The one million-dollar question
When is right-time not real-time enough? That, as it happens, is the million-dollar question. Business intelligence vendors have made an awful lot of noise about a “new generation” of “real-time”, “near-real-time”, or “decisioning” tools, touting everything from their ability to provide “actionable business insight” to other intangible (and usually unspecified) competitive advantages.
For every company and industry
Industry watchers, on the other hand, like to stress that there is no single “real-time” Rx for every company or every industry; instead, they argue, companies need to figure out a “right time” window that’s, er, right for them, and go from there. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Does it matter?Well, everyone. And no one. And, yes, it does matter. In fact, once you get down to brass tacks with most Business Intelligence and Performance Management vendors, you’ll find that their views are actually very similar—for the most part identical—to those of many prominent industry talking heads.
It’s all about satisfying business requirements
Philip Russom, director of research with The Data Warehousing Institute (TDWI), succinctly frames the issue. “Call it what you will: real-time, near-time, right-time, on-demand, operational Business Intelligence, inline analytics, embedded reporting, real-time data warehousing, active data warehousing or dynamic data warehousing. It’s all about satisfying one bone-crushing business requirement: When time-sensitive information originates or changes in an operational system, how do you synch that with a data warehouse and then push out the information—complete with a performance history, as kept by the warehouse—to business end-users who need to know ASAP?” In any of its flavors, Russom argues, “real-time” has proven to be a surprisingly tricky beast to tame.
The law of Moore
“Moore’s law and cheap storage cured the scalability crisis. The cure for high-speed information delivery is far more complicated, because it requires that a long list of integration and Business Intelligence components—many newly enabled for services—be added to the already complex data warehouse technology stack, and sometimes operational technology stacks, too.”
Sometimes real-time isn’t what they need
Amy Meyer, director of data quality product marketing with Business Objects, outlines a real-time/right-time problem set that isn’t much different from Russom’s. “Many customers say they want real-time [information access], but they’re also intimidated by some of the technical challenges. In many cases, though, [real-time] really isn’t what they need,” Meyer said in an interview at February’s TDWI World conference.
A shorter refresh rate
What they need, she says, is typically a shorter time-to-refresh window. And for many customers, Meyer points out, “right-time” is going from a once-a-week or a bi-weekly refresh cycle down to a nightly one. In other cases, she indicates, perhaps a near-real time approach (such as trickle-feeding data into a warehouse) might be both technically feasible and operationally desirable.
Data warehouse specialist Netezza
The real-time/right-time challenge is spurring Business Intelligence and PM players to explore non-traditional solutions, too. Meyer points to Business Objects partnership with data warehouse appliance specialist Netezza Inc. to promote a turnkey rapid information access solution for SAP customers.
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