Buying business intelligence software has traditionally involved purchasing both the software and the hardware required to run it. That's not the model that business intelligence (BI) vendor MicroStrategy is now taking, however.
MicroStrategy this week launched its Cloud Express service offering, which aims to deliver a self-service approach to business analytics. The new Express offering builds on the MicroStrategy Platform cloud offering that debuted in 2011.
"We have built on top of the platform a very streamlined application that enables any organization to quickly and easily sign up and get started with their own analytic activities," said Kevin Spurway, VP of cloud services and strategic marketing.
The service can handle data from varied sources, ranging from an Excel spreadsheet to a Salesforce.com application to an existing relational database. Users can import data into an in-memory application, where MicroStrategy visualizes it and makes sense of it all.
Spurway added that users can also easily create a dashboard using different visualizations. The analysis can then be shared with others via the Web or even a mobile application.
MicroStrategy has had an iOS application since at least July of 2010. As part of the new Cloud Express offering, users can move analytic reports from the cloud to a template in the native mobile application.
"We have created a templated approach, where basically you have in the Express interface an iPad template," Spurway said. "We then let you wire into that template various types of content."
The content could include videos, reports or presentations. MicroStrategy calls these combinations of content "smashups."
"It's a smart mobile application mashup," Spurway said. "We can include analytics that a company might be pulling from Salesforce.com, and we can show each sales person their list of accounts, sales opportunities and the likelihood of a deal closing."
A recent push in business intelligence has been around the use of Big Data and particularly the open source Hadoop project. Spurway noted that MicroStrategy can connect to a Hadoop cluster, though it's not an ideal approach as part of the Cloud Express solution. Cloud Express is limited to 1 GB of data per user.
"If you have a Big Data solution that you need to solve, Cloud Express is likely not the right path to solve that problem," Spurway said.
He explained that with Cloud Express, users can only pull a subset of the data from Hadoop. Spurway suggested that the MicroStrategy Cloud Platform, a larger scale platform that can handle more data, will work well with Hadoop.
The focus with Cloud Express is speed and ease of use, Spurway stressed. Moving forward, mobile will continue to be a key focus for MicroStrategy. He noted that the ability to bring together the idea of mobile application analytics, that have the ability to write back to a database after someone makes a data-driven decision, is an approach that is full of opportunity.
"We're really able to deliver a platform where enterprises can build a huge variety of different types of applications that go well beyond the traditional grids, graphs and reports that are associated with business intelligence," Spurway said.