It’s not common in the world of enterprise software to build something that is truly innovative. Most of the things that get called innovative in our business are simply incremental changes to existing technology. You can’t blame the companies that make the claims. Everyone claims innovation for advancing their version numbers, so they have to too.
However, over the past few years, three positive factors in enterprise computing have created the perfect environment for real innovation in the market of business analytics. First, the exponential growth of data that is generated by our digital world, or “big data.” Second, the trend that started around the time I purchased my first iPhone and I asked the IT team to support it, or “the consumerization of IT” (which implies that I would want to work with the same type of technology at work as I do on my personal time.) And third, the incredible success of open source Hadoop, which can be best described as a movement, in both enthusiasm of its developers and enterprise adoption.
There is a fourth factor, a negative one, that has an amplifying effect in this environment. It is the status quo of business analytics. Without describing it in too much detail, the process of getting data from collection to an analyst is ugly. Three legacy tools — ETL software, the data warehouse, and business intelligence — form an inefficient and inflexible pipeline that takes way too long to answer questions. It is even worse in a world where the questions are frequently changing.
So, Platfora started with a simple question: if we were to rebuild the entire experience from data collection through analysis, what would it look like?
1) The user experience should be beautiful and intuitive. It’s got to run completely in a web browser, on any platform, and it needs to be collaborative with other workers. It’s 2012!
2) The interaction with data has to be responsive. There can’t be a delay because the data is too big.
3) The user shouldn’t have to open an IT ticket to make it work. The components need to work together seamlessly and automatically, like they were made to work together.
That’s tall order. There was no product on the market that spanned from Hadoop up to the business analyst in a truly interactive web-based BI application.
So we built it from scratch, and today we introduce Platfora.
Platfora is the first business analytics product utilizing a closed-loop, iterative approach to working and refining large data for analysis, driven by users. We call this the “Interest Driven Pipeline” and it has been core to the Platfora vision since the beginning. Of course, it is not economically possible to work with petabyte datasets in memory, so making them interactive means managing what data is fast. The Interest Driven Pipeline puts the business analyst at the center of the process and it’s a completely new experience.
Platfora provides a 100% HTML5 interactive BI application. It turns out there is a reason this hasn’t been done before, at scale. When you are working with complex visualizations, web technology simply has not been fast enough to provide interactivity with the data. We’re using “Canvas” technology that lets Platfora render 100,000+ marks in a single visualization and make them interactive, which is a feat on its own. Plus, Platfora incorporates collaborative features to make working together easier and there are no per-user license fees to prevent everyone from having access.
At the heart of Platfora is an entirely new scale-out, in-memory data processing engine that progressively refines details from raw data in Hadoop. We call it Fractal Cache technology. It allows the user to work with various levels of detail of the data and easily move between them without having to rebuild a data warehouse in the process.
So that’s Platfora. Which brings me to the final, and most important factor, in innovation: finding the incredible team to carry it out. Platfora has been driven by an exceptional team of engineers, designers, and visionaries. We’ve been pulled together by our own deadlines and goals. It’s a team of real believers that did what we said we’d do. After all the hard work of the past 18 months this team deserves to step back and realize they have created a new category — something truly innovative, the first of it’s kind.