Information Builders announced two major new products at its recent annual user summit. The first was InfoDiscovery, a tool for ad hoc data analysis and visual discovery. The second was iWay Sentinel, which allows administrators to manage applications in a proactive and dynamic manner. Being a privately held company, Information Builders is not a household name, but it is a major provider of highly scalable business intelligence (BI) and information management software to companies around the world.
This year’s announcements come one year after the release of WebFOCUS 8.0, which I wrote about at the time. Version 8.0 of this flagship BI product includes a significant overhaul of the underlying code base, and its biggest change is how it renders graphics by putting the parameters of the HTML5 graph code directly inside the browser. This approach allows consistent representation of the business intelligence graphics in multiple device environments including mobile ones. Our research into information optimization shows that mobile technology improves business performance significantly in one out of three organizations. The graphics capability helped Information Builders earn the rating of Hot vendor in our latest Value Index on Mobile Business Intelligence. It is an increasingly important trend to combine analytics with transactional systems in a mobile environment. Our research shows that mobile business intelligence is advancing quickly. Nearly three-quarters (71%) of participants said they expect their mobile workforce to have BI capabilities in the next 12 months.
WebFOCUS InfoDiscovery represents the company’s new offer in the self-service analytics market. For visual discovery it enables users to extract, blend and prepare data from various data sources such as spreadsheets, company databases and third-party sources. Once the analytic data set is created, users can drill down into the information in an underlying columnar database. They can define queries as they go and examine trends, correlations and anomalies in the data set. Users given permission can publish the visualization from their desktop to the server for others to view or build further. Visualization is another area of increasing importance for organizations. Our research on big data analytics said data visualization has a number of benefits; the most-often cited are faster analytics (by 49%), understanding content (48%), root-cause analysis (40%) and displaying multiple result sets at the same time (40%).
InfoDiscovery is Information Builders’ contender in the new breed of visual discovery products. The first generation of visual discovery products drew attention for their visual capabilities, ease of use and agility. More recently, established business intelligence vendors, of which Information Builders is one, have focused on developing visual discovery tools on the platform of their well-known BI products, with the aim of taking advantage of their maturity. Currently this second wave of tools is still behind the first in terms of ease of use and visual analysis but are advancing rapidly, and they can provide better data governance, version control, auditing and user security. For instance, InfoDiscovery uses the same metadata as the enterprise platform WebFOCUS 8 so objects from both InfoDiscovery and other WebFOCUS applications can be configured in the same user portal. When a business user selects a filter, the data updates across all the components in the dashboard. The HTML5 rendering engine, new in WebFOCUS 8.0, makes the dashboard available to various devices including tablets and smartphones.
The other major announcement at the conference, iWay Sentinel, is a real-time application monitoring tool that helps administrators manage resources across distributed systems. It works with iWay Service Manager, which is used to manage application workflows. IWay Sentinel allows multiple instances of Service Manager to be viewed and managed from a single Web interface, and administrators can address bottlenecks in system resources both manually and automatically. The tool belongs in the category we call operational intelligence and as our research finds, activity and event monitoring is the most important use (for 62% of research participants), followed by alerting and notification.
Sentinel is an important product in the Information Builders portfolio for a couple of reasons. Tactically speaking, it enables large organizations that are running multiple implementations of iWay Service Manager to manage infrastructure resources in a flexible and streamlined manner. From a strategic perspective, it ties the company to the emerging Internet of Things (IoT), which connects devices and real-time application workflows across a distributed environment. In such an environment, rules and processes flows must be monitored and coordinated in real time. Information is passed along an enterprise service bus that enables synchronous interaction of various application components. The use of IoT is in multiple areas such as remote management of devices, telematics and fleet management, predictive maintenance, supply chain optimization, and utlilities monitoring. The challenge is that application software is often complex and its processes are interdependent. For this reason, most approaches to the IoT have been proprietary in nature. Even so, Information Builders has a large number of clients in various industries, especially retail, that may be interested in its approach.
Information Builders continues to innovate in the changing IT industry and business demand for analytics and data, building on its integration capabilities and its core business intelligence assets. The breadth and depth of its software portfolio enable the company to capitalize on these assets as demand shifts. For instance, temporal analysis is becoming more important; Information Builders has built that capability into its products for years. In addition, the company’s core software is hardened by years of meeting high-concurrency needs. Companies that have thousands of users need this type of scalable, battle-tested system.
Both iWay Sentinel and InfoDiscovery are in limited release currently and will be generally available later this year. Users of other Information Builders software should examine InfoDiscovery and assess its fit in their organizations. For business users it offers a self-service approach on the same platform as the WebFOCUS enterprise product. IT staff can uphold their governance and system management responsibilities through visibility and flexible control of the platform. For its part iWay Sentinel should interest companies that have to manage multiple instances of information applications and use iWay Service Manager. In particular, retailers, transportation companies and healthcare companies exploring IoT uses should consider how it can help.
Information Builders is exploiting the value of data into what is called information optimization for which they are finding continued growth in providing information applications that meet specific business and process needs. Information Builders is also beginning to further exploit the big data sources and mobile technology areas but will need to further invest to ensure it can be part of a spectrum of new business needs. I continued to recommend any company that must serve a large set of employees in the workforce and has a need for blending data and analytics for business intelligence or information needs to consider Information Builders.