely some genuine concerns and challenges about security, data collection/cleansing/integration etc. that need to be resolved before such solutions become mainstream. But I think that these concerns have more to do with the cloud concept itself and less to do with cloud based BI. All those organizations who have concluded that Cloud is the way to go, BI in cloud is not radically different (barring the operational issues and early technology challenges).

    So to summarize, Cloud BI is set to happen in the next 3-5 years, but will ‘Cloud BI go mainstream and find adoption in large enterprises, I think time will tell.

  • Perhaps it's a generational thing. For the rapidly growing list of (mostly smaller and younger?) organizations that already use one or more external SaaS solutions for things like email (Google Apps), ERP (SalesForce), bug tracking (37signals), customer support (Zendesk), etc., using a hosted, SaaS BI solution seems very natural. And in most cases the hosted BI solution they select will in fact be cloud-based because the economics are so compelling.

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