A significant fraction of IT professional services industry revenue comes from data integration. But as a software business, data integration has been more problematic. Informatica, the largest independent data integration software vendor, does $1 billion in revenue. INFA’s enterprise value (market capitalization after adjusting for cash and debt) is $3 billion, which puts it way short of other category leaders such as VMware, and even sits behind Tableau.* When I talk with data integration startups, I ask questions such as “What fraction of Informatica’s revenue are you shooting for?” and, as a follow-up, “Why would that be grounds for excitement?”
*If you believe that Splunk is a data integration company, that changes these observations only a little.
On the other hand, several successful software categories have, at particular points in their history, been focused on data integration. One of the major benefits of 1990s business intelligence was “Combines data from multiple sources on the same screen” and, in some cases, even “Joins data from multiple sources in a single view”. The last few years before application servers were commoditized, data integration was one of their chief benefits. Data warehousing and Hadoop both of course have a “collect all your data in one place” part to their stories — which I call data mustering — and Hadoop is a data transformation tool as well.
Some technical background about Splunk
In an October, 2009 technical introduction to Splunk, I wrote (emphasis added):
Splunk software both reads logs and indexes them. The same code runs both on the nodes that do the indexing and on machines that simply emit logs.
It turns out that the bolded part was changed several years ago. However, I don’t have further details, so let’s move on to Splunk’s DBMS-like aspects.
I also wrote:
The fundamental thing that Splunk looks at is an increment to a log – i.e., whatever has been added to the log since Splunk last looked at it.
That remains true. Confusingly, Splunk refers to these log increments as “rows”, even though they’re really structured and queried more like documents.
I further wrote:
Splunk has a simple ILM (Information Lifecycle management) story based on time. I didn’t probe for details.
Splunk’s ILM story turns out to be simple indeed.
- As data streams in, Splunk adds it to the most recent — “hot” — bucket. Once a bucket is full, it becomes immutable — “warm” — and a new hot bucket is opened to receive data.
- Splunk executes queries against whichever of these time-slice buckets make sense, then unions results together as needed.
Finally, I wrote:
I get the impression that most Splunk entity extraction is done at search time, not at indexing time. Splunk says that, if a <name, value> pair is clearly marked, its software does a good job of recognizing same. Beyond that, fields seem to be specified by users when they define searches.
I have trouble understanding how Splunk could provide flexible and robust reporting unless it tokenized and indexed specific fields more aggressively than I think it now does.
The point of what I in October, 2013 called
a high(er)-performance data store into which you can selectively copy columns of data
and which Splunk enthusiastically calls its “High Performance Analytic Store” is to meet that latter need.
Inverted list technology is confusing for several reasons, which start: Read more
|Categories: Data models and architecture, NoSQL, SAP AG, Splunk, Structured documents, Text||1 Comment|
A remarkable number of vendors are involved in what might be called “specialized business intelligence”. Some don’t want to call it that, because they think that “BI” is old and passé’, and what they do is new and better. Still, if we define BI technology as, more or less:
- Querying data and doing simple calculations on it, and …
- … displaying it in a nice interface …
- … which also provides good capabilities for navigation,
then BI is indeed a big part of what they’re doing.
Why would vendors want to specialize their BI technology? The main reason would be to suit it for situations in which even the best general-purpose BI options aren’t good enough. The obvious scenarios are those in which the mismatch is one or both of:
- Kinds of data.
- Kinds of questions asked about the data.
For example, in no particular order: Read more
|Categories: Business intelligence, ClearStory Data, Metamarkets and Druid, PivotLink, Platfora, Splunk, StreamBase||6 Comments|
I’m a little shaky on embargo details — but I do know what was in my own quote in a Splunk press release that went out yesterday.
Splunk has been rolling out a lot of news. In particular:
- Hunk follows through on the Hadoop/Splunk (get it?) co-opetition I foreshadowed last year, including access to Hadoop via the same tools that run over the Splunk data store, plus …
- … some Datameer-like capabilities to view partial Hadoop-job results as they flow in.
- Splunk 6 has lots of new features, including a bunch of better please-don’t-call-it-BI capabilities, and …
- … a high(er)-performance data store into which you can selectively copy columns of data.
I imagine there are some operationally-oriented use cases for which Splunk instantly offers the best Hadoop business intelligence choice available. But what I really think is cool is Splunk’s schema-on-need story, wherein:
- Data comes in wholly schema-less, in a time series of text snippets.
- Some of the fields in the text snippets are indexed for faster analysis, automagically or upon user decree.
- All this can now happen over the Splunk data store or (new option) over Hadoop.
- Fields can (in another new option) also be copied to a separate data store, claimed to be of much higher performance.
That highlights a pretty serious and flexible vertical analytic stack. I like it.
|Categories: Business intelligence, Data models and architecture, Data warehousing, Hadoop, Schema on need, Splunk||2 Comments|
Glassbeam checked in recently, and they turn out to exemplify quite a few of the themes I’ve been writing about. For starters:
- Glassbeam has an analytic technology stack focused on poly-structured machine-generated data.
- Glassbeam partially organizes that data into event series …
- … in a schema that is modified as needed.
Glassbeam basics include:
- Founded in 2009.
- Based in Santa Clara. Back-end engineering in Bangalore.
- $6 million in angel money; no other VC.
- High single-digit customer count, …
- … plus another high single-digit number of end customers for an OEM offering a limited version of their product.
All Glassbeam customers except one are SaaS/cloud (Software as a Service), and even that one was only offered a subscription (as oppose to perpetual license) price.
So what does Glassbeam’s technology do? Glassbeam says it is focused on “machine data analytics,” specifically for the “Internet of Things”, which it distinguishes from IT logs.* Specifically, Glassbeam sells to manufacturers of complex devices — IT (most of its sales so far ), medical, automotive (aspirational to date), etc. — and helps them analyze “phone home” data, for both support/customer service and marketing kinds of use cases. As of a recent release, the Glassbeam stack can: Read more
It’s hard to make data easy to analyze. While everybody seems to realize this — a few marketeers perhaps aside — some remarks might be useful even so.
Many different technologies purport to make data easy, or easier, to an analyze; so many, in fact, that cataloguing them all is forbiddingly hard. Major claims, and some technologies that make them, include:
- “We get data into a form in which it can be analyzed.” This is the story behind, among others:
- Most of the data integration and ETL (Extract/Transform/Load) industries, software vendors and consulting firms alike.
- Many things that purport to be “analytic applications” or data warehouse “quick starts”.
- “Data reduction” use cases in event processing.*
- Text analytics tools.
- “Forget all that transformation foofarah — just load (or write) data into our thing and start analyzing it immediately.” This at various times has been much of the story behind:
- Relational DBMS, according to their inventor E. F. Codd.
- MOLAP (Multidimensional OnLine Analytic Processing), also according to RDBMS inventor E. F. Codd.
- Any kind of analytic DBMS, or general purpose DBMS used for data warehousing.
- Newer kinds of analytic DBMS that are faster than older kinds.
- The “data mart spin-out” feature of certain analytic DBMS.
- In-memory analytic data stores.
- NoSQL DBMS that have a few analytic features.
- TokuDB, similarly.
- Electronic spreadsheets, from VisiCalc to Datameer.
- “Our tools help you with specific kinds of analyses or analytic displays.” This is the story underlying, among others:
- The business intelligence industry.
- The predictive analytics industry.
- Algorithmic trading use cases in complex event processing.*
- Some analytic applications.
*Complex event/stream processing terminology is always problematic.
My thoughts on all this start: Read more
I recently proposed a 2×2 matrix of BI use cases:
- Is there an operational business process involved?
- Is there a focus on root cause analysis?
Let me now introduce another 2×2 matrix of analytic scenarios:
- Is there a compelling need for super-fresh data?
- Who’s consuming the results — humans or machines?
My point is that there are at least three different cool things people might think about when they want their analytics to be very fast:
- Fast investigative analytics — e.g., business intelligence with great query response.
- Computations on very fresh data, presented to humans — e.g. “heartbeat” graphics monitoring a network.
- Computations on very fresh data, presented back to a machine — e.g., a recommendation engine that includes makes good use of data about a user’s last few seconds of actions.
There’s also one slightly boring one that however drives a lot of important applications: Read more
|Categories: Business intelligence, Games and virtual worlds, Log analysis, Predictive modeling and advanced analytics, Splunk, Streaming and complex event processing (CEP), WibiData||5 Comments|
Informatica, Splunk, and IBM are all public companies, and correspondingly reticent to talk about product futures. Hence, anything I might suggest about product futures from any of them won’t be terribly detailed, and even the vague generalities are “the Good Lord willin’ an’ the creek don’ rise”.
Never let a rising creek overflow your safe harbor.
1. Hadoop can be an awesome ETL (Extract/Transform/Load) execution engine; it can handle huge jobs and perform a great variety of transformations. (Indeed, MapReduce was invented to run giant ETL jobs.) Thus, if one offers a development-plus-execution stack for ETL processes, it might seem appealing to make Hadoop an ETL execution option. And so:
- I’ve already posted that BI-plus-light-ETL vendors Pentaho and Datameer are using Hadoop in that way.
- Informatica will be using Hadoop as an execution option too.
Informatica told me about other interesting Hadoop-related plans as well, but I’m not sure my frieNDA allows me to mention them at all.
IBM, however, is standing aside. Specifically, IBM told me that it doesn’t see the point of doing the same thing, as its ETL engine — presumably derived from the old Ascential product line — is already parallel and performant enough.
2. Last year, I suggested that Splunk and Hadoop are competitors in managing machine-generated data. That’s still true, but Splunk is also preparing a Hadoop co-opetition strategy. To a first approximation, it’s just Hadoop import/export. However, suppose you view Splunk as offering a three-layer stack: Read more
|Categories: EAI, EII, ETL, ELT, ETLT, Hadoop, IBM and DB2, Informatica, Log analysis, MapReduce, Splunk||9 Comments|
A reporter wrote in to ask whether investor interest in “Big Data” was justified or hype. (More precisely, that’s how I reinterpreted his questions. ) His examples were Splunk’s IPO, Teradata’s stock price increase, and Birst’s financing. In a nutshell:
- My comments, lightly edited, are in plain text below.
- Further thoughts are in italics.
- Of course I also linked him to my post “Big Data” has jumped the shark.
- Overall, my responses boil down to “Of course there’s some hype.”
1. A great example of hype is that anybody is calling Birst a “Big Data” or “Big Data analytics” company. If anything, Birst is a “little data” analytics company that claims, as a differentiating feature, that it can handle ordinary-sized data sets as well. Read more
|Categories: Business intelligence, Data warehousing, IBM and DB2, Microsoft and SQL*Server, Oracle, Splunk||14 Comments|
Splunk is announcing the Splunk 4.3 point release. Before discussing it, let’s recall a few things about Splunk, starting with:
- Splunk is first and foremost an analytic DBMS …
- … used to manage logs and similar multistructured data.
- Splunk’s DML (Data Manipulation Language) is based on text search, not on SQL.
- Splunk has extended its DML in natural ways (e.g., you can use it to do calculations and even some statistics).
- Splunk bundles some (very) basic, Splunk-specific business intelligence capabilities.
- The paradigmatic use of Splunk is to monitor IT operations in real time. However:
- There also are plenty of non-real-time uses for Splunk.
- Splunk is proudest of its growth in non-IT quasi-real-time uses, such as the marketing side of web operations.
As in any release, a lot of Splunk 4.3 is about “Oh, you didn’t have that before?” features and Bottleneck Whack-A-Mole performance speed-up. One performance enhancement is Bloom filters, which are a very hot topic these days. More important is a switch from Flash to HTML5, so as to accommodate mobile devices with less server-side rendering. Splunk reports that its users — especially the non-IT ones — really want to get Splunk information on the tablet devices. While this somewhat contradicts what I wrote a few days ago pooh-poohing mobile BI, let me hasten to point out:
- Splunk is used for a lot of (quasi) real-time monitoring.
- Splunk’s desktop user interfaces are, by BI standards, quite primitive.
That’s pretty much the ideal scenario for mobile BI: Timeliness matters and prettiness doesn’t.
|Categories: Business intelligence, Data models and architecture, Data warehousing, Log analysis, Specific users, Splunk, Structured documents, Web analytics||3 Comments|