Every enterprise software vendor will tell you how hot and in-demand their products are, but the notion rings fairly true with respect to BI (business intelligence) and advanced analytics. The products just kept selling throughout the global recession, as companies looked to gain insights into their business and subsequently, more efficiency as well as new ideas.
Toss in this year's rise of the "Big Data" buzz-phrase to near-ubiquitous status, and it seems like 2012 could be the biggest year yet for the analytics market. Here's a look at what some experts, as well as a reading of the tea leaves, suggest will be the hottest topics in analytics next year.
Big Data is not going away
Big Data seems to be the new SOA (service oriented architecture) as industry terms go, with seemingly every other vendor product pitch attempting to hitch a ride. All are professing to help with the same problem: getting something useful out of ever-larger mountains of information, not only from transactional business applications but unstructured data from social networking sites, sensors and other sources.
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The Hadoop open-source programming framework is closely associated with the Big Data movement. The market can expect that Hadoop-based data warehousing appliances "will become the hottest new platforms in the coming year," said Forrester Research analyst James Kobielus. Also look for more companies to roll out Hadoop-related consulting services, modeling tools and other products.
In-memory processing will be the belle of the ball
SAP has spent the past 18 months touting the virtues of its HANA in-memory database, which it says can dramatically speed up data exploration and analysis, since it puts information to be processed in RAM instead of reading it off traditional disks.
While Oracle CEO Larry Ellison once pooh-poohed SAP's plans, his company has since announced the Exalytics in-memory machine, a new member of its family of specialized hardware-software appliances.
Smaller companies such as Qlikview and Tableau, both of which use in-memory technology for their BI and visualization tools, should also boost their profile next year. Some could also be acquisition targets for larger vendors looking to ride the in-memory wave.
But "enterprise-friendly" features such as support for third-party ETL (extract, transform and load) tools will be key to their growth, Curt Monash of Monash Research added.
Will analytics-as-a-service take off?
Next year could bring out "a great many vendors" offering large-scale analytics as an on-demand cloud service, and there's a market for it, Kobielus said. "Petascale analytics is not necessarily something a lot of companies want to bring in-house.
But Monash isn't so sure. "Remote computing BI that focuses on hardware cost sharing is problematic," he said. "Moving data in and out of the cluster is a big part of the overall cost, at least if you plan to process it only occasionally once it gets there. I haven't seen a plan yet that gets around that point."
HP can finally be a big player in analytics -- if it's careful
With its Neoview platform, Hewlett-Packard wanted to stand alongside the likes of Teradata as a top player in data warehousing. But that effort never gained much traction despite HP's efforts. But with this year's acquisition of analytic data warehouse vendor Vertica under its belt, the only thing HP has to do to be relevant in that market is "avoid stupidity," Monash said.
"I don't think trying to force Vertica beyond its natural growth, the way EMC is with Greenplum, is necessarily a good idea," he added. "Natural growth in Vertica's case is plenty fast anyway. Obviously, making good Vertica hardware would be nice. But being hardware-independent is crucial to Vertica, not least because of cloud deployment, an option many buyers want to at least have in their hip pockets."
Mobile BI will gain momentum
The software industry's move to support mobile devices won't leave analytics behind, especially with the extra space for slicing-and-dicing data provided by the larger screens on tablets like the iPad. Mobile BI in fact will go mainstream next year, Forrester Research analyst Boris Evelson said in a recent blog post. "One needs to make decisions when and where they need to be made. Not 'when I get back to the office,' which may be too late."
BI and analytics start showing up everywhere
"Pervasive" analytics capabilities are a crucial aspect of Oracle's next-generation Fusion Applications. Instead of logging into a separate BI platform, or getting canned reports created by IT sent to them, users are presented with analytics within the context and workflows of the various Fusion apps. Other ERP (enterprise resource planning) vendors may start mimicking Oracle's approach if the concept is a hit with customers.
In the meantime, BI users will start demanding -- and vendors will start delivering -- BI tools integrated with email and collaboration platforms, Evelson wrote in his blog post. "Just integrating BI with Excel is no longer enough."
Chris Kanaracus is a senior correspondent with the IDG News Service.