Mid-Size Business Intelligence Buying Guide
Looking for business intelligence software that doesn't feel too big or too small, but just right? You may find it from BI vendors that hit the mid-market sweet spot.
The handful of billion dollar behemoths in the business intelligence space, SAP, Oracle, IBM, Microsoft and SAS, have been around for decades and aren't going anywhere -- at least not any time soon. In addition, BI startups pop up all the time. They tend to get a lot of early press, but many of them fail or see their products get absorbed as a feature in a larger player's software.
But there are other options, namely vendors that have made it out of the startup phase and retained their independence. These vendors will likely appeal to organizations seeking particular features or services the big companies don't provide, while also looking for a stable partner with a proven track record.
Here are five business intelligence "in-betweener" firms for you to consider:
Actuate has been around since 1993. In 2004 it founded the open source Eclipse BIRT (Business Intelligence Reporting Tools) project, which it still co-leads. It has 5,000 customers and 2012 income of $138 million.
The company's flagship product, ActuateOne is a BIRT-based suite of commercial products for development and deployment of custom business analytics applications for Big Data, predictive analytics and customer communication management. According to the company, ActuateOne applications can access, serve, integrate and display any volume or type of data, including information from unstructured sources and social media.
Modules in the product suite allow developers to build customized application software for everything from designing simple financial dashboards to displaying analytics from a variety of sources. Since ActuateOne is a developer toolset, with end user modules that can be deployed by the IT department to internal or external customers, downstream analytics and reporting applications can be tailored to the business.
"Information must be more accessible and analytics need to be easier to generate for IT and developers as well as the business user," said Nobby Akiha, Actuate's senior vice president of Marketing.
Recent changes include in-memory processing and expanded Big Data partnerships with Cloudera, Hortonworks, Amazon, VMware, Cassandra (Datastax), MongoDB (10Gen), Actian (Pervasive) and VoltDB.
The software can be hosted locally or via the cloud. The company offers traditional as well as cloud software purchase options, under the categories of Named User, Per CPU Core, Capacity-based Work Unit, with SaaS subscriptions available under Named User and Instance-based models. The company does not disclose pricing.
Alteryx Strategic Analytics is primarily used by analysts in line-of-business groups such as sales, marketing, finance and strategic planning. Adoption is particularly strong in retail (with customers such as Walmart, Nordstrom and Dunkin Brands), communications (with nine of the top 10 U.S. wireless carriers) and marketing service providers (including Experian and Equifax).
The most recent release, Alteryx Strategic Analytics 8.5, includes native delivery of the Tableau file format to enable visualization and data discovery. For business decision makers, the recently released Alteryx Analytics Gallery, an app store environment, is said to simplify the utilization of sophisticated analytics. Mobile users can access those apps through a Web browser.
The software runs locally or through the cloud. A free version of Alteryx is available. Otherwise, there is a per-user licensing model for production of analytics and for consumption, plus a per-server license. Production licenses range from free to $45,000, consumption licenses from $1,500 per user to $210,000 per server. All licenses are subscription based with no maintenance.
Logi Info is a business intelligence platform that delivers interactive analytics, reports, data visualizations and dashboards to the Web, mobile devices and email. It can operate as a standalone BI application or can be embedded into other software (SaaS or OEM). OEMs that integrate reports, analytics and dashboards directly into their software applications are the company's largest market segment.
"Embedding analytics into the core operational applications of the business will radically increase adoption," said Brian Brinkmann, vice president of Products, Logi Analytics. "By placing the information in the context of their job and the applications they use daily, business people make data-driven decisions without having to access disjointed BI applications."
Logi Analytics recently increased the interactivity in its charts (with zoom charts, legend filtering, hover highlighting and chart filters), added data visualizations and improved the performance. The software is embedded into hundreds of apps developed by ISVs and can be embedded into nearly any Web-based software product. It supports iOS, Android and Windows devices using HTML 5.
Logi Info can be installed on most common operating systems, including Windows, Linux and Solaris or accessed through the cloud. Pricing is typically server based with no limitations on the number of end users.
QlikTech's QlikView Business Discovery platform is characterized as in-memory associative search technology. Jeff Boehm, QlikTech's vice president, Global Product Marketing, said it can be implemented in days or weeks.
QlikView's app-driven model works with existing business intelligence solutions. Last fall, the company launched QlikView Direct Discovery for direct access to Big Data sources within QlikView apps. As part of QlikView's Big Data discovery strategy, discovery can link data already loaded in-memory with Big Data sources for rapid visual analysis.
Last year it also released the QlikView Governance Dashboard, a free product that provides visibility into QlikView deployments to improve data governance. QlikView has an open API to integrate it with upstream and downstream applications. The basic pricing model is based on users and servers. QlikView offers volume discounting and regional pricing in local currencies.
Tableau Desktop is based on technology from Stanford University that lets users drag and drop to analyze data. They can connect to data in a few clicks, then visualize and create interactive dashboards with a few more. Tableau Server is a browser-based analytics platform.
The latest release, Tableau 8.0, includes features such as Web and mobile authoring, access to cloud and Big Data sources, faster performance and deeper integration. Advances to visual analytics include forecasting, cohort analysis, and set manipulation to discover patterns and make comparisons. The data can also be viewed in stem-and-leaf plots, treemaps, bubble charts, word clouds and other highly visual formats.
"Some of these views are controversial and should be used sparingly," cautioned Francois Ajenstat, Tableau's director, Product Management.
Tableau Desktop runs on Windows desktops and servers. Mobile users (iOS and Android) can consume visualizations, subscribe to reports and author new visualizations directly from mobile devices. Pricing starts at $999 for Tableau Desktop Personal Edition.
Drew Robb is a freelance writer specializing in technology and engineering. Currently living in California, he is originally from Scotland, where he received a degree in geology and geography from the University of Strathclyde. He is the author of Server Disk Management in a Windows Environment (CRC Press).