Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Cloud - What Is It Good For?

If you're in IT, and haven't been living under a rock for the past few years, then you're probably already caught up in the Cloud debate.

For non-technical managers, the debate is a minefield with no clear path marked, and no amount of debate will replace the due diligence required to make a decision to go with Software as a Service (SaaS) and online storage to enhance or replace existing enterprise application infrastructure and data services.

The question is this: Is the Cloud ready for business intelligence prime time?
At the risk of seeming indecisive, yes and no.

Deploying enterprise BI successfully is not easy, but the rewards are great. In a recent report, Forrester Research described BI as the "last frontier of competitive differentiation," meaning that most enterprises are equal in their deployments of ERP, CRM and most other enterprise solutions, but there is still room to compete in the BI sphere. All other things being equal, well managed BI can be the advantage that enables your enterprise to compete and win.

So deploying BI in the Cloud is not, and should not be, a trivial issue.

You need to be as diligent in your vendor/hosting service research as you would be in assembling your own IT infrastructure and resources, especially when the applications and data are mission critical. What about business intelligence? First, is BI mission critical within your enterprise? (Hint: it should be.) And second, what is your motivation for moving BI to the Cloud? (HInt: it shouldn't be just to save money.)

Your due diligence needs to answer some high-level questions:
  • What can we safely move to the Cloud?
  • Is it secure enough?
  • Private or public?
  • How will the Cloud affect the way we deliver information services?
  • How does disaster recovery work in the Cloud?
  • What effect will the Cloud have on our budget?

eWeek recently published an article on data center trends, concluding that monolithic data centers are on the endangered list:

If all your servers are dedicated, you're not using some form of virtualization or not using a cloud service somewhere in your IT establishment, then you've officially been passed by. Consider yourself warned.

As a related webroot article by Gary Frank declares, "IT is undergoing a virtualization revolution." In an article on BI and DR (disaster recovery) in the Cloud, they ask: "Is the cloud a good fit for the data-mining and analytical-processing technologies that BI relies on?" They answer with a tentative "yes," but their first justification is that the Cloud "can offer considerable cost savings."

As I hinted earlier, you should be wary of the cost-savings justification. It's great to save money, but it shouldn't be your sole justification for adopting any IT path. There's an old IT expression: No one was ever fired for buying a Cisco router, meaning that you shouldn't be penny-wise and pound-foolish. Let your requirements drive the process.

The webroot article goes on to say that there are new BI vendors in the Cloud marketspace and that "Big players like IBM, SAP, BusinessObjects, and Tibco are now making BI for the cloud." Encouraging, but it sounds more like a developing trend than a mature option. Do these cloud offerings provide the same data analysis capabilities as their enterprise network editions?

SmartData Collective
looks more closely at the disaster recovery statistics for Cloud-based IT, and discovers that the Cloud is most comfortable for mid-sized companies (48%), followed by small companies (38%), followed by large companies (26%). These statistics seem to reflect both the level of effectiveness the Cloud has for different sizes of enterprises, as well as the level of trust.

Is the Cloud ready for BI? Yes, if you're a small- to mid-sized company just starting to roll out BI to the enterprise. Maybe no, if you're a large, established enterprise in which BI is already mission critical and requirements are complex.

Of course, at the speed of IT, this can all change very quickly.

If your enterprise, whatever its size, is considering adding geospatial capabilities to your BI system -- creating location intelligence -- then the Cloud is a completely viable option for hosting the GIS (geographic information systems) portion of the solution.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

APOS COO Allan Pym on Well Managed BI

Allan Pym, COO of APOS Systems, delivers a presentation on well managed BI at the SAP BusinessObjects New York Metropolitan Area User Group (BONYMAUG) one-day conference, today in New York City.

Well managed BI, aside from being the title of this blog, is the very reason for the existence of APOS. We help BI practitioners move from the curative (or reactive) practice of BI, to the preventive (or active), and eventually to the progressive (or proactive) practice of BI.

Check our solutions page to see how APOS can help your company achieve preventive and progressive BI platform management.

View APOS System's LinkedIn Company PageFollow APOS Systems on LinkedIn.