Salesforce.com Unveils Wave Analytics Cloud - InformationWeek

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10/13/2014
08:46 AM
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Salesforce.com Unveils Wave Analytics Cloud

Salesforce.com enters $38 billion analytics market with a NoSQL-based platform that puts five-button data-analysis basics on smartphones.

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Salesforce.com announced its highly anticipated analytics cloud on Monday, delivering what it's touting as a "disruptive" platform designed for everyday business users, not just data gurus and analysts.

The analytics cloud, called Wave, is Salesforce.com's sixth -- counting its sales, service, marketing, community, and mobile-app clouds -- and it's a grab at a global software and services market that IDC says reached $38 billion in annual revenue in 2013. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff leaked the analytics cloud plan a month ago via Twitter, just 10 months after declaring at Dreamforce 2013 that Salesforce "does not intend to move into the traditional, horizontal analytics market." But then, it's fair to say that the Wave platform does not take a traditional approach to business intelligence.

For starters, Wave is designed first and foremost for mobile interaction, with five simple smartphone buttons for data-analysis: filter, group, measure, view, and drill. These options for filtering and grouping data and then visualizing and drilling down on the results cover the vast majority of analyses that users generally need, according to Keith Bigelow, a BusinessObjects veteran who joined Salesforce two and a half years ago to spearhead the development of an analytics cloud.

[Want more Dreamforce news? Read Salesforce.com Overhauls Sales, Service Mobile Apps.]

"The user interface design was inspired by gaming interfaces, and we make full use of the touch interface so it's a tactile experience that's unique in the market," said Bigelow, general manager and senior VP of big data and analytics. "The system automatically generates queries behind the scenes as you select filters, group, and double-click to drill down on data visualizations."

Simplicity is also inherent in Saleforce.com's choice of a key value store as the back end of the Wave platform. This NoSQL database makes it possible to store any data -- structured or variably structured -- without the rigidity of the predefined schemas required for conventional relational and multi-dimensional (OLAP) databases.

Saleforce.com Wave is designed for mobile-first interaction on smartphones, but tablet and desktop interfaces make the most of data visualizations.
Saleforce.com Wave is designed for mobile-first interaction on smartphones, but tablet and desktop interfaces make the most of data visualizations.

"We can ingest log data as well as rows and columns, and because of the inverted index that we've put on top for our query engine, we can federate across data sets that have historically not been easy to bring together," Bigelow said. "We ingest the data with minimal metadata about key values, and then we can join across data sets irrespective of source."

In place of SQL, the lingua franca of data warehousing, Salesforce says its home-grown database uses what it calls the Salesforce Analytic Query Lanague (SAQL). But Salesforce is not interested in teaching users how to use SAQL, said Bigelow. This language is strictly for power users, developers, and Salesforce administrators, so they combine and transform data and create custom queries that users can then explore with their simple filter, group, measure, view, and drill buttons.

Wave will be generally available on October 20, with mobile apps available from the Apple and Google Android app stores. Subscriptions for "Explorer" business users, who can explore data, create visualizations, annotate, and

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Doug Henschen is Executive Editor of InformationWeek, where he covers the intersection of enterprise applications with information management, business intelligence, big data and analytics. He previously served as editor in chief of Intelligent Enterprise, editor in chief of ... View Full Bio

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southard.jones
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southard.jones,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/14/2014 | 6:35:44 PM
Cloud BI

We agree with this, Wave is built for the "basics of BI". After 8 years of solving complex BI problems, customers are demanding solutions with advanced analytic capabilities, like predictive and data integration, in one solution - not three or four. The multiple stack solution of yesteryear didn't work for legacy BI, and I'm not convinced it will work in today's even more complex market.

For the full conversation, check out #ifollowtheleader and @birstbi.

D. Henschen
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D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
10/13/2014 | 10:28:32 PM
Re: Developer's hopes versus user reality
Point takent, Charlie, but two points here: 1. These five options can be used in combination, so that's effectively many more than five options. 2. I think the "vast majority" comment was in the context of ordinary users, not business analysts or data analysts. Think salespeople and service people, not BI gurus looking to match what they're getting from an old-school BI system attached to a vast data warehouse.
danielcawrey
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danielcawrey,
User Rank: Ninja
10/13/2014 | 7:31:13 PM
Re: Turning BI into a game
I think it would be really useful if Salesforce had its own prediction engine to help organizations figure certain aspects of their businesses out.

Not sure how accurate something like that would be, but if it were an offering I bet a lot of customers would try it out. 
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
10/13/2014 | 4:32:12 PM
Developer's hopes versus user reality
Five smartphone buttons cover "the vast majority" off all the analyses that users will want to do. Every developer of a new analytics system hopes that that's true. It seldom is.
D. Henschen
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D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
10/13/2014 | 1:05:58 PM
Re: Turning BI into a game
Salesforce.com's standard is native smartphone apps for iOS, Android and (eventually) Windows. Now they're talking native tablet, too, for the new Sales Cloud1 and Service Cloud1 moible apps, but I'm not sure if this applies to Wave at this early stage. That would leave Web browser access on tablets via the standard Web interface.  
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
10/13/2014 | 12:02:42 PM
Integration will be telling
This sounds interesting in its own right for users of Salesforce.com apps and those of its Force.com platform partners, but what would really put it over the top is good integration with data from elsewhere. Sounds like cloud middleware players will make some of that possible, but it will be interesting to see the extent to which developers of other enterprise software find it worthwhile to build hooks into Wave.
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
10/13/2014 | 11:37:56 AM
Re: Turning BI into a game
When you think about it, crunching all that data into a format usable on a phone screen is pretty amazing (if it works, of course :-) Is this a native app, or HTML5 running in the mobile browser?

 
D. Henschen
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D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
10/13/2014 | 10:21:47 AM
Turning BI into a game
Salesforce made a lot out of the gaming-influenced interface, saying it will make data analysis a "joyous" experience that "will bring smiles to people's faces." I suppose that will only be true if they like the results they're seeing. I think my Omniture Web-click stat dashboards are pretty easy, but you won't catch me smiling when I work hard on a story only to find people aren't clicking on it ;-> Sometimes it's all in the headline -- as Salesforce well knows.
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