Around the end of the Cold War, Esther Dyson took it upon herself to go repeatedly to Eastern Europe and do a lot of rah-rah and catalysis, hoping to spark software and other computer entrepreneurs. I don’t know how many people’s lives she significantly affected – I’d guess it’s actually quite a few – but in any case the number is not zero. Roman Stanek, who has built and sold a couple of software business, cites her as a key influence setting him on his path.
Roman’s latest venture is business intelligence firm Gooddata. Gooddata was founded in 2007 and has been soliciting and getting attention for a while, so I was surprised to learn that Gooddata officially launched just a few weeks ago. Anyhow, some less technical highlights of the Gooddata story include:
- Gooddata believes it makes BI easy to adopt, unlike every other BI vendor on the planet — not excluding the many other BI vendors who say the same thing about themselves.
- Gooddata is entirely cloud-based, specifically in the Amazon cloud. I.e., Gooddata is selling SaaS-based BI.
- Gooddata wants to sell to enterprises that are large enough to have more than a couple of BI users, and small enough not to be well served by the BI market leaders.
- In revenue terms, this is the ever-popular $100 million – $1 billion market.
- Specifically, Gooddata believes that those enterprises may have decent “back office” BI, but don’t have much in the front office. Gooddata wants to provide them with front office BI, which seems to basically mean CRM analytics. Gooddata sees this as a market in which QlikTech is the major player. Generally, Gooddata wants to emulate and go after QlikTech.
- Even more specifically, Gooddata wants to sell to Salesforce.com customers, who it believes are not well-served by what passes for built-in analytics at Salesforce. Partnering with NetSuite didn’t work as well, since NetSuite’s customers turn out to be smaller firms than are in Gooddata’s target market.
- Something I heard from both Jaspersoft and Gooddata is that there’s a hot market in providing cloud-based BI to online gaming companies. I gather these are mainly games running on mass communication platforms such as Facebook or the iPhone. Surely not coincidentally, it seems likely that:
- These are small companies whose success – and hence data intake – can suddenly explode.
- The data originates in cyberspace, with no particular need ever to come to the game companies’ own premises.
- Gooddata has 50 production customers.
- Gooddata had 2500 “projects” at the end of beta in June, and is adding 100 more per month. (Those numbers look weird together.) A “project” is a lot like a database, with associated reports, security privileges, etc.
- Gooddata has close to 40 people, mainly in development.
- I didn’t detect much of a sales strategy, nor much of a marketing strategy beyond the impressive early buzz generation. Perhaps that’s a partial explanation as to why the rate of Gooddata adoption fell even before the company officially launched.
- I forgot to ask what those 50 customers were actually paying, but considering Gooddata’s price list, it appears a typical price range for Gooddata’s stuff would be $500-$2,000/month.
Gooddata technical highlights include:
- Gooddata is building an entire BI stack – reporting, dashboards, ETL, in-memory database management, everything. I doubt Gooddata would claim that the pieces are best-of-breed in many ways other than BI ease of adoption and use.
- So far I’ve seen three Gooddata ease-of-use features or feature groups that strike me as differentiated – reusability (of metrics and/or reports), collaboration, and tag clouds. More on those below. Gooddata is also building toward an agility pitch, but those features aren’t all baked yet.
- Gooddata is MySQL-based today, but plans to move to a memory-centric compressed column store in 2010. Roman doesn’t reject analogies to SAP’s BI/BW/whatever Accelerator. Yes, folks – Gooddata is yet another BI vendor doing some form of memory-centric OLAP. That’s a big trend.
- I’m guessing that a big reason Gooddata is reinventing so many technical wheels is to ensure that the Gooddata stack is seamlessly multi-tenant from top to bottom. (Hasso Plattner of SAP’s comments on a similar idea suggest a similar emphasis.)
- Gooddata has its own multidimensional query language called MAQL (the A doesn’t seem to stand for anything). Today MAQL generates SQL for MySQL. The future columnar memory-centric data store will — I think – understand MAQL natively.
Now we get to the good stuff. When I wrote about reinventing business intelligence back in May, I focused on some interesting developments I see as actually underway — at least on an experimental basis and/or from small vendors – namely:
- Text-search interfaces. Well, while I didn’t see true text search in the Gooddata demo, I did see tag clouds, which have some of the same benefits.
- Collaboration tools. Well, Gooddata has a nice-looking approach to BI collaboration, heavily reflected in its UI metaphors. (That said, I haven’t really compared Gooddata to Microsoft SharePoint or SAP’s Portal/Rooms/whatever.)
- Memory-centric analytics (for speed of exploration). As noted above, Gooddata has that coming soon.
- Data exploration that tries to ignore fixed relational schemas, ala Attivio or Splunk. Roman says Gooddata is interested in or working on that, but offers no timetable.
Meanwhile, something I’ve been seeking for years, but haven’t seen much progress on since enhancement stopped on Cognos Metrics Manager, is more user-friendly metrics management. Well, it doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, but at least Gooddata has the basics – a list of already-defined metrics, and a reasonable way of compounding them into other metrics. I think that kind of thing will be a major BI feature going forward, to the point that a few years from now we’ll be worrying about how to port them from one BI vendor’s tool from another.
Bottom line: If you’re interested in BI, you should look at a Gooddata demo.