For this weekend I got 2 guest bloggers (one yesterday and other today) sharing their thoughts about Cloud Services for BI and DV. I myself published recently  a few articles about this topic, for example here: https://apandre.wordpress.com/2013/08/28/visualization-as-a-service/ and here:

https://apandre.wordpress.com/2013/12/14/spotfire-cloud-pricing/ . My opinions can be different from Guest Bloggers. You can find many providers of DV and BI Cloud Services, including Spotfire Cloud, Tableau Online, GoodData, Microstrategy Cloud, Bime, Yellofin, BellaDati, SpreadsheetWEB etc.

Let me introduce my 2nd guest blogger for this weekend: Ugur Kadakal is the CEO and founder of Pagos, Inc. located in Cambridge, MA. Pagos is the developer of SpreadsheetWEB which transforms Excel spreadsheets into web based Business Intelligence (BI) applications without any programming. SpreadsheetWEB can also convert PowerPivot files into web based dashboards. It provides advanced Data Visualization (DV) to SQL Analysis Services (Tabular) cubes without SharePoint. Mr. Kadakal published a few articles on this blog before with great feedback, so he is a serial Guest Blogger.

SaaSCost

Before (or after) you read article of Mr. Kadakal, I suggest to review the article, comparing 5+ scenarios of revenue of Cloud Service vs. Traditional One-Time Sale of software, see it here: http://www.wovenware.com/blog/2013/12/revenue-model-comparison-saas-v-one-time-sales#.UyikEfmwIUp . Illustration above is from that article.

Traditional BI versus Cloud BI

Over the past several years, we have been witnessing numerous transformations in the software industry, from a traditional on-premise deployment model to the Cloud. There are some application types for which cloud makes a lot of sense while it doesn’t for some others. BI is somewhere in between.

Before I express my opinion on the subject of Traditional BI versus Cloud BI, I would like to clarify my definitions. I define traditional BI as large enterprise implementations which connect with many data sources in real-time.  These projects have many phases and require large teams to implement. These projects could take years and cost millions of dollars to implement.

Many people define cloud BI as deployments on a proprietary, third-party, multi-tenant environment managed by a vendor. My definition is somewhat different and broader. Cloud BI is more about ease of deployment, use and management. While Cloud BI can be hosted and managed by a vendor, it can also be deployed on a private Cloud infrastructure like Amazon or Microsoft Azure. With the advancement of cloud infrastructure technologies like OpenStack, deploying and managing private cloud infrastructure is becoming easier for many enterprises. As a result, whether Cloud BI is deployed on a multi/single-tenant environment on vendor infrastructure, a third party cloud infrastructure like Amazon, Azure, etc. or on internal private cloud, it becomes more of a business decision rather than a technical limitation.

DataCloud

One main distinction between Traditional BI and Cloud BI is data management. Traditional BI implementations can have real-time data as they can connect to the original data sources directly. I don’t believe that Cloud BI should deal with real-time data, even if implemented on internal private cloud infrastructure. Supporting real-time data is a requirement that makes any BI project complicated and costly. Hence Cloud BI solutions should include simple utilities i.e. ETL, residing on local computers to push internal data into Cloud BI’s data model periodically. Since Cloud BI should not deal with real-time data scenarios, this data synchronization can be configured by the business user accordingly.

Another distinction is the ease of implementation. Regardless of where it is deployed, Cloud BI solutions should take no more than a few hours to implement and configure. Some BI vendors already support images on Amazon cloud to simplify this process.

Traditional BI model typically requires significant upfront investments. Part of this investment is internal while the rest is BI licensing and implementation fees. But the very nature of Cloud BI requires agility from deployment to data management and dashboard creation. Cloud BI project can be deployed easily and it can also be modified and shut down with equal ease. Hence traditional business model of large upfront investments doesn’t make sense here. Cloud BI business model should be subscription based regardless of whether it is implemented on a vendor infrastructure or on an on-premise private cloud infrastructure. Customers should be able to pay what they use and for how long they use it. Such simplicity will also eliminate vendor lock-in risks that most enterprises have to mitigate.

DVinCloud2

In summary, there are many BI projects that will require traditional BI implementation. These projects typically require real-time data and connectivity to many different data sources. Cloud BI should not attempt to handle these types of projects. But there are many other BI projects that require neither real-time data nor the data which comes from different systems that should be connected. Cloud BI can handle these projects quickly and cost effectively, by empowering business users to manage the whole process without IT or external support. From discovery to data synchronization to dashboard creation and management, every activity can be handled by business users.