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Organizations succeed through continuous planning to achieve high levels of performance. For most organizations planning is not an easy process to conduct. Planning software is typically designed for only a few people in the process, such as analysts, or organizations might use spreadsheets, which are not designed for business planning across an organization. Most technologies only allow you to examine the past and not plan for the future. For decades organizations have tried to focus planning on driving better results through higher participation, but they have usually failed, as technology has not advanced enough to support this business need.
Tidemark has been working to help organizations plan and perform more effectively across business, including finance and operational areas. My colleague Robert Kugel a year ago analyzed the launch of the company. Last fall it came to market with generally available applications that operate across the web and mobile technology. They are designed for business but also illustrate my point about business leading the way to cloud computing. Ventana Research awarded Tidemark our 2012 Technology Innovation Award for Finance, as the company’s efforts make finance more effective and smarter in business planning operations. Tidemark’s focus on the user experience engages users with easy–to-read metrics. The software’s ability to update the plan and let users collaborate has gained it attention from organizations looking for a better approach to planning. Early customers such as Acosta, Chuck E. Cheese’s and G&K have validated its premise of a smarter way for organizations to manage performance through analytics and planning designed for everyone in business.
Using dedicated applications to support a business process like planning is a smart idea. Our recent research into business planning found that organizations that use dedicated applications report a level of accuracy of 86 percent, compared to those using spreadsheets at 60 percent. Increasing the accuracy of the plan was the top item (47%) where change could improve the value of the financial and business planning process. More importantly, 82 percent of organizations using dedicated applications indicate they have all or most of the numbers for aligning performance through planning, compared with 39 percent of those using spreadsheets. Businesses struggle to blend planning and business analytics. Integrated business planning that encompasses every department should be available for any range of customer, operational, financial, HR, sales and revenue-related needs.
Tidemark focuses on usability, which our research into business technology innovation found to be very important in 64 percent of organizations, higher than any other evaluation criteria. Its metrics and planning processes are easy for people to read, view and understand, unlike today’s typical mashup of email messages, presentations and spreadsheets, or attempts to push a set of standard charts into a dashboard view, which I have already said to be pathetic.
The new Spring 2013 release is the company’s next major product milestone. It introduces the ability to present analytics and metrics in what the company calls Tidemark Storylines – visual business-focused infographics that are dynamically created to interpret and present information about the business in a past, present and future approach that I have not seen in a product to date. Beyond this tool to help inform business and provide better methods to interpret the data, Tidemark has enhanced the business modeling capabilities that make this all possible, and this is what business analysts will love about the product. By using driver-based planning and other important approaches, the application can help provide a unified view of actual and plan data along with business charts to let users examine what changes are needed or envision what-if scenarios. Addressing one of my personal rants over the last decade, the software’s English statements on the analysis and analytic computations (metric or key indicator) make it easier to understand what you are examining, and you can change a statement to drive the presentation of the analytics. Tidemark’s focus on the visual presentation of business analytics goes well beyond that of the majority of technology suppliers in the market today. It takes only a couple of minutes of seeing the application to understand how the intuitive and interactive charts tell the business story and don’t just present the numbers.
This new release provides advancements in collaboration, with annotation and collaborative methods built in as part of the application. For years IT analysts have failed to understand that collaboration is the essence of what people do every day to drive improvement, and what those held accountable for business actually need. Our technology innovation research found collaboration to be the second most important priority after analytics, and having collaboration embedded within applications was the preferred method in 43 percent of organizations, over use of Microsoft Office or standalone tools. Tidemark provides collaboration within the context of the analytics and plan. It is able to integrate a range of comments or a document relevant to the analytics. It can securely store content to help with the need for disclosures, or any level of secured document storage, through a partnership with Box. Our recent research into next-generation business intelligence found that by using collaborative methods, organizations improve decision-making and have better communications than those that do not. I would assume that every organization would like these types of benefits for their business.
The next largest advancement is in how Tidemark allows for rapid configuration to make the application quick to deploy and use for a wide range of analytics and planning needs, no matter how strategic or operational they might be for an organization. It is not a one-size-fits-all approach; the Tidemark application can be adapted easily for any business process or planning needs.
As organizations begin to realize the drawbacks of using spreadsheets and legacy applications not designed for the planning and performance processes, they will find that almost half (47%) can get to the details faster with dedicated applications compared to those that use spreadsheets alone (21%) or those that use spreadsheets with other applications (16%). Respondents in our recent benchmark research in business technology innovation ranked business analytics their top priority (39%), in part for their importance in business planning. As organizations look at how to get better at strategic and long-range planning, they need to ensure they spend the right amount of time, as my colleague eloquently points out.
Tidemark partners with Workday to provide its products integrated with Workday’s HR and accounting applications that operate in the cloud, which are rapidly replacing on-premises ERP implementations. Tidemark also takes advantage of big data related to unstructured content using new technologies like its partner Cloudera.
Just investing in business analytics to analyze the past is not sufficient for achieving higher levels of performance. Without planning it is hard to determine what business should do to improve. Tidemark uses cloud computing and mobile technology in a unique way to advance business planning across the enterprise, and is worth your time to evaluate. Tidemark provides a strong foundation, but it should provide easier access for people to try the application for a short period of time, as I believe that once organizations try it, many will become customers. Tidemark can help meet organizations’ planning and performance needs and determine how a business can reach its full potential with its new and innovative release.
CEO & Chief Research Officer
The big-data landscape just got a little more interesting with the release of EMC’s Pivotal HD distribution of Hadoop. Pivotal HD takes Apache Hadoop and extends it with a data loader and command center capabilities to configure, deploy, monitor and manage Hadoop. Pivotal HD, from EMC’s Pivotal Labs division, integrates with Greenplum Database, a massively parallel processing (MPP) database from EMC’s Greenplum division, and uses HDFS as the storage technology. The combination should help sites gain from big data a key part of its value in information optimization.
Greenplum and EMC have been working with Hadoop technology to provide robust database and analytic technology offerings. EMC is using Hadoop and HDFS as a foundation to support a new generation of information architectures, on top of which the company provides a value-added layer of data and analytic processing to support a range of big data needs. The aim is to address one of the benefits of big data technology, which is to increase the speed of analysis; our big data benchmark research found that to be a key benefit for 70 percent of organizations.
EMC is placing a bet by building its distribution on top of Apache Hadoop 2.02, which has yet to be officially released. The company is testing its software on a thousand-node cluster to ensure it will be ready. While EMC calls Pivotal HD the most powerful Hadoop distribution, it is one of many new providers that are building on Hadoop technologies and commercializing it for organizations looking for direct support and services or looking for value-added technology on top of Hadoop. Oddly, however, EMC’s new offering appears to be competitive with its own licensing of MapR for a product it calls Greenplum MR.
EMC is calling the advanced database processing technology with Pivotal HD a new name of HAWQ. It provides the ability to use ANSI SQL in an optimized manner against big data through a query parser and optimizer with its own HAWQ nodes process query execution against HDFS data nodes. HAWQ also has its own Xtension Framework for adaptability to other technologies. HAWQ improves upon the performance of regular SQL as it is a specialized technology to manage distributed and optimized queries to data in Hadoop.
By supporting SQL as the language to get to Hadoop, HAWQ simplifies standardized access to big data through this approach that provides query optimization through its query planning and pipelining methods. Providing a SQL interface and an ODBC connection is not new; many Hadoop distributions now provide ODBC connectivity, including Cloudera, Hortonworks and MapR. EMC, however, uses its optimized query and SQL connection in HAWQ as an accelerator, which lets it stack its software technology up against any data and analytic technology, not just Hadoop. The question for organizations thinking about making an investment in this approach is whether they are limiting their access to future Hadoop advancements by investing in HAWQ technology that operates with only the Pivotal HD distribution or does the gains provide immediate value to separate any Hadoop challenges in optimizing its infrastructure. It is my belief that if an organization adopts this path of HAWQ, it will need to ensure it invests in an information architecture that includes integration technology at the HDFS level, as businesses will inevitably be operating against varying flavors of Hadoop.
Another area of differentiation EMC promises for HAWQ is in the area of performance. EMC claims exponential performance improvement using its query optimizer and SQL versus using Hive to access HDFS or Cloudera Impala and native Hadoop. In fact it claims 19 to 648 times faster performance using its own benchmark. Since these benchmarks were not run independently, it is hard to place significant value in them for now. I made inquiries to many Hadoop software providers, including Cloudera, and they said these metrics are probably not that accurate and invited performance comparisons against their technologies. Clearly these benchmarks should have been released to the Hadoop community for its members to design optimized queries using Hive for more accurate comparisons, but EMC is hoping that its results will entice IT professionals to try it for themselves.
EMC’s stature in the market and its work with a broad range of technology partners makes it an important player in the big data market. Tableau Software is one of those partners, providing discovery on data from HAWQ and Pivotal HD for analytics. Cirro also announced support for Pivotal HD, enabling a new generation of what I call big data integration. These partners are good examples and provide EMC a more complete stack of technologies for operating in a more enterprise approach for big data from analyst to connectivity to other data sources.
EMC can deploy its big data technology across a variety of deployment methods, including public cloud with OpenStack and Amazon Web Services (AWS), private cloud using VMware, and on-premises. Our big data research shows faster growth planned for hosted (59%) and software as a service (65%) than for future on-premises deployments. While EMC is not allowed to publicly mention its customer references, and I have yet to validate them, the company says they include some of the largest banks and manufacturers.
Meanwhile, the Hadoop community’s new project Tez provides an alternative to bypass MapReduce to improve performance. It uses Hadoop YARN for a more efficient run time and better performance for queries. Also, the Stinger Initiative is a project to improve interactive query support for Hive.
EMC acknowledges open source efforts that focus on improving the performance of accessing HDFS and look forward to those advancements and where they can be extracted into its Pivotal HD product but points to its query optimizer and ANSQ SQL as a better approach. It also did not deny that its performance comparisons could have been more optimized. But EMC is betting that its HAWQ efforts and its reliance on the next release of Apache Hadoop 2 will place it in a good market position, leveraging open source technology that is expected to be released in 2013.
This move to introduce Pivotal HD Enterprise and HAWQ is clearly an opportunity to accelerate EMC’s efforts. Greenplum’s technology needed assistance to grow its adoption as it competes with approaches that encompass not only Hadoop but also in-memory, appliance and RDBMS technology. Only time will tell how EMC’s focus on big data with Pivotal HD and HAWQ will play out. The battle among big data providers continues to be very competitive, with dozens of approaches. As each company moves from experimentation to development to production, it must carefully determine what technology will best meet its unique needs. Organizations should evaluate HAWQ and Pivotal HD on not just the merits of performance or providing SQL access but on the architectural and management needs of IT that span from adaptability, manageability, reliability and usability and the business value that should be ascertained with this technology compared to other Hadoop and big-data technology approaches.
CEO & Chief Research Officer