MicroStrategy, Tibco Go Social

Two business intelligence vendors are taking on an increasingly social aspect.

Business intelligence (BI) is taking on an increasingly social aspect. It’s part of a much-anticipated transformation that -- thanks to several recent social overtures -- seems to be accelerating in a big way.

In July, for example, BI stalwart MicroStrategy Inc. announced Gateway for Facebook, a cloud-based service that facilitates the sharing of data between Facebook and BI applications. MicroStrategy’s move is the latest salvo in the ongoing social makeover of BI and enterprise applications. Recently, application integration specialist Tibco Software -- which markets data visualization technology in Tibco Spotfire -- announced Tibbr, a workplace collaboration tool that incorporates social concepts and methods.

MicroStrategy’s new Gateway for Facebook service tackles a problem that many BI and data management (DM) professionals would rather ignore: what to do about non-traditional data types. Facebook, for example, prefers to understand its data in the context of a “social graph” -- i.e., a sociogram that depicts the relationships between individuals, groups, or other social units. Facebook’s “social graph” is stored in a file-based format, which is the kind of thing that data integration (DI) tools don’t know what to do with.

“[F]iles [are] rising faster than databases, and the DI vendors [are] still living in a world of SQL access that's going [in] the other direction,” argues veteran industry watcher Mark Madsen, a principal with consultancy Third Nature Inc. Almost half a decade into Web 2.0, grouses Madsen, and “the big guys still can't do Web APIs ... properly.”

That’s changing, as MicroStrategy’s new Gateway for Facebook service demonstrates. It’s just the tip of MicroStrategy’s still-incubating social media spear, which includes MicroStrategy Wisdom for Facebook (a consumer-oriented analytic offering for Facebook), the forthcoming MicroStrategy Wisdom for Enterprise (an enterprise-grade version of the seminal Wisdom offering), and MicroStrategy Alert for Enterprise, a marketing tool for targeted campaigns.

The Audacity of Tibbr

Tibco unveiled its first release of Tibbr back in January. Like so many Web 2.0-era offerings, Tibbr employs a highly iterative development cycle; recently, the company announced Tibbr v3.0, touting an array of improvements, including HD video conferencing and desktop sharing.

Tibco plays an important role in the enterprise application integration (EAI) market, where -- along with IBM Corp., Oracle Corp., and SAP AG -- it’s one of a handful of bona-fide heavyweights. Over the last half-decade, traditional EAI has been supplanted by related -- or derivative -- disciplines, such as business process management (BPM) and complex event processing (CEP).

Tibco has positioned itself as a player in both spaces, which could have implications for next-gen BI and data warehousing (DW). That’s chiefly because existing BI and DW technologies aren’t very good at dealing with application or event messaging traffic -- i.e., non-traditional kinds of data. (On the other hand, observes Third Nature’s Madsen, application-centric integration players aren’t any better at dealing with structured, semi-structured, or unstructured kinds of data.) On top of this, Tibco markets a Spotfire data visualization offering that -- to an increasing degree -- is yoked to its BPM and CEP technologies.

That’s what makes the prospect of a Tibbr that exploits Tibco’s BPM/CEP know-how and Spotfire’s strong data visualization technology such an intriguing proposition. The promise of such a combination isn’t lost on Tibco or Spotfire officials, either.

“We can already take components of Tibco’s BPM and CEP engines and embed components of those behind Spotfire analytic applications, so that customers can look at data in motion ... [and] get intelligently alerts based on a million different variables,” Spotfire vice-president of marketing Mark Lorian told BI This Week during an interview at TDWI’s World Conference in Las Vegas.

“CEP can monitor literally hundreds of different events simultaneously, and when you put our analytic engine on top of it, we’re able to harness basically this stream of real-time event intelligence that’s coming across [Tibco’s ESB].”

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