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Sisense analytics platform update aids data scientists

Though Sisense's platform is largely geared toward business users, the latest addition to the vendor's suite is a tool aimed at helping code-first users build data assets.

The latest Sisense analytics platform update adds new capabilities for data scientists and analysts.

The vendor, founded in 2004 and based in New York, unveiled Sisense Fusion Platform 2021.12, including Sisense Notebooks, on Wednesday.

The upgrade comes about five months after Sisense released the Extense Framework, a set of tools that enable users to embed augmented intelligence-driven analytics into work applications, and a bit less than a year after it renamed its platform Sisense Fusion to reflect its emphasis on embedded BI.

New capabilities

Notebooks are interactive environments in which data scientists write and execute code, collaborate on projects, visualize results and share insights.

The first notebooks were introduced nearly three decades ago. Jupyter, an open source project and community, is one popular notebook platform, while Apache Zeppelin is another web-based notebook where data scientists can explore. And now, some analytics startups such as Deepnote and Hex Technologies are focused solely on notebooks.

Sisense Notebooks, now generally available, is a code-first functionality that enables data scientists and data analysts to do advanced data analysis using Python and SQL.

According to Sisense, Notebooks enables data scientists and analysts to query data from any source, visualize results in custom charts, set governance and security controls, and scale the data assets they create for use by their organizations' data consumers.

In addition, Notebooks includes integrated workflows that enable users to go from model design to advanced analysis, visualization and source control all in one location. It also provides capabilities for advanced operations like common table expressions that enable users to develop insights while avoiding problems such as semantic models that limit the types of business questions users can ask data sets.

A sample Sisense Notebooks screenshot shows an organization's pipeline analysis dashboard under development.
A sample Sisense Notebooks screenshot shows an organization's pipeline analysis dashboard under development.

The release of Notebooks represents the final integration of Sisense's 2019 acquisition of Periscope Data. Before the acquisition, Sisense's analytics platform catered mainly to business users. Adding Periscope complemented Sisense's existing capabilities with capabilities aimed at data scientists.

"Notebooks is the full integration of the full integration of the Periscope IP with the Sisense Fusion Platform," said Ashley Kramer, Sisense's chief product and marketing officer. "We've had pieces integrated, but not the whole Notebooks experience. What it brings is the ability for a new type of persona to come in, build visualizations and models, and share those with end business users."

In order to infuse analytics everywhere, you need to speak to all personas in one platform so they don't have to use five different solutions to get those analytics infused into everyday workflows and applications.
Ashley KramerChief product and marketing officer, Sisense

Those business users, meanwhile, remain the core target audience for Sisense's analytics platform, Kramer added.

Though Notebooks is aimed at users with training in statistics and computer science, it doesn't mark a shift in the vendor's strategy. Notebooks enables data scientists and analysts to build data assets -- such as reports, dashboards and models -- on top of cloud data warehouses that can then be integrated throughout the rest of the Sisense platform for business users.

And rather than take away from a focus on enabling business users with low-code/no-code tools, Notebooks adds some of the wants of different personas, according to Kramer.

In addition, while low-code/no-code tools enable business users to work with data beyond just viewing reports and dashboards, involving someone with coding knowledge to supplement the business user only adds strength to the analysis, she noted.

"Sisense's mission is to infuse analytics everywhere, and generally we do it in a low-code way," Kramer said. "But there is a large portion of the market that has people who like to speak code-first. In order to infuse analytics everywhere, you need to speak to all personas in one platform so they don't have to use five different solutions to get those analytics infused into everyday workflows and applications."

David Menninger, an analyst at Ventana Research, likewise said the addition of Notebooks to the Sisense analytics platform does not suggest any strategic shift by the vendor toward a different audience and that its next release will likely be geared toward its more traditional audience of business users.

In addition, he noted that data scientists have long worked with notebooks, so the release is an innovative move by Sisense to bring data science and analytics together.

"Notebooks never really fell out of favor with data scientists, but what's new is the idea of integrating them with the analytics tools," he said. "It's helping to bring the two worlds together more easily."

Menninger added that by bringing the cultures of data science and analytics together, Sisense is making it easier for business users to benefit from the work of data experts.

"Data science and analytics requires separate skill sets, and therefore different people than traditional business analytics," he said. "However, many people in the organization can benefit from the results of data scientists' work. So, the idea of integrating notebooks with analytics tools is gaining in popularity. Sisense is not the first, nor will it be the last."

Sisense has done something different by creating its own notebook rather than integrating with others such as Jupyter or Amazon SageMaker, Menninger continued.

"The advantage of Sisense's approach is that it allows some deeper integration with the analytics environment," he said.

More features and roadmap

In addition to Notebooks, Sisense 2021.12 includes the beta version of an integration with Git that will enable developers and analytics teams to manage the lifecycle of the products and codes they create. The integration, expected to be generally available sometime in 2022, will better enable organizations to operationalize and scale the data assets they develop.

"The Git integration may be as important -- or more important -- than the notebook," Menninger said. "Every organization needs to go through the process of moving from development to test to production. Many analytics vendors do little to make this process easier for their customers, and Sisense has embraced it head-on."

Meanwhile, with Periscope now fully integrated into the Sisense analytics ecosystem, Sisense's product development plans for the next year center around three main areas, according to Kramer.

They include cloud innovation, adding AI capabilities and further enabling users -- no matter their skill level -- to have analytics be part of their workflow.

"That [last one] is one I'm really excited about, and that's the one we'll be focusing on for many years to come," Kramer said. "That's the opportunity to serve the one billion-plus underserved knowledge workers."

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