Use Cases For Specific BI Tools

I get the following question very often. What are the best practices for creating an enterprise reporting policy as to when to use what reporting tool/application? Alas, as with everything else in business intelligence, the answer is not that easy. The old days of developers versus power users versus casual users are gone. The world is way more complex these days. In order to create such a policy, you need to consider the following dimensions:

  •  Report/analysis type
    • Historical (what happened)
    • Operational (what is happening now)
    • Analytical (why did it happen)
    • Predictive (what might happen)
    • Prescriptive (what should I do about it)
    • Exploratory (what's out there that I don't know about)
  • Interaction types
    • Looking at static report output only
    • Lightly interacting with canned reports (sorting, filtering)
    • Fully interacting with canned reports (pivoting, drilling)
    • Assembling existing report, visualizations, and metrics into customized dashboards
    • Full report authoring capabilities
  • User types
    • Internal
    • External (customers, partners)
  • Data latency
    • Real time
    • Near-real time
    • Batch
  • Report latency, as in need the report:
    • Now
    • Tomorrow
    • In a few days
    • In a few weeks
  • Decision types
    • Strategic (a few complex decisions/reports per month)
    • Tactical (many less-complex decisions/reports per month)
    • Operational (many complex/simple decisions/reports per day)
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Self-Service BI

Traditional BI approaches and technologies — even when using the latest technology, best practices, and architectures — almost always have a serious side effect: a constant backlog of BI requests. Enterprises where IT addresses more than 20% of BI requirements will continue to see the snowball effect of an ever-growing BI requests backlog. Why? Because:

  • BI requirements change faster than an IT-centric support model can keep up. Even with by-the-book BI applications, firms still struggle to turn BI applications on a dime to meet frequently changing business requirements. Enterprises can expect a life span of at least several years out of enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), human resources (HR), and financial applications, but a BI application can become outdated the day it is rolled out. Even within implementation times of just a few weeks, the world may have changed completely due to a sudden mergers and acquisitions (M&A) event, a new competitive threat, new management structure, or new regulatory reporting requirements.
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Dell Joins The ARMs Race, Announces ARM-Based 'Copper' Server

Earlier this week Dell joined arch-competitor HP in endorsing ARM as a potential platform for scale-out workloads by announcing “Copper,” an ARM-based version of its PowerEdge-C dense server product line. Dell’s announcement and positioning, while a little less high-profile than HP’s February announcement, is intended to serve the same purpose — to enable an ARM ecosystem by providing a platform for exploring ARM workloads and to gain a visible presence in the event that it begins to take off.

Dell’s platform is based on a four-core Marvell ARM V7 SOC implementation, which it claims is somewhat higher performance than the Calxeda part, although drawing more power, at 15W per node (including RAM and local disk). The server uses the PowerEdge-C form factor of 12 vertically mounted server modules in a 3U enclosure, each with four server nodes on them for a total of 48 servers/192 cores in a 3U enclosure. In a departure from other PowerEdge-C products, the Copper server has integrated L2 network connectivity spanning all servers, so that the unit will be able to serve as a low-cost test bed for clustered applications without external switches.

Dell is offering this server to selected customers, not as a GA product, along with open source versions of the LAMP stack, Crowbar, and Hadoop. Currently Cannonical is supplying Ubuntu for ARM servers, and Dell is actively working with other partners. Dell expects to see OpenStack available for demos in May, and there is an active Fedora project underway as well.

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