Pacific Northwest BI Summit attendees look ahead, predict BI's future

Pacific Northwest BI Summit attendees' predictions focused on analytics, data management and integration. But they couldn't avoid mentioning big data.

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GRANTS PASS, ORE. -- When it came time to predict what will happen to the industry in the next 12 months, attendees at the 11th annual Pacific Northwest Business Intelligence Summit tended to think in broad strokes.

"It is going to continue to be a very disruptive time in the [business intelligence] BI area," said Claudia Imhoff, president and founder of Intelligent Solutions Inc. and founder of the Boulder BI Brain Trust. "With great disruption come great opportunities for new companies."

About the experts

  • Claudia Imhoff, president and founder of Intelligent Solutions in Boulder, Colo.
  • Colin White, president and founder of BI Research in Ashland, Ore.
  • Jill Dyché, analyst and vice president of thought leadership for Cary, N.C.-based SAS Inc.
  • Shawn Rogers, vice president of research at Enterprise Management Associates in Boulder, Colo.
  • William McKnight, president of McKnight Consulting Group in Plano, Texas

Generally, the five analysts and 13 vendors (Teradata Corp.'s Kim Dossey was absent from this session) said data management issues will persist, analytics will continue to mature and intertwining the two will remain a challenge. The predictions might not have been earth-shattering, but the subtext of the discussion was revealing: Data has become so prolific that it's having a profound impact on how it is regarded, stored, processed and queried.

So, it wasn't surprising to hear Donald Farmer, vice president of product management at QlikTech Inc., refer to data as "the new raw material." "We're going to see Chinese tech companies … start to invest and acquire U.S. software companies, particularly in the data space," he said. "[They] will recognize that data is the new asset -- the new raw material -- they need to invest in."

Nor was it surprising to hear John Santaferraro, vice president of solutions and product marketing at ParAccel Inc., say that the analysis of that new raw material will continue to rise in popularity. "It's the Moneyball effect," he said. "I don't think analytics will become mainstream, but it will surge ahead toward that."

Because data analytics is trending, even those who want nothing to do with data itself want access to the insights it can provide. Data visualization vendors have gained a foothold in this area, but Harriet Fryman, director of business analytics software at IBM, sees it going further in the next year as analytics are melded into BI. "It will shift from being information-driven and thinking about the user experience … to being much more answer-driven, as a way to give an experience to the people who are not or don't care to be information comptrollers," she said.

Big data can't be ignored

Like it or not, part of data proliferation hinges on the "big data" phenomenon, which started off as a management problem, but according to summit attendees, is giving way to analytics. "If the last 12 months was the year of big data, the next 12 months will be the year of analytics," said Mark McNally, vice president of business development at Predixion Software Inc. "Most of the big data investments have yet to be made."

About the vendors

  • Yves de Montcheuil, vice president of marketing at Talend Inc., based in Los Altos, Calif.
  • Kim Dossey, third-party consultant manager at Teradata Corp., based in Miamisburg, Ohio
  • Peter Evans, BI product advocate at Quest Software based in Aliso Viejo, Calif.
  • Robert Eve, executive vice president of marketing at Composite Software Inc. in San Mateo, Calif.
  • Harriet Fryman, director of business analytics software at IBM
  • Donald Farmer, vice president of product management at Radnor, Pa.-based QlikTech
  • Fred Funke, director of sales at Gnip, based in Boulder, Colo.
  • Tarun Loomba, president at Armanta Inc., based in Morristown, N.J.
  • Mark McNally, vice president of business development at Predixion Software based in San Juan Capistrano, Calif.
  • Glen Rabie, CEO of Yellowfin International Pty Ltd., based in Melbourne, Australia
  • Dan Soceanu, senior solutions architect at SAS Institute in Cary, N.C.
  • John Santaferraro, vice president of solutions and product marketing at ParAccel in Campbell, Calif.
  • Mark Theissen, CEO of Cirro in San Juan Capistrano, Calif.
  • Michael Whitehead, CEO and founder of WhereScape, with U.S. headquarters in Portland, Ore.

Indeed, big data and big data analytics stole a bit of the spotlight during the prediction session. Jill Dyché, vice president of thought leadership for Cary, N.C.-based SAS Inc. and a longtime analyst, said big data will become more about the application and less about the platform. Colin White, president and founder of BI Research, said new big data products that emerged in the last year will mature, and even more products will materialize. New use cases on how businesses employ social, machine and sensor data -- all three have been labeled as big data contributors -- will emerge, according to Shawn Rogers, vice president of research on BI and data warehousing at Enterprise Management Associates (EMA).

"The winner will be social data," Rogers said. "It's going to become a first-class data citizen for most enterprises. We'll see stories that go well beyond the silos they're stuck in now with customer care, brand analysis and marketing."

Rogers wasn't the only one to mention social media. William McKnight, president of McKnight Consulting Group, included social media in his prediction for the next year. "Social media marketing and psychographics and predictive analytics are becoming the true science we're going to spend a lot of time on this year," he said.

This means businesses will become masters of pinning down their customers' who, what, when, where, why and how. But it also means social media will become more gamed and cynical, McKnight said.

And, as social media takes on an even more prominent role within the next year, Fred Funke, director of sales for the social-media application programming interface (API) aggregation provider Gnip Inc., expects to see a shift in his market. "We're going to see a lot more maturity and with that, a lot more consolidation in the market, specifically starting with social media monitoring and listening platforms," he said. "This is already starting to happen."

From data to data management

Summit attendees also spent time predicting changes in the way data is managed. The centralized data warehouse used to be regarded as a way to break down silos and bring data together, but analysts and vendors are stretching that thinking, and in some cases, reversing it completely.

"The definition of the warehouse is changing," said Michael Whitehead, CEO and founder at WhereScape Inc. "It used to be one Oracle or one Teradata system. Now, though we've been predicting this for a while, the warehouse is being multi-platformed."

Whitehead is referring to side systems, such as analytical platforms, sandboxes and even big data technology like Hadoop. He suggested businesses will add dimension by integrating, rather than isolating, these new platforms into their core system. Doing so will mean that businesses will have to "treat [these new platforms] properly," he said.

EMA's Rogers and BI Research's White also emphasized how data management structures are changing. In the next year, new products will help tie the multi-platformed landscape together, Rogers said. "At the core of that, I think they'll not only leverage but manage this new ecosystem," he said. "And decide transparently what work needs to be done and where data needs to be."

Along with a multi-platformed data management system, the growth in data resources -- both in volume and type -- will require businesses to pay attention to data integration.

White, however, sees significant possibilities in the step just beyond a data management system that relies on data silos. "We are moving to the extended data warehouse environment. The risk is that we're going to have to keep moving data around," he said. "So, I think we're going to see hybrid systems -- hybrid relational Hadoop systems."

White expects mainstream vendors will eventually build appliances that do just this. But they will be spurred on – even challenged – by smaller players like Hadapt Inc., a young company that has found a way to combine Hadoop and relational technology in a single platform.

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