Many IT folk would likely associate ‘Spotfire’ with the old darling of the Royal Air Force, the Spitfire, rather than Business Intelligence and the process software giant TIBCO. On the surface it may seem an odd coupling – data visualization and business process management? Closer scrutiny suggests that this combination may offer a unique competitive advantage to customers.
Spotfire was founded in Gotheborg in Sweden in 1996 and was acquired by TIBCO in 2007. TIBCO is well-known for its Complex Event Processing (CEP) products that are widely used for share trading in investment banking, for example. Equally, TIBCO Spotfire BI users can ‘play’ with data to spot trends and predict the future in-memory, on demand. So the marketing tag line ‘the power of now’ is applicable both for Spotfire and TIBCO itself.
‘Collaboration’ is the watch-word for TIBCO’s own middleware platform, and in this 3.3 release of the Spotfire Analytics platform, collaboration is also a key theme. For example, a new Bookmarking feature captures all elements of a dashboard (markings, filter settings, drop down selections, etc) so that a “moment of insight” can be shared with other users.
Spotfire’s roots are in providing technical BI applications and interactive data visualization for technically orientated large enterprises such as the life sciences and energy sectors. TIBCO Spotfire still has a stronghold in these markets - virtually all major pharmaceuticals companies use Spotfire to visualize and analyse their clinical data. In recent years however, Spotfire has served more commercial markets such as financial services and telecommunications.
All the industries above are highly regulated where data governance, risk and compliance are mission critical success factors. TIBCO Spotfire v3.3, is well suited to these markets. The new Qualification Module helps IT Departments to quickly deploy and upgrade Spotfire analytics solutions by validating installations and their operation. Self-diagnosis and correction ensure that manual intervention by IT staff and time-to-market are radically reduced.
Other technical improvements that potentially reduce the burden on IT support include ‘smart’ mapping of data sources so users can query and report in a self-service manner; fast data transfer, easy clustering, and support for 64-bit R.
Traditionally, the Achilles heel of Spotfire has been the size of its user deployments. Version 3.3 greatly improves the number of concurrent web users, and TIBCO Spotfire now claims ‘enterprise-grade’ scalability. This scaling feature maps neatly to the collaborative workgroup analytics provided.
The next era of BI is seen as the integration of analytics and process software to provide real-time analytics throughout and across business processes, and TIBCO is well positioned to exploit this market opportunity. The resonance of the ‘business process’ story is compelling: over the past 12 months TIBCO’s share price has virtually tripled – it is now valued at $4.8Bn and employs 2,500 staff.
With its statistics, data mining and visualization capabilities, TIBCO Spotfire will give SAS and IBM Cognos / IBM SPSS a run for their money at the lower end price point of the enterprise market. The new v3.3 release improves the analytical platform’s functional specification as well as making TIBCO Spotfire easier to install and deploy for IT support staff. This will be a boon for IT Departments who have struggled with complexities and inflexibility of traditional BI deployments for long enough.