My colleague recently wrote about QlikView, noting its rapid ascent to providing a very robust support of mobile technology platforms among BI vendors and integration with SAP. On the occasion of its release of a major product revision, QlikView 10, I’d like to add my perspective on the company and its most recent release. I first learned of QlikView about five years ago while working on the TM1 product line which, like QlikView, is also a 64-bit, in-memory analytic technology supporting business intelligence needs across business and IT.
Since July 16, 2010, QlikView has been a publicly traded company (NASDAQ: QLIK) so you can review its audited financial reports and see its growth to being a $100 million company. And because it is focused on analytics and BI, the results are not buried in an entire portfolio of other products and services where it is difficult to determine the financial and customer health of the business.
QlikView emphasizes ease of use, and our latest benchmark research in business intelligence found that to be the number-one consideration in evaluating a vendor and product, especially on the business side. QlikView 10 builds on this attribute. For example, it has expanded search capabilities. As you search for items to pick from a list or display in a report, you can view all the data, not just the attribute(s) displayed in the list box. For example, suppose you are looking for the new customer deal that just closed last week, but you can’t recall the customer’s name. What you do remember is the sales rep who closed the deal. In QlikView 10 you can search by the sales rep’s name in the same way you would do a literal string-search in most other products. Just type what you know (sales rep name, product sold, region or any other attribute) and the relevant matching items appear in the list. However, the search capability focuses on structured data or attributes, while our research finds that integrated analysis of structured and unstructured content is a growing demand and the top usage capability that organizations plan to deploy and desire to have.
Enhancements to the user interface in QlikView 10 include two new objects: Mekko charts and a shared display area. Mekko charts are a nice addition because the area of the bar quickly communicates its relative importance. The shared display area is similar to a “tabbed” workspace. It allows end users to switch between several objects easily and quickly, repainting just the portion of the screen that needs to be refreshed.
Customers can now create their own visualizations. These custom objects have all the attributes and properties of built-in QlikView objects and can be shared among users within an organization. QlikView also has created and published an API for high-performance data integration when users don’t have ODBC access to data. Version 10 also provides new APIs for management tasks such as adding users, which can be done programmatically from outside of QlikView.
In the area of performance, reloading data is now multithreaded, so the speed of reloads should improve by approximately the number of CPU cores in your server. In addition, the asynchronous nature of QlikView has been extended to its Web version, so while the total elapsed time to complete a task won’t change, the first display will be available as soon as it is ready. Since control returns to the user, you can cancel the rest of the task or navigate to a different display if you have already seen what you need to see. Other performance enhancements take advantage of machines with more than 32 cores.
Version 10 has manageability improvements that include metadata tagging, centralized user management and enhanced audit logging. All these features will help QlikView win over IT departments in enterprise deals.
In my view this release has important usability, manageability and scalability enhancements, but I would have expected more in a major release since it has been almost a year and a half since Version 9. Again it’s noteworthy that QlikView has invested heavily in native support for mobility across popular platforms including Apple, RIM and Android that is no easy task and larger providers are just beginning to investigate and develop. But perhaps the recent IPO and the velocity of QlikView’s growth have kept it from making larger, more visible advances. And I’m sure the threading improvements related to reloading data and producing performance advancements, while not very visible, were a particularly thorny development issue.
There are a couple of things I’d like to see in future versions, not only from QlikView but most of the other BI providers as well:
– A better mechanism for sharing QlikView objects externally. It seems there are limitations that make it difficult to do this outside an organization. There could be a thriving marketplace of third-party objects and extensions to QlikView.
– A massively parallel processing (MPP) version. While QlikView scales across servers to handle more users, it does not have MPP capabilities, which could limit scalability for very large user deployments.
All in all, QlikView 10 offers some incremental improvements in important areas such as ease of use and performance. The new version is available immediately so you can download and try it yourself and get access to documentation and videos of demos and how to use it. In the future, it would be nice if you didn’t even need to download it – maybe the next version we can simply run in the cloud. Now QlikView has to continue its growth, expand its presence in the lines of business and use its new release as an opportunity to grow its market share.