How the Cloud Is Putting the Sizzle Back Into Business Intelligence

Business Intelligence is a multibillion-dollar market made up of enormous software projects from the likes of IBM/Cognos, SAP/Business Objects and Oracle/Hyperion — think high barriers to entry, long enterprise sales cycles and expensive software licensing. The recent $5.8 billion SAP/Sybase acquisition is just the latest evidence of the high stakes involved. But several cloud-based solutions are in the process of disrupting that market by, for example, making sophisticated BI accessible to general business users via monthly plans, and using web features to easily publish and share information company-wide.

GoodData, whose on-demand model allows users to get started in minutes, provides integrated solutions to and NetSuite, among others. One recent customer case study from Gazelle, a buyer and reseller of used electronics, highlighted how it was able to configure data from a range of sources — from Google Analytics and Adwords to internal operations software to e-commerce partners — using GoodData APIs and no additional middleware.

Another player in the on-demand intelligence game is Indicee, which aims to lift burdened spreadsheet jockeys out of their misery with an elegant cloud-based approach. You can quickly load data from a variety of sources and then run BI reports, propagating them throughout the organization. The team that started Indicee also founded Crystal Reports, a popular reporting tool now owned by SAP.

Loggly, on the other hand, is targeting system administrators, application developers and data analysts. It’s true that for heavily trafficked websites, logging can be a pain. First the logs need to be collected across thousands of web servers, the stored, then often migrated to another cluster for analytics processing, then stored again. And this on top of trying to keep the main application running! Loggly (see disclosure below) removes many of those steps with its cloud-based log management service, which not only stores the log data but performs advanced analytics, making what in the past might have taken a team of developers many weeks or months to assemble possible in just a few clicks.

And finally there is Datameer, which is trying to combine the simplicity of a spreadsheet interface with the back-end scale of Apache Hadoop. While Hadoop has long been promoted as being faster, more scalable and less expensive than traditional solutions, its adoption has been constrained to savvy developers. Datameer’s solution, which is available on-premise or in the cloud, aims to put the power and scale of Hadoop into the hands of more users by requiring little analytical know-how beyond the spreadsheet-like logic we all understand.

The cloud will not transform the business intelligence market overnight. But it’s ripe for a makeover and as the solutions offered by these four companies make clear, the cloud has made access to sophisticated tools easier than ever before. To learn more, join the GigaOM network at its annual conference devoted to cloud computing, Structure, June 23 & 24 in San Francisco.

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Gary Orenstein is host of The Cloud Computing Show.

Disclosure: Loggly is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. Om Malik, founder of Giga Omni Media, is also a venture partner at True.