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MicroStrategy, one of the largest independent vendors of business intelligence (BI) software, recently held its annual user conference, which I attended with some of my colleagues and more than 2,000 other attendees. At this year’s event, the company emphasized four key themes: mobility, cloud computing, big data and social media. In this post, I’ll assess what MicroStrategy is doing in each of the first three areas. My colleague, Mark Smith, covered MicroStrategy’s social intelligence efforts in his blog. I’ll also share some opinions on what might be missing from the company’s vision.

Michael Saylor, MicroStrategy’s CEO, is enamored with Apple and its mobile technology, which sure seems to be a good bet. Coincidentally, on the same day Saylor delivered his keynote speech, Apple announced record revenues based on iPhone and iPad sales. MicroStrategy made an early commitment to mobile technologies and Apple’s products. As a result it has a relatively mature set of native mobile products on the Apple platform; now it is bringing those capabilities to Android devices via the Android Marketplace. In addition to Android platform support, the current release, 9.2.1m, adds new mobile features including offline capabilities and user interface enhancements. As a testament to the maturity of MicroStrategy’s mobile capabilities, several customers I spoke with were deploying mobile applications first and then extending those applications to Web and desktop platforms.

At last year’s MicroStrategy World, the company was just getting familiar with the cloud. Since then it has delivered two types of cloud capabilities: Cloud Personal for individual use and a cloud version of its full platform including database and data integration capabilities. Support for Teradata in the enterprise cloud offering extends previously announced support for IBM Netezza and ParAccel. Data integration capabilities are provided via a partnership with Informatica. At the recent event it also introduced a third version (not yet available): Cloud Professional extends Cloud Personal with multiuser capabilities including user management, security, personalization and notification of dashboard updates. In addition, Cloud Personal has added the ability to import data directly from applications.

It’s still early days for MicroStrategy in the cloud, as it is for most vendors, but the company appears to be “all in.” It has committed $100 million dollars to build out the cloud infrastructure and offers free capabilities to individual users via Cloud Personal. Perhaps most significant are the software partnerships to provide database and data integration capabilities – the first revenue sharing partnerships for MicroStrategy. In the past it delivered only capabilities developed internally. It made no acquisitions and no partnerships. This willingness to share revenue demonstrates how important the cloud is to MicroStrategy.

The company chose to be practical rather purist in its approach. The cloud implementation is based on MicroStrategy’s existing product architecture which is not multitenant. In other words each enterprise runs in a separate instance of the software rather than sharing a single instance. This approach has no immediate or obvious downside for customers. However, in the long run, it could prove to be more expensive and labor-intensive for MicroStrategy. Company officials said that over time it will migrate to a multitenant architecture to overcome these issues.

Another key theme, big data, received less attention. Certainly, MicroStrategy executives and presenters mentioned big data, but that is not new to the company. MicroStrategy built its business around large data sets, often from the retail industry, before the concept of “big data” existed. As a result, its core BI product has been architected to deal with big data which is evidenced by its longstanding relationship with Teradata and some of the other databases it supports, including Greenplum, Netezza, ParAccel and Vertica. In addition, MicroStrategy and Cloudera recently announced a partnership that  provides connectivity to Hadoop data sources. As our benchmark research shows, organizations use multiple technologies to tackle big-data challenges so MicroStrategy customers should welcome this partnership.

I see a couple of holes in MicroStrategy’s coverage. Mark Smith discusses how MicroStrategy is tackling social media as a data source. However, the company has not embraced social media in the context of collaborative BI. In a recent blog post, I noted that Ventana Research sees collaboration as one of five key influences on business intelligence, and there is plenty of movement here. Enterprises have started to adopt collaborative BI processes. Other BI software vendors have begun to support collaborative BI in their products. Soon we’ll be researching market requirements in an upcoming benchmark research project. Another area where MicroStrategy lags some of its competitors is advanced analytics. The company has some support for predictive analytics but limited capabilities for planning and what-if analysis.

Despite these areas where MicroStrategy can make additional investments, its annual event demonstrated the company’s determination to embrace new technologies and expand the horizons of business intelligence. It was well attended by customers and supported by a range of partners. If you are struggling with big data, mobile or cloud challenges, you may want to consider MicroStrategy. If so, you can try it easily via its cloud offerings.


David Menninger – VP & Research Director

This has been the year of the cloud for MicroStrategy. After ignoring early competition from cloud-based business intelligence (BI) providers, the company has jumped on the cloud BI bandwagon. At MicroStrategy Worldearly this year it announced a program called Cloud Intelligence and this summer introduced MicroStrategy Cloud, a complete BI platform with the option of using either IBM Netezza or ParAccel as the database and Informatica as the data integration environment. Now the company has expanded its cloud offerings to include MicroStrategy Cloud Personal, which enables individuals to easily upload spreadsheet data, analyze it and share it with others. (A free version is currently in beta testing.)

Cloud Personal automatically uploads and interprets up to 100MB of spreadsheet data using a simple wizard-based approach. The wizard allows users to review the data in tabular form to confirm the categorizations of metrics vs. dimensions and then makes it immediately available for analysis and visualization. Users can create as many dashboards as they wish using the various visualizations MicroStrategy supports. Cloud Personal supports filtering, sorting and formatting of the data as well as aggregations (sum, min, max, average and others) and some standard calculations such as ranking and percent of total. The dashboards can be shared via Facebook, Twitter, blogs, websites and MicroStrategy Mobile. These distribution options align with the company’s recent emphases on mobile technologies and social media.

Cloud Personal provides a range of analytic capabilities accessible through an easy-to-use interface. Novice BI users should be able to create useful presentations of information. Organizations that are sharing spreadsheet-based analyses should know from our recent benchmark research on business analytics that this approach is both error-prone and time-consuming. Individuals in such companies can use MicroStrategy Cloud Personal to demonstrate the value of a more robust solution. However, spreadsheet experts should not expect the product to be a complete replacement for all the ad-hoc analytical capabilities of Excel. Nor does the current version attempt to translate sophisticated spreadsheet presentations into similar presentation objects in MicroStrategy, although it may add that in future versions.

At least for now, Cloud Personal is less a spreadsheet replacement than a taste of MicroStrategy. Other vendors provide free access to similar cloud-based products; for example, Tableau Public uses  more of a download and publish model than MicroStrategy’s 100% cloud-based version. Tibco just announced Silver Spotfire version 2.0, a cloud-based version of its data visualization products, and now offers a personal version that includes a one-year free trial.

We expect to see cloud-based applications and business intelligence tools keep coming from other suppliers. The cloud is one of five key innovations we see revolutionizing the BI and information management markets. Our business data in the cloud benchmark research shows that even one-third of the finance function, which has been slow to adopt cloud-based applications, appears poised to move to the cloud.

Pure-play cloud BI vendors, such as Birst, GoodData and PivotLink, may find the competitive environment more challenging with larger vendors such as MicroStrategy entering cloud-based BI market aggressively. Birst recently announced an on-premises capability to expand its ability to compete. And as I described in a recent blog post, PivotLink has focused on the retail market and others with packaged metrics as a competitive differentiator.

With respect to MicroStrategy Cloud Personal, keep in mind that it is inherently a personal, not departmental or enterprise, solution. MicroStrategy offers an enterprise cloud edition that supports additional data sources, user and group management, secure authentication and other features you would need to support a large number of users. However, if you are questioning the capabilities cloud-based BI can deliver, or if you are simply trying to move your organization off of spreadsheets to a more robust BI platform, you can try MicroStrategy Cloud Personal here.


David Menninger – VP & Research Director

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