This content is part of the Essential Guide: Cloud data warehouse guide: Using Redshift, rival platforms

Cloud-based BI can be a good fit -- for data in the cloud

Is a cloud BI and analytics strategy the right choice for your organization? That may depend on whether your data is on-premises or already in the cloud.

Whether organizations look to the cloud for data warehousing, business intelligence and analytics often depends on where their data can be found. If it's primarily in on-premises systems that are humming along and handling the workloads being thrown at them, moving data into cloud-based BI systems probably isn't an appealing idea. Why spend time and money on a relocation process if there's no real need? But if most of your data is already processed in the cloud, why not analyze it there, too?

While there's still far less of the latter than the former, cloud business intelligence and analytics usage is slowly rising. In an annual survey on cloud BI conducted by consultancy Dresner Advisory Services, the percentage of respondents who said their organizations were running BI applications in the public cloud increased from 13% in 2012 to 17% in 2013, and then to 20% in 2014.

Some large companies are among the cloud BI adopters. For example, Netflix runs all of its data analytics applications in the Amazon Web Services cloud, along with most of its other systems. In a session at the Strata + Hadoop World 2015 conference in San Jose, Calif., Kurt Brown, director of Netflix's data platform, said the online streaming-media company can have multiple Hadoop clusters sharing the same data in the AWS cloud -- one to do high-throughput data processing, for example, and another to support ad hoc querying. And if new BI and analytics needs emerge, "we just put up a new cluster," he noted.

But many BI in the cloud users are smaller outfits that don't want to build IT architectures internally -- like Kixeye Inc., an online game developer in San Francisco that's switching from systems located at a hosting facility to a data warehouse and analytics environment on AWS. The new cloud setup includes data warehouse software from startup Snowflake Computing, plus Tableau's BI tools. Josh McDonald, director of analytics engineering at Kixeye, said in an interview at Strata + Hadoop World that the company was already "pretty oriented to the cloud" and that moving its BI and data warehouse systems there as well would enable Kixeye to "get rid of a substantial amount of hardware."

SearchBusinessAnalytics and companion site SearchDataManagement have published a variety of content designed to help IT, BI and analytics managers decide whether cloud-based business intelligence and data warehousing is right for their organizations, and then to get started on deployments, if so. In one article, consultant David Loshin looks at the potential benefits of cloud BI systems. In another, we report on a presentation by consultant David Linthicum outlining the need to build a solid data architecture for cloud analytics applications. Wayne Eckerson, another consultant, offers advice on managing cloud BI projects. And in a Q&A, Dresner Advisory Services founder Howard Dresner provides more insight on the cloud BI trends highlighted by his company's survey.

We also assess the combination of cloud computing and big data for analytics uses and detail a big data in the cloud implementation at SumAll, a marketing analytics services provider in New York. Other case studies examine the development of real-time analytics tools running on Microsoft's Azure cloud platform for use by restaurant chains and the deployment of a cloud-based BI system at a retailer in Japan. Good luck making your way to the cloud if you do decide it's your organization's kind of place for BI and analytics applications.

Craig Stedman is executive editor of SearchBusinessAnalytics. Email him at [email protected], and follow us on Twitter: @BizAnalyticsTT.

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