The big three BI trends for 2013

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In-memory databases, the evolution of big data, and increasing mobility are likely to be the biggest change drivers in the world of business intelligence (BI) in 2013.

This is according to BI expert Barry Devlin, founder and principal of 9sight Consulting.

In-memory computing coming up

Devlin says in-memory databases, such as the SAP HANA real-time platform, are likely to see more widespread adoption later next year, and will become the biggest disruptive technology in the sector in recent times.

"This is a trend that will likely start maturing next year. It will open up vast new possibilities for the way we understand data, but at the same time, it will change the underlying models for data storage and management," Devlin says.

Big data evolves

Big data will remain a major focus for BI in 2013, Devlin says.

"Big data is clearly the starting point for everything these days. Now, it's becoming more mainstream as interest levels rise."

However, the point at which data becomes 'big' is still ill-defined, says Devlin. "I've started saying big data is really 'all data', because that's the essence of where all vendors and analysts are moving this year."

What's changing now, he says, is the sources and form of the data, in addition to the growing volumes of it.

"What we were dealing with in the past was data being pushed through processing systems to make it clean, timely and usable. This was easy in comparison with what's coming. Now, big data includes human-sourced information (such as that from social media) and machine-generated data (from sensors, log files and so on). These two types of data are essentially ungoverned compared with what we had before. The combination of these is driving huge change in the marketplace as the proportion of data coming from these two domains is becoming larger and larger."

With up to 25 billion connected devices expected in the world by 2020, according to the ITU, the volumes of data needing to be processed are skyrocketing.

This presents both problems and opportunities, Devlin says.

The hardware and software used to handle these sorts of volumes will need to be addressed. It will impact on organisational processes too.

In some industries, there is no choice but to make changes to meet the demands of big data. These include enterprises dealing with high-volume customer interactions, which must move into the social networking area to understand customer trends, or companies such as telcos and utilities, which are connected to metering systems generating ever-increasing volumes of data.

The mobile issue

Another trend impacting the BI space is the growth in mobile, says Devlin.

"This is interesting because the trend is certainly clear in the consumer market. The question now is what does it mean for BI? The jury is still out on this one. There's a bifurcation in the market - you have the smartphone and tablet. These devices are very different in the way they use and present BI," he notes.

Devlin says, in his view, BI applications used on smartphones will tend to be used for operational purposes more than strategic ones, purely because of the devices' small screen size. "The smartphone may be too small to be a true BI tool," he says. "It may prove very useful, though, for operations such as optimising deliveries."

On the other hand, the tablet looks set to take its place as a tactical and strategic BI tool because of its greater screen size and on-board storage, which will allow users to do more with applications.

"The tablet lends itself more to collaboration. For example, you could use the tablet to have a meeting, share slides, and record, tag and make useful analyses of the actual discussions for future use."

Devlin expects tablet PCs to become more prominent in the BI space next year.

Along with the growth in potential for mobile in the BI arena comes the complexity associated with BYOD (bring your own device) in the enterprise.

"The BYOD trend is almost inevitable, because users want a choice in devices, while enterprises see BYOD as a saving on procurement costs. But the IT department has always had a problem supporting multiple devices and formats, and this is going to remain a challenge for the foreseeable future."

Barry Devlin will speak at the ITWeb BI Summit, taking place from 26 to 28 February 2013, at The Forum in Bryanston. For more information about this event, click here.

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