Analytics and business intelligence tools for enterprises: What are the best alternative BI products?

As companies look to release their big data, companies like Qlik and Tableau are offering powerful self-serve analytics platforms

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As enterprises have more and more data at their fingertips business users increasingly want access to their business information in real-time. This has led to a boom in companies dedicated to building data visualisation and analysis tools that can be used by almost anyone within the business. Gone are the days of waiting for IT to generate a report or spending weeks mired in Excel.

According to Gartner: “The rise of data discovery, access to multistructured data, data preparation tools and smart capabilities will further democratise access to analytics and stress the need for governance. Gartner predicts that by 2017, most business users and analysts in organisations will have access to self-service tools to prepare data for analysis.”

Here is a roundup of some of the best analytics and business information platforms out there for enterprise customers not already using the big four vendors (Microsoft BI, SAP, Oracle and IBM). These range from self-service tools for C-level executives, to social media managers and data scientists.

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© Tableau

Tableau

Tableau is a self-service analytics platform that takes data visualisation seriously as it looks to get businesses away from Powerpoint presentations. The company employs colour, animation and cartography experts to make their data visualisations as easy to digest as possible.

Customers can use an online service or stay on-premises with Tableau Server. Tableau connects a wide range of data sources, from established sources like Excel to recent additions like Amazon Aurora, Microsoft Azure SQL Data Warehouse, MapR Hadoop Hive Connectivity for Mac. Tableau is quick to implement and its commitment to visualisation stretches into the administrator tools. such as visual permissioning and governance.

James Eiloart, head of Tableau EMEA, told Computerworld UK: “We believe that anyone, whether they are technical or not, should be able to work with their data seamlessly without having to write code or be a programmer. No technical training required.”

Tableau Online is priced at a flat rate of $500 (£350) per user per year. Tableau server starts at $10,000 (£7,000) for ten users, with future annual upgrades and support set at 25 percent per year. Tableau topped Gartner's Magic Quadrant for business intelligence and analytics in 2016.

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© Qlik Sense

Qlik

Qlik is an established name in the data visualisation, BI and analytics space and offers a well rounded portfolio of products. Qlik breaks up its products according to how much support you require, so there is the self-serve solution called Qlik Sense, as well as the original guided analytics QlikView (similar to Splunk), guided and embedded analytics called Qlik Analytics Platform and external data feeds through Qlik DataMarket.

The self-service tool Sense is essentially an intuitive visualisation tool. It is a drag and drop input method, so there is no need for scripting or SQL queries and users can quickly use search capabilities to track down key metrics. Sense is enterprise-ready with central governance and security and the platform is fullly customisable when it comes to data sources through APIs.

Qlik Sense pricing is done on a token model. Customers can buy and allocate tokens to users or teams, so data volume, reports and queries don’t factor. Token pricing is available by contacting the Qlik sales team direct.

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Splunk

Arguably the market leader in the served analytics space, Splunk offers a self-serve solution for Hadoop called Hunk. This tool generates charts, visuals and dashboards from your Hadoop data lake. Hunk can be deployed with Apache Hadoop but also Cloudera CDH, Hortonworks Data Platform, IBM InfoSphere BigInsights, MapR M-series, Pivotal HD and Amazon ERM or S3.

Hunk is enterprise grade, with secure access controls, audit capabilities, integration with existing authentication systems and advanced data anonymisation capabilities. You can embed Splunk reports within applications or use ODBC integrations to access Splunk data within the environment employees are comfortable with, be it Microsoft Excel or Tableau.

Splunk also offers an enterprise grade guided analytics platform, a cloud analytics solution and an automated SaaS solution called Light.

Hunk is priced according to the number of TaskTracker Nodes (Compute Nodes in YARN) within your Hadoop clusters. Pricing for a one-year term license of Hunk starts at $3,450 (£2,400) per Hadoop TaskTracker Node or Compute Node, with a minimum of ten.

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Trillium

If you are self-serving analytics from an ever-increasing range of data sources, then data quality is increasingly important.

Where IT would sometimes have to spend months consolidating and cleaning data up before presenting it to business users, companies like Trillium promise to reduce this process to under 30 days.

Trillium has two products for data quality control: Refine and Prepare. Both aid data preparation by connecting up disparate data sources and pooling them into a single repository, namely a Hadoop environment, under a coherent index. Refine goes one step further by taking this data and polishing it into a clean data set by merging or removing conflicting or incomplete records. This data can then be pushed on to visualisation platforms like Tableau or Qlik View to derive insight, both of whom Trillium partner with.

Ed Wrazen, VP of product management of big data at Trillium told Computerworld UK: “We’re seeing the type of user looking for far more agility. So they don’t want a big infrastructure, they want technology that gets them to market quicker.” Wrazen said that the customers looking for this from the big vendors would need a plethora of tools that would have to be bolted together.

Trillium works on a flexible subscription price model, largely based on the volume of data as measured by Hadoop nodes, offering a low point of entry and scaling options.

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Telco data visualisation © Logi Analytics

Logi Analytics

Logi Analytics started life as an application development platform but evolved into a self-service analytics and data visualisation platform.

Tom Cahill, VP of EMEA at Logi Analytics told Computerworld UK: “What it isn’t is a reporting library, or a rules engine per say, or a way to integrate reports. Instead it’s a development environment […] What that means is it’s very accessible and robust because it isn’t a little piece of standalone kit or architecture, it is a developer kit, so very interesting for large enterprise and the software industry as they create something and embed it in the application and sell it.”

What this means in practice is that Logi provides a fully customisable front end and some initial training to self-serve data analysis and visualisation. After which you are left to customer support.

Cahill explains: “When we install Logi it sits within the context of the approved infrastructure of the company, very native, and will conform with security infrastructure. Secondly because Logi is configurable it doesn’t require a lot of skills to set it up considering what under the hood are very complex joins and customisable dashboards.”

Pricing is bespoke with Logi depending on a variety of factors, be it user based, functionality needs, number of server cores etcetera, on either a perpetual or annual licence.

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Crimson Hexagon

Crimson Hexagon specialises in self-serve social media analytics for large enterprise customers.

Daryl West, social media insight lead at Telefónica O2, explained why he chose Crimson Hexagon to Computerworld UK, saying: “Crimson is the only tool that offered us unlimited data and historical background of social media. So you can pull for trends insights and then teach the machine learning function to train posts and to find the relevant categories of conversation, instead of building search queries and filters.”

Liliana Osorio, UK marketing at Crimson Hexagon explained the customer journey: “We’re a platform business. We do have a service team globally but the idea is that the customer takes a 45 day on-boarding process with a coach who will educate them on what to be asking of social media, so it’s different to the other measuring firms.”

For visualisation Crimson Hexagon prefers to plug in to tools like Tickr to provide a real time single dashboard, showing sentiment and trends across all touch points for a brand, blending social data with search trends and web analytics. Crimson is working on analytics for platforms like Tumblr and is investing in image analytics to tap into data such as pictures posted to platforms that aren’t tagged with the location, such as London’s O2 arena, for example.

Crimson Hexagon charges according to ‘monitors,’ which are topics you are analysing, with the smallest package at 20 monitors, which can be exchanged once a campaign ends, for example.

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Alteryx

Alteryx positions itself as the “analytics platform for business analysts”. This means the products are built towards allowing analysts to pull together data and insight and deliver reports quickly.

The primary tool is called Designer. This is a toolkit that combines data preparation, blending and analytics from across a variety of data sources, including spatial data, to simplify workflows. It also opens up R-based predictive analytics to analysts with no coding skills via a drag and drop tool. There is a simple tool for report generation and these can subsequently be exported to a variety of formats or platforms, including: Microsoft Excel, ESRI, XML, PDF, Tableau, and Qlik.

Alteryx also offers an on-premise solution called server which is built for sharing and collaboration, and a cloud based product called Analytics Gallery which is centred around deploying analytics applications.

Alteryx designer is priced at $3,995 (£2,795) per user per year for a three year subscription, or $5,194 (£3,600) per user per year for one year, with spatial data and desktop automation available as add-ons.

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SAS

Analytics software maker SAS provides a self-serve solution called Visual Analytics. Similar to Qlik and Splunk this is built out from a user-friendly, powerful in-memory analytics platform that can plug into a variety of data sources, including social media sentiment or data stored in Hadoop.

Business users can create interactive reports to share with the rest of their organisation over the web, via mobile applications or integrate them directly into Microsoft applications using SAS Office Analytics.

The advantage of going with SAS is the various add-ons available through their large portfolio of analytics products, such as SAS Cloud, or it can be deployed on top of existing hardware, either on-premises or in the cloud, and existing databases.

SAS doesn’t shout about its enterprise grade features as much as rival products but centralised IT administration tools and user authentication for data governance come as standard.

Pricing for enterprise-sized solutions are only available on a bespoke basis by going direct to the SAS sales team.

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© Tibco

Tibco

Tibco’s self-serve analytics platform Spotfire is available to enterprise customers through its Platform product for organisations.

Spotfire pulls together data from across the business and is able to present historical and real-time data on one unified platform. This data can then be broken down and analysed in a whole range of ways: interactive visualisation, diagnostic analytics, data augmentation, predictive analytics and location based insights, to name a few.

For casual users Spotfire has best practice recommendations built in to point you in the right direction when working with business information. Where Spotfire Desktop and Cloud are built for smaller teams, Platform comes with a central governance platform and enterprise grade data protection and compliance.

Pricing for Tibco Platform is available upon request.

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