Business intelligence

Analysis of companies, products, and user strategies in the area of business intelligence. Related subjects include:

October 21, 2016

Rapid analytics

“Real-time” technology excites people, and has for decades. Yet the actual, useful technology to meet “real-time” requirements remains immature, especially in cases which call for rapid human decision-making. Here are some notes on that conundrum.

1. I recently posted that “real-time” is getting real. But there are multiple technology challenges involved, including:

2. In early 2011, I coined the phrase investigative analytics, about which I said three main things: Read more

October 10, 2016

Notes on anomaly management

Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken

— John Keats, “On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer”

1. In June I wrote about why anomaly management is hard. Well, not only is it hard to do; it’s hard to talk about as well. One reason, I think, is that it’s hard to define what an anomaly is. And that’s a structural problem, not just a semantic one — if something is well enough understood to be easily described, then how much of an anomaly is it after all?

Artificial intelligence is famously hard to define for similar reasons.

“Anomaly management” and similar terms are not yet in the software marketing mainstream, and may never be. But naming aside, the actual subject matter is important.

2. Anomaly analysis is clearly at the heart of several sectors, including:

Each of those areas features one or both of the frameworks:

So if you want to identify, understand, avert and/or remediate bad stuff, data anomalies are the first place to look.

3. The “insights” promised by many analytics vendors — especially those who sell to marketing departments — are also often heralded by anomalies. Already in the 1970s, Walmart observed that red clothing sold particularly well in Omaha, while orange flew off the shelves in Syracuse. And so, in large college towns, they stocked their stores to the gills with clothing in the colors of the local football team. They also noticed that fancy dresses for little girls sold especially well in Hispanic communities … specifically for girls at the age of First Communion.

Read more

September 6, 2016

“Real-time” is getting real

I’ve been an analyst for 35 years, and debates about “real-time” technology have run through my whole career. Some of those debates are by now pretty much settled. In particular:

A big issue that does remain open is: How fresh does data need to be? My preferred summary answer is: As fresh as is needed to support the best decision-making. I think that formulation starts with several advantages:

Straightforward applications of this principle include: Read more

August 28, 2016

Are analytic RDBMS and data warehouse appliances obsolete?

I used to spend most of my time — blogging and consulting alike — on data warehouse appliances and analytic DBMS. Now I’m barely involved with them. The most obvious reason is that there have been drastic changes in industry structure:

Simply reciting all that, however, begs the question of whether one should still care about analytic RDBMS at all.

My answer, in a nutshell, is:

Analytic RDBMS — whether on premises in software, in the form of data warehouse appliances, or in the cloud – are still great for hard-core business intelligence, where “hard-core” can refer to ad-hoc query complexity, reporting/dashboard concurrency, or both. But they aren’t good for much else.

Read more

July 19, 2016

Notes from a long trip, July 19, 2016

For starters:

A running list of recent posts is:

Subjects I’d like to add to that list include:

Read more

June 5, 2016

Challenges in anomaly management

As I observed yet again last week, much of analytics is concerned with anomaly detection, analysis and response. I don’t think anybody understands the full consequences of that fact,* but let’s start with some basics.

*me included

An anomaly, for our purposes, is a data point or more likely a data aggregate that is notably different from the trend or norm. If I may oversimplify, there are three kinds of anomalies:

Two major considerations are:

What I mean by the latter point is:

Anyhow, the Holy Grail* of anomaly management is a system that sends the right alerts to the right people, and never sends them wrong ones. And the quest seems about as hard as that for the Holy Grail, although this one uses more venture capital and fewer horses. Read more

May 30, 2016

Adversarial analytics and other topics

Five years ago, in a taxonomy of analytic business benefits, I wrote:

A large fraction of all analytic efforts ultimately serve one or more of three purposes:

  • Marketing
  • Problem and anomaly detection and diagnosis
  • Planning and optimization

That continues to be true today. Now let’s add a bit of spin.

1. A large fraction of analytics is adversarial. In particular: Read more

February 15, 2016

Some checklists for making technical choices

Whenever somebody asks for my help on application technology strategy, I start by trying to ascertain three things. The absolute first is actually a prerequisite to almost any kind of useful conversation, which is to ascertain in general terms what the hell it is that we are talking about. :)

My second goal is to ascertain technology constraints. Three common types are:

That’s often a short and straightforward discussion, except in those awkward situations when all three of my bullet points above are applicable at once.

The third item is usually more interesting. I try to figure out what is to be accomplished. That’s usually not a simple matter, because the initial list of goals and requirements is almost never accurate. It’s actually more common that I have to tell somebody to be more ambitious than that I need to rein them in.

Commonly overlooked needs include:

And if you take one thing away from this post, then take this:

I guarantee it.

Read more

January 22, 2016

Cloudera in the cloud(s)

Cloudera released Version 2 of Cloudera Director, which is a companion product to Cloudera Manager focused specifically on the cloud. This led to a discussion about — you guessed it! — Cloudera and the cloud.

Making Cloudera run in the cloud has three major aspects:

Features new in this week’s release of Cloudera Director include:

I.e., we’re talking about some pretty basic/checklist kinds of things. Cloudera Director is evidently working for Amazon AWS and Google GCP, and planned for Windows Azure, VMware and OpenStack.

As for porting, let me start by noting: Read more

January 14, 2016

BI and quasi-DBMS

I’m on two overlapping posting kicks, namely “lessons from the past” and “stuff I keep saying so might as well also write down”. My recent piece on Oracle as the new IBM is an example of both themes. In this post, another example, I’d like to memorialize some points I keep making about business intelligence and other analytics. In particular:

Similarly, BI has often been tied to data integration/ETL (Extract/Transform/Load) functionality.* But I won’t address that subject further at this time.

*In the Hadoop/Spark era, that’s even truer of other analytics than it is of BI.

My top historical examples include:

Read more

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