Software as a Service (SaaS)
Analysis of software-as-a-service offerings with a database or analytic focus, or data connectivity tools focused on SaaS. Related subjects include:
It is extremely difficult to succeed with SaaS (Software as a Service) and packaged software in the same company. There were a few vendors who seemed to pull it off in the 1970s and 1980s, generally industry-specific application suite vendors. But it’s hard to think of more recent examples — unless you have more confidence than I do in what behemoth software vendors say about their SaaS/”cloud” businesses.
Despite the cautionary evidence, I’m going to argue that SaaS and software can and often should be combined. The “should” part is pretty obvious, with reasons that start:
- Some customers are clearly better off with SaaS. (E.g., for simplicity.)
- Some customers are clearly better off with on-premises software. (E.g., to protect data privacy.)
- On-premises customers want to know they have a path to the cloud.
- Off-premises customers want the possibility of leaving their SaaS vendor’s servers.
- SaaS can be great for testing, learning or otherwise adopting software that will eventually be operated in-house.
- Marketing and sales efforts for SaaS and packaged versions can be synergistic.
- The basic value proposition, competitive differentiation, etc. should be the same, irrespective of delivery details.
- In some cases, SaaS can be the lower cost/lower commitment option, while packaged product can be the high end or upsell.
- An ideal sales force has both inside/low-end and bag-carrying/high-end components.
But the “how” of combining SaaS and traditional software is harder. Let’s review why. Read more
1. There are multiple ways in which analytics is inherently modular. For example:
- Business intelligence tools can reasonably be viewed as application development tools. But the “applications” may be developed one report at a time.
- The point of a predictive modeling exercise may be to develop a single scoring function that is then integrated into a pre-existing operational application.
- Conversely, a recommendation-driven website may be developed a few pages — and hence also a few recommendations — at a time.
Also, analytics is inherently iterative.
- Everything I just called “modular” can reasonably be called “iterative” as well.
- So can any work process of the nature “OK, we got an insight. Let’s pursue it and get more accuracy.”
If I’m right that analytics is or at least should be modular and iterative, it’s easy to see why people hate multi-year data warehouse creation projects. Perhaps it’s also easy to see why I like the idea of schema-on-need.
2. In 2011, I wrote, in the context of agile predictive analytics, that
… the “business analyst” role should be expanded beyond BI and planning to include lightweight predictive analytics as well.
I gather that a similar point is at the heart of Gartner’s new term citizen data scientist. I am told that the term resonates with at least some enterprises. Read more
|Categories: Business intelligence, Data warehousing, Datameer, Hadoop, Log analysis, Oracle, Platfora, Predictive modeling and advanced analytics, SAS Institute, Software as a Service (SaaS), Tableau Software, Web analytics||2 Comments|
- Continuuity toured in 2012 and touted its “app server for Hadoop” technology.
- Continuuity recently changed its name to Cask and went open source.
- Cask’s product is now called CDAP (Cask Data Application Platform). It’s still basically an app server for Hadoop and other “big data” — ouch do I hate that phrase — data stores.
- Cask and Cloudera partnered.
- I got a more technical Cask briefing this week.
- App servers are a notoriously amorphous technology. The focus of how they’re used can change greatly every couple of years.
- Partly for that reason, I was unimpressed by Continuuity’s original hype-filled positioning.
So far as I can tell:
- Cask’s current focus is to orchestrate job flows, with lots of data mappings.
- This is supposed to provide lots of developer benefits, for fairly obvious reasons. Those are pitched in terms of an integration story, more in a “free you from the mess of a many-part stack” sense than strictly in terms of data integration.
- CDAP already has a GUI to monitor what’s going on. A GUI to specify workflows is coming very soon.
- CDAP doesn’t consume a lot of cycles itself, and hence isn’t a real risk for unpleasant overhead, if “overhead” is narrowly defined. Rather, performance drags could come from …
- … sub-optimal choices in data mapping, database design or workflow composition.
I chatted last night with Ion Stoica, CEO of my client Databricks, for an update both on his company and Spark. Databricks’ actual business is Databricks Cloud, about which I can say:
- Databricks Cloud is:
- Currently running on Amazon only.
- Not dependent on Hadoop.
- Databricks Cloud, despite having a 1.0 version number, is not actually in general availability.
- Even so, there are a non-trivial number of paying customers for Databricks Cloud. (Ion gave me an approximate number, but is keeping it NDA until Spark Summit East.)
- Databricks Cloud gets at data from S3 (most commonly), Redshift, Elastic MapReduce, and perhaps other sources I’m forgetting.
- Databricks Cloud was initially focused on ad-hoc use. A few days ago the capability was added to schedule jobs and so on.
- Unsurprisingly, therefore, Databricks Cloud has been used to date mainly for data exploration/visualization and ETL (Extract/Transform/Load). Visualizations tend to be scripted/programmatic, but there’s also an ODBC driver used for Tableau access and so on.
- Databricks Cloud customers are concentrated (but not unanimously so) in the usual-suspect internet-centric business sectors.
- The low end of the amount of data Databricks Cloud customers are working with is 100s of gigabytes. This isn’t surprising.
- The high end of the amount of data Databricks Cloud customers are working with is petabytes. That did surprise me, and in retrospect I should have pressed for details.
I do not expect all of the above to remain true as Databricks Cloud matures.
Ion also said that Databricks is over 50 people, and has moved its office from Berkeley to San Francisco. He also offered some Spark numbers, such as: Read more
|Categories: Amazon and its cloud, Cloud computing, Databricks, Spark and BDAS, EAI, EII, ETL, ELT, ETLT, Parallelization, Petabyte-scale data management, Predictive modeling and advanced analytics, Software as a Service (SaaS)||6 Comments|
7-10 years ago, I repeatedly argued the viewpoints:
- Relational DBMS were the right choice in most cases.
- Multiple kinds of relational DBMS were needed, optimized for different kinds of use case.
- There were a variety of specialized use cases in which non-relational data models were best.
Since then, however:
- Hadoop has flourished.
- NoSQL has flourished.
- Graph DBMS have matured somewhat.
- Much of the action has shifted to machine-generated data, of which there are many kinds.
So it’s probably best to revisit all that in a somewhat organized way.
I believe in all of the following trends:
- Hadoop is a Big Deal, and here to stay.
- Spark, for most practical purposes, is becoming a big part of Hadoop.
- Most servers will be operated away from user premises, whether via SaaS (Software as a Service), co-location, or “true” cloud computing.
Trickier is the meme that Hadoop is “the new OS”. My thoughts on that start:
- People would like this to be true, although in most cases only as one of several cluster computing platforms.
- Hadoop, when viewed as an operating system, is extremely primitive.
- Even so, the greatest awkwardness I’m seeing when different software shares a Hadoop cluster isn’t actually in scheduling, but rather in data interchange.
There is also a minor issue that if you distribute your Hadoop work among extra nodes you might have to pay a bit more to your Hadoop distro support vendor. Fortunately, the software industry routinely solves more difficult pricing problems than that.
|Categories: Cloud computing, Databricks, Spark and BDAS, Hadoop, MapReduce, MemSQL, Software as a Service (SaaS)||15 Comments|
It seems reasonable to wonder whether analytic data management is headed for the cloud. In no particular order:
- Amazon Redshift appears to be prospering.
- So are some SaaS (Software as a Service) business intelligence vendors.
- Amazon Elastic MapReduce is still around.
- Snowflake Computing launched with a cloud strategy.
- Cazena, with vague intentions for cloud data warehousing, destealthed.*
- Cloudera made various cloud-related announcements.
- Data is increasingly machine-generated, and machine-generated data commonly originates off-premises.
- The general argument for cloud-or-at-least-colocation has compelling aspects.
- Analytic workloads can be “bursty”, and so could benefit from true cloud elasticity.
I talked with the Snowflake Computing guys Friday. For starters:
- Snowflake is offering an analytic DBMS on a SaaS (Software as a Service) basis.
- The Snowflake DBMS is built from scratch (as opposed, to for example, being based on PostgreSQL or Hadoop).
- The Snowflake DBMS is columnar and append-only, as has become common for analytic RDBMS.
- Snowflake claims excellent SQL coverage for a 1.0 product.
- Snowflake, the company, has:
- 50 people.
- A similar number of current or past users.
- 5 referenceable customers.
- 2 techie founders out of Oracle, plus Marcin Zukowski.
- Bob Muglia as CEO.
Much of the Snowflake story can be summarized as cloud/elastic/simple/cheap.*
*Excuse me — inexpensive. Companies rarely like their products to be labeled as “cheap”.
In addition to its purely relational functionality, Snowflake accepts poly-structured data. Notes on that start:
- Ingest formats are JSON, XML or AVRO for now.
- I gather that the system automagically decides which fields/attributes are sufficiently repeated to be broken out as separate columns; also, there’s a column for the documents themselves.
I don’t know enough details to judge whether I’d call that an example of schema-on-need.
A key element of Snowflake’s poly-structured data story seems to be lateral views. I’m not too clear on that concept, but I gather: Read more
|Categories: Amazon and its cloud, Cloud computing, Data mart outsourcing, Data models and architecture, Data warehousing, Market share and customer counts, Parallelization, Pricing, Software as a Service (SaaS), Structured documents||1 Comment|
- Cloudera continued to improve various aspects of its product line, especially Impala with a Version 2.0. Good for them. One should always be making one’s products better.
- Cloudera announced a variety of partnerships with companies one would think are opposed to it. Not all are Barney. I’m now hard-pressed to think of any sustainable-looking relationship advantage Hortonworks has left in the Unix/Linux world. (However, I haven’t heard a peep about any kind of Cloudera/Microsoft/Windows collaboration.)
- Cloudera is getting more cloud-friendly, via a new product — Cloudera Director. Probably there are or will be some cloud-services partnerships as well.
Notes on Cloudera Director start:
- It’s closed-source.
- Code and support are included in any version of Cloudera Enterprise.
- It’s a management tool. Indeed, Cloudera characterized it to me as a sort of manager of Cloudera Managers.
What I have not heard is any answer for the traditional performance challenge of Hadoop-in-the-cloud, which is:
- Hadoop, like most analytic RDBMS, tightly couples processing and storage in a shared-nothing way.
- Standard cloud architectures, however, decouple them, thus mooting a considerable fraction of Hadoop performance engineering.
Maybe that problem isn’t — or is no longer — as big a deal as I’ve been told.
1. I wish I had some good, practical ideas about how to make a political difference around privacy and surveillance. Nothing else we discuss here is remotely as important. I presumably can contribute an opinion piece to, more or less, the technology publication(s) of my choice; that can have a small bit of impact. But I’d love to do better than that. Ideas, anybody?
2. A few thoughts on cloud, colocation, etc.:
- The economies of scale of colocation-or-cloud over operating your own data center are compelling. Most of the reasons you outsource hardware manufacture to Asia also apply to outsourcing data center operation within the United States. (The one exception I can think of is supply chain.)
- The arguments for cloud specifically over colocation are less persuasive. Colo providers can even match cloud deployments in rapid provisioning and elastic pricing, if they so choose.
- Surely not coincidentally, I am told that Rackspace is deemphasizing cloud, reemphasizing colocation, and making a big deal out of Open Compute. In connection with that, Rackspace has pulled back from its leadership role in OpenStack.
- I’m hearing much more mention of Amazon Redshift than I used to. It seems to have a lot of traction as a simple and low-cost option.
- I’m hearing less about Elastic MapReduce than I used to, although I imagine usage is still large and growing.
- In general, I get the impression that progress is being made in overcoming the inherent difficulties in cloud (and even colo) parallel analytic processing. But it all still seems pretty vague, except for the specific claims being made for traction of Redshift, EMR, and so on.
- Teradata recently told me that in colocation pricing, it is common for floor space to be everything, with power not separately metered. But I don’t think that trend is a big deal, as it is not necessarily permanent.
- Cloud hype is of course still with us.
- Other than the above, I stand by my previous thoughts on appliances, clusters and clouds.
3. As for the analytic DBMS industry: Read more