While interest in business intelligence (BI) applications remains relatively high, the battle over whether those applications should run in public clouds or private clouds is just now starting to intensify.
In fact, BI deployment plans for public clouds is now slightly ahead of private clouds, according to Dresner Advisory Serivces' new Cloud Computing and Business Intelligence Market Study, which is based on a survey of 550 IT professionals. Key to that change is a shift among smaller businesses that tend to be less concerned about security and regulatory compliance issues when it comes to accessing BI applications.
Naturally, the challenge IT service providers will face is trying to balance both models across a diverse customer base.
How customers are using BI applications
The Dresner study finds that one-quarter of the respondents currently use cloud-based BI/analytics, 11 percent are evaluating applications, and 26 percent would consider them for future use. Traditional BI functionality such as visualization, ad-hoc query, dashboards, and self-service lead the list of the most-required cloud BI features. The most important architectural feature for cloud BI applications is relational database support, followed by open client connectors, automatic upgrades, and connectors to on-premises applications. The study finds the most preferred third-party data connector for cloud BI is Google Analytics, followed by Salesforce.
For most IT service providers, a BI application running on a private cloud is going to be more profitable than an application hosted on a public cloud. But, many organizations don’t have the budget available to fund such a project. The simple fact is that most business people are still relying on Microsoft Excel spreadsheets that are inherently flawed to help them make business decisions. The cloud offers them a way to gain access to more robust BI applications without requiring a lot of time, money, and effort.
The primary issue that many end users will run into is the degree to which their industry is regulated. Hosting sensitive data outside the confines of a private cloud adds a lot of both perceived and real risk. That's why interest in public and private clouds to host BI applications is still almost evenly split.
How IT service providers can take BI to the next level
IT service providers need to remember that business intelligence applications are only the beginning of the advanced analytics journey. Once an organization starts discover the advantages of relying on data to drive more insights to the business, it’s not too long before the conversation turns to more advanced Big Data analytics applications running on platforms such as Hadoop. At that juncture, the opportunity for an IT service provider shifts from merely providing access to an application to becoming a strategic business partner.
In fact, rather than focusing on how much data there is and the amount of IT infrastructure required to run it, IT service providers should be zeroing in more on the business value of the data itself. Organizations of all sizes are starting to view data as a resource to be exploited rather than burden to be borne. The challenge they face first, however, is figuring out what data they have matters most. They then need to be able to correate the validity of that data against external data sources. Accomplishing either of those tasks almost invariably is going to done both faster and more accurately using the expertise of a third-party IT service provider.