A different approach to operational BI

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InterSystems has just announced InterSystems DeepSee, which represents an interesting and rather different approach to operational business intelligence.

Put simply, DeepSee provides a development environment for embedding real-time business intelligence into operational applications without the need for a data warehouse or any other form of extraneous data store. That is, you take live data from your transactional system and perform relevant analytics on it directly without needing to store it somewhere else first, though you can pull in historic data from a warehouse if you want to. To put this another way, developers can build BI directly into transactional applications as they build them rather than them being, essentially, two separate things.

That said, DeepSee is not a stand-alone capability as it is built on top of InterSystems Caché (which is a combined database and development environment) and InterSystems Ensemble (an integration platform) and is designed to run in conjunction with those environments. But if you don’t happen to be an InterSystems customer or partner don’t stop reading just yet, because this may be a sign of things to come.

There are four key DeepSee capabilities: connections for accessing third party applications, databases and data warehouses; DeepSee Designer for creating dashboards and for extending operational applications with BI results; DeepSee Analyzer, which is employed by business users who understand those applications to explore and display relevant data; and the DeepSee Architect, which is used to define your data model. This is implemented on top of the existing Caché data model without requiring changes to the latter, though you may wish to define additional (bit mapped) indexes. This step would also include defining relevant dimensions (for those of you who don’t know, Caché has built-in multi-dimensional capability), measures, aggregations, meaningful names and so on. I should also mention that DeepSee leverages the Ensemble rules engine as a part of your business processes.

Now, it is probable that a significant number of readers have not heard of InterSystems. Indeed, because it drives most of its revenues through its partners it is even possible that you are an InterSystems user without knowing it. Anyway, some background may be useful and, briefly, the company is 30 years old, it has annual revenues in excess of $250m, has offices in 22 countries, has installations in more than 90, and has in excess of 1,300 partners. In short, InterSystems is a significant player.

Which raises an interesting question: if InterSystems is successful with DeepSee (and there is already significant interest in it from the company’s partners) then will other companies with a similar go-to-market model such as Progress and IBM (Informix) take a similar approach? Of course, they don’t have the multi-dimensional capabilities of Caché so it would probably take a bit more work but no doubt they could think of something.

I have to say I like the idea of this approach. Why are applications, business processes and business intelligence all separate things (albeit linked through web services) when they could be one thing? There seem obvious advantages to this latter approach and that is exactly what DeepSee offers.