Adriel Lares has a lot to think about. Since joining 3PARdata in 2001, he has led the companys treasury, debt and financing activities, including equity rounds for $32 million and $30 million last year. At the same time, the company is growing fast, creating metrics and processes Lares needs to keep on top of.
As the chief financial officer at the eight-year-old utility storage company, Lares found he needed business intelligence and analytics capabilities, but 3PAR lacked the financial wherewithal to acquire the software and hardware needed to run a traditional BI system.
Resigned to managing financial and sales data on a spreadsheet, Lares was inadvertently introduced to LucidEra, an on-demand BI company that launched in early March. That chance meeting led to 3PAR beta testing LucidEras services—a propitious arrangement for Lares.
"I can have my cake and eat it too. [LucidEra] wont cost a lot to get implemented, and I will have the BI and analytics I require to get the company running—customer information, how big is an order, what is the average price on those orders," said Lares, in Fremont, Calif. "Previously it took a lot of down and dirty work to get to that information; it took a lot of time and resources. LucidEra allows me to get there quicker than I would traditionally."
On-demand BI companies like LucidEra represent one of the changing factors influencing the BI sector, which is, by many accounts, on the verge of an evolution. A convergence of newer technologies like SOA (service-oriented architecture), new ways of getting at information—unstructured data is the next frontier—and mergers and acquisitions are all quickly changing the BI landscape and the players involved. BI software makers have grappled with the same question for years: How do they push BI deeper into the enterprise and extend the technologys reach beyond a small percentage of IT and executive users? But the game is changing as platform and applications vendors—such as SAP, Oracle, Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard, with its acquisition last year of BI consultancy Knightsbridge Solutions—pump more R&D into BI capabilities.
Oracles $3.3 billion purchase of Hyperion Solutions is an example of the ways in which BI is changing. It merges two distinct areas—business analytics and corporate performance management—that could start a land grab for pure-play vendors by the likes of SAP, IBM and Microsoft, said analysts, who often cite Cognos and Business Objects as targets and IBM as the likely first mover.
The implications of these companies giving BI more attention and development is that the goal of ubiquitous business intelligence could happen more quickly than previous efforts of pure-play vendors.
"[With the goal of BI] becoming part of the fabric of how you get to information about your business, rather than just a tool set, the question is, how do you make that part of what you do to fit into all these places [in the enterprise]?" said John Hagerty, an analyst with AMR Research.
"Putting BI in applications will go the furthest, fastest. This is where the fight is being made between Oracle and SAP."