Every decade, like clockwork, the Business Intelligence (BI) industry welcomes the next generation of BI platform providers. Two decades ago, it was Cognos and MicroStrategy. Then Tableau and QlikTech stepped up to carry the torch. And with each passing of the torch, new leaders emerge with the power to disrupt the market.

2019 can best be described as an era of modern cloud data analytics. While the path to reactive convergence is already underway, the new leader is now emerging.

Convergence in an industry like data analytics can take many forms. We have seen industry rollups in which firms create a collection of analytical tools under one brand. This was the case with QlikTech, TIBCO, and Logi Analytics—each private equity fund move was followed by more acquisitions of additional vendors. Just in the past 12 months, we have seen Qlik buying several smaller companies such as Attunity, Tibco buying vendors such as SnappyData, and Logi buying Jinfonet. In other cases, we have seen large SaaS players adding analytical modules by buying a vendor vs. partnering with one—as was the case with Birst and Infor.

However, if you’re an emerging industry leader, one of two paths is expected: acquire or be acquired. For the leaders that acquire or merge with other emerging leaders, this type of convergence is a strategy to accelerate growth, expand capabilities, and deliver on product roadmaps years ahead of schedule.

It’s an exciting time to be in the data analytics industry and there’s a dynamic year of convergence and consolidation still ahead for us. As an emerging industry leader ourselves, we’ve chosen a path that combines innovation and active acquisition on our growth journey, with an aim to deliver accelerated capabilities not only for our customers but for any customer seeking an end to end, highly versatile BI platform.  

But what does the future hold for our industry at large, apart from more rollups? I see two major strategies and milestones on the horizon: the cloud-local ecosystem acquisition strategy and the open multi-cloud platform strategy.

1. Cloud Vendor Analytics Acquisition Creating a Cloud-Specific Local Ecosystem

Two orthogonal approaches to data analytics have developed in this decade of BI:

1. Operating “in-data” to enable the direct query of unstructured data lakes, providing a visualization layer on top of them. This is typically done on top of a high-performance database and, these days, on top of a cloud data warehouse.

2. Operating in-data and across logical data hubs (in the case of Sisense, using our now-famous In-Chip™ technology) to provide a fully flexible stack that addresses data large and small, wherever it may reside, on a high performing databaseor not.

Each approach enables the same outcome: the transformation of data into insights that drive business decisions. To see a BI vendor doubling down on in-data technology isn’t surprising. Businesses are producing more data than ever before—even smaller businesses in 2019 can easily generate petabytes of data. The rise of the data lake as a cost-efficient solution for large, unstructured data storage and computation is both logical and expected. Developing an exploration and visualization capability on top of these ever-expanding data lakes is a logical approach in a fragmentation-driven strategy.

No single player is paying closer attention to this trend than the cloud vendors. They are acutely aware of this evolution in both the sheer scale of data and the infrastructure required to store and operationalize it. They also have the resources to acquire a technology that meets this need. Interestingly enough, the development of a standalone visualization capability along the data value chain by some ISVs will be countered by the big cloud vendors in their attempt to reintegrate their value chain and offer a complete suite. As such, the acquisition of dedicated in-data BI vendors in the next 12 months is logicaland should also be expected.

Given Microsoft and Amazon’s existing investments in PowerBI and QuickSight, we would expect it to come from the likes of IBM, Google, and Oracle. Who they buy next is up to them. But looking at the Gartner MQ or the Forrester Wave, each year a few dots are disappearing. It is safe to assume that the M&A route will be someone from that list.

The allure of operationalizing BI in-data is its perceived simplicity. But this paradigm requires the time, expertise, and a proprietary scripting language to send queries deep into data lakes. Unless your entire company is already centered around one cloud data warehouse, companies that choose to operate in-data are sacrificing speed and flexibility for structure and predictability. They are dependent on their chosen cloud vendor and their own data team to load, model, and continuously update their data. Then, and only then, can they operationalize their BI on top of the cloud data lake.

2. Realizing a Flexible, Multi-Cloud, Open-Platform, Data Hub-Driven Future

The truth always rises to the surface. The other strategy in the BI market’s convergence story will be the market’s recognition of the true future of BI and data analytics: a flexible, multi-cloud, open-platform with a logical data hub that places the value and power of big data in the hands of analytics builders.

The future is in the Elastic Data Hub, where builders at all levels of an organization can logically connect their own data sets, both live and cached, in-cloud and on-premise. They can build robust data pipelines, model the data to fit any need, and query the data in-memory and In-Chip™ with the power of a full-stack solution, all without leaving their BI environment. What’s more, they will operate deeper in the cloud than ever before. Data engineers and data scientists will be empowered to operate at the raw data level with pure SQL, pure R, and pure Python—all integrated directly into the product. No obfuscation layer to come between the builders and their data. No single cloud data vendor to be locked into.

Technological advances and a growing understanding of the value of data has laid the foundation for big changes in business and big opportunities for builders in this new world of modern cloud data analytics. A new leader is emerging. The torch is firmly in hand. And with our ascent, so is the era of the analytics builder. Builders everywhere – data scientists, engineers, business users, analysts, are uniting to transform complex data into insights for everyone. They will change the world as we know it.

It’s a very exciting time to be in data analytics…stay tuned to see what happens next!

Former Sisenser Guy Levy-Yurista, PhD, is an executive leader and entrepreneur with over 24 years of experience in Fortune 500, startup, and venture capital environments.

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