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What Type of Real-Time BI Support is Available in Existing BI Products?

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Nari Kannan: Real-Tme Business Intelligence is just as important to companies as rear-view mirror, past BI is. What kind of support is available for Real-Time BI currently in existing BI products?

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  • myDIALS is a SaaS Operational BI solution that operates in real-time. Each metric can be updated immediately the underlying data source changes. This approach also supports a rules engine that detects events as they occur as well as real-time scenario analysis.

  • Purely from a data acquisition and evaluation perspective - real-time analytics more or less would be based on two approaches :
    1. Embedded - Products like SAP, Oracle provide real-time analysis based on their underlying products
    2. Heterogeneous - Products that integrate with different system of records and based on pull or push approaches - acquire data and evaluate them by providing some kind of a rules engine.

    Due to the complexity in metrics - given a cross-functional usage scenario the embedded approach may not be sufficient for obvious reasons on the other hand heterogeneous existing products are far and few between to provide meaningful information to the business as a technological possibility doesn't necessarily translate to a business solution.

    Though given a specific business domain the brand of new BPerfM solutions could be an answer to the problem. Where domain specific KPI libraries would provide the guidelines to acquire required data and provide meaningful information to cross functional business users.

    In any case - its still a challenge today to ask business users to move away from spreadsheets and embrace real-time business Intelligence solutions.

  • Most BI software can provide near-real-time information, meaning seconds or minutes old, refreshing automatically. I don't know of any that provide true real-time such as that which financial trading software provides.

    The issues are all related to data storage and physical resources. First, the data needs to be accessed directly from the operational data stores, not a data warehouse - which automatically inserts a time lag. The second issue is the frequency of refreshing the display in the BI software. The more frequently it is refreshed, the more it is querying the operational data store which could impact performance of the customer or market facing application. Spend enough money to add major hardware capacity, and this issue can be overcome.

    But in reality few scenarios require true real-time access and if 5-minute old real-time is sufficient, most BI solutions can deliver this with modest additional hardware expense, if any.

  • There are multiple perspectives to Real-Time BI and here are some of them:

    1) Gain access to operational data for decision making as & when the business activity happens - In this scenario, Enterprise Information Integration (EII) tools offer powerful solutions. These tools, such as Composite Server, provide access to data right from the OLTP systems without the need to load them explicitly into DW/Data marts. There are also the appliance vendors like Teradata, whose USP is 'Data Warehousing on the fly - Load once and analyze forever'

    2) Require access to analytically modeled (can also be read as dimensionally modeled) data in DW/Data marts but with very small latency between the time of transaction and the time after which the analytically enriched data is available to the BI layer - All ETL tools like Informatica, Datastage etc. and specialized tools like Oracle GoldenGate provide real-time data integration capabilities to minimize data latency.

    3) Scenario of 'Actionable BI' where the analytical layer has the ability to alter business process steps by invoking actions in the BPM layer - Recent release of Oracle BIEE 10G provides a case in point of analytics driving business processes in an automated fashion.

    All said & done, as pointed out by others in this thread, Real-Time BI is in reality 'Right-Time BI', i.e. information requirements for any organization is based on the nature of business, the underlying business model and so the tools selected should be based on business fitment rather than on technology sophistication.

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