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TDWI Experts is a twice-monthly e-newsletter where BI/DW thought leaders share opinions and commentary about relevant industry topics and the latest technologies.

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September 22, 2011

Trends in Clouds for Business Intelligence

Philip Russom
Research Director for Data Management

Topic: Experts in Data Management

Cloud computing is still an emerging technology. Yet, two recent surveys we conducted at TDWI World Conferences (the first in April 2009, the second in November 2010) show that BI professionals are beginning to embrace cloud computing specifically for business intelligence (BI) and data warehousing (DW). If cloud adoption continues to grow this way, a cloud may soon be your next BI/DW platform.

BI/DW professionals have become much more familiar with cloud computing. Comparing results from the two surveys, respondents selecting "not familiar at all" dropped from 42 percent to 16 percent just 15 months later. Correspondingly, results for "somewhat familiar" rose from 52 percent to 75 percent. The change suggests that BI/DW professionals are much more familiar with cloud computing today than they were a year ago.

Cloud computing has become a more likely possibility in BI/DW. For example, the percentage of survey respondents reporting "no plans" for cloud computing decreased from 52 percent to 30%, while those in an "exploration phase" increased from 26 percent to 49 percent. Yet, survey results for "already using" cloud remained about the same; the percentage of user organizations using cloud for BI/DW hasn't increased much, if any, but the number considering it has increased substantially, making future adoption more likely.

Scalability, savings, and software-as-a-service (SaaS) are still the leading benefits of the cloud. In both surveys, "scalability on demand" (37 percent and 49 percent) was the top benefit of cloud computing in respondents' perceptions. The related benefit "capacity guaranteed" faired well, too. Potential savings from cloud computing are still a leading benefit, as seen in responses to "reduced IT costs" and "reduces capital expenditures." The percentage of survey respondents selecting "access to SaaS" as a benefit rose from 26 percent to 34 percent, with a similar rise for "automatic software updates for SaaS" (20 percent to 23 percent).

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Users prefer private clouds over public ones for BI/DW. At least, that's today's perception. The preference is probably due to users' concerns over security and governance with public clouds. Cloud practices with BI/DW are still new, so there's confusion over cloud's business value and how to move data into and out of a cloud.

Survey data aside, TDWI sees early-adopter users deploying reporting platforms, analytic tools, data warehouses, and other databases in clouds -- and for good reason. The fluid allocation of virtualized server resources that's typical of a cloud lends itself to analytic projects, which tend to ramp up quickly and conclude almost as suddenly. For example, with cloud computing, DW personnel can spawn temporary "sandboxes" -- that are analytic or departmental marts or similar databases -- then reallocate those resources once users are done with a sandbox. As the Big Data managed by a DW continues to grow, capacity planning and tactical reactions to spikes in growth are simplified by cloud computing.

BI/DW users prefer private clouds but also use public clouds to try out BI prototypes before committing them to an enterprise cloud. Also, some departments put their BI solutions on a cloud, because it's cheaper, faster, and less complex than dealing with central IT. A few vendors offer BI, DW, data integration, and data quality tools via SaaS on clouds. Furthermore, some organizations have a relatively mature private cloud within the enterprise -- originally put in place for operational applications -- and so are approaching the time for BI/DW teams to migrate their tools and platforms onto it.

It's still early days for BI and DW on a cloud, but early adopters have clearly proved the concept. TDWI expects that within three years, the full complement of BI and DW tools and platforms will be commonly found on clouds, especially private ones.

NOTE: Much of the information for this article comes from a TDWI Webinar, Trends in Clouds for BI. You can register to replay the Webinar at clouds-for-business-intelligence.aspx

Philip Russom is the research director for data management at The Data Warehousing Institute (TDWI). Philip can be reached at .

Copyright 2011. TDWI. All rights reserved.

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