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Cloud BI: Going where the data lives

Nancy Gohring | Aug. 21, 2014
As more companies store data in the cloud, they're increasingly crunching the numbers there, too.

Some of the traditional vendors are likely to offer essentially hosted versions of their software, rather than full multi-tenant SaaS, he says. A multi-tenant SaaS app serves multiple customers from the same server. In a hosted scenario, one instance of the software serves only one customer.

A hosted environment isn't necessarily bad for end users but it's not cost effective for the vendor. The vendors are likely to go through the pain of rewriting their apps in order to deliver them as true SaaS, meaning at some point there will have to be a transition to a new service, Bange says. That could present challenges for users.

-- Nancy Gohring

Early adopter
Distribution Market Advantage (DMA) first implemented cloud-based PivotLink BI in 2005. However, the setup had a few shortcomings so the DMA recently switched providers, going with a service from Manthan.

DMA is owned by nine regional food service distributors. It offers access to data as a service to the restaurant customers of its distributor owners. Those restaurants can run reports about how much product -- say, French fries -- they have purchased and how much is stored in which warehouse. Users can customize the reports to show the data by month, for example, or by individual restaurant.

Over the years, PivotLink began to pivot its mission a bit, and now focuses primarily on retail analytics. Since DMA is a business-to-business operation, Jim Szatkowski, vice president of technology and data services for DMA, began to wonder if PivotLink would continue to invest in business-to-business tools.

Plus, PivotLink lacked a couple of capabilities that he was looking for. Users couldn't set up workflow rules that might alert them about inventory shortages or other problems that need to be addressed quickly. "We don't want to have people sifting through data to find things that are actionable," he says. "We want the system to find actionable things and bring them to users."

In addition, PivotLink didn't offer data visualization. DMA users were creating what look like Excel spreadsheets.

DMA began to look for a new vendor and initially researched 12 companies, including Salient, Birst, QlikView, Good Data, Tableau, MicroStrategy and Pentaho. It looked at how they handled security, whether they handled the volume of data that DMA required and how easy their software was to use, how they handled data transfer and what their dashboards looked like.

DMA's new system is now live, with 55 medium-size food chain restaurants using it.

DMA trained 175 end users on the system, primarily via GoToMeeting with a few in-person trainings, says Szatkowski.

Similar to its setup with PivotLink, DMA continues to funnel data to Manthan via iTradeNetwork, a company that offers a number of services including an application that DMA restaurants use to place orders from the distributors. ITradeNetwork also manages a data warehouse for the DMA, normalizing data that comes from distributors as well as from the ordering app. From there, the data is sent to Manthan.


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