What Salesforce.com’s Wave brings to the analytics market
By Edwin Yapp November 7, 2014
- Touted as ‘new analytics’ technology, not as analytics for CRM
- Can disrupt traditional players; will certainly spur more competition
NEWS ANALYSIS FOR THE better part of three decades, traditional enterprise resource planning (ERP) software has been used by both large and small enterprises to help streamline business processes, track financial data, organise supply chains, and manage human resources.
These systems were based on data sets and data stores that were largely predictable due to the nature of their databases, which were structured – neatly divided into rows and columns.
But in the past decade, as the world of data evolved into an unstructured one – with vast data stores that are not neatly categorised into rows and columns, and whose data source includes social media – enterprises are not only amassing more data, but are also doing so in an extremely unwieldy way.
Complementing ERP software are business intelligence and advanced analytics tools used to sift through these data sets. These tools help enterprises crunch data so that they can make intelligent decisions aimed at increasing sales and profitability, while reducing cost and wastage.
However, the problem with these tools is that they aren’t designed for the everyday user, and often remain the domain of tech and business analysts or statisticians – that, at least, is what Salesforce.com Inc believes.
In its recently concluded Dreamforce conference held in San Francisco, Salesforce.com launched its first ever cloud-based analytics tool, Wave Analytics Tool, designed to solve what it sees as a huge challenge in today’s modern business world: Analytics that is unintelligible to the ordinary user.
The four-day Dreamforce was the latest edition of the company’s annual conference for customers, partners, analysts and the media.
At the event, Salesforce.com said Wave is designed for business users in mind, making it easier than ever for anyone to explore data, uncover new insights, and take action instantly from any device.
In an interview with Digital News Asia (DNA) on the sidelines of Dreamforce, Peter Coffee (pic), vice president for strategic research at Salesforce.com, said that Wave has many unique properties and features that he claimed other analytics may not have.
He said Wave is based on the principle of ‘indexed search’ rather than ‘static taxonomy,’ and this is why he believes it will finally and uniquely satisfy the user whose questions evolve in response to unexpected answers.
Underpinning this method of sorting data is Wave’s schema-free design, which Coffee claimed was one of the major challenges holding back analytics thus far.
“If you’re selling bottled water, there are probably only three categories of information – price, size and brand – that needs to populate your tables. If you’re selling cars, there might be 10 categories,” he said.
Coffee said that traditionally, people who have been trying to devise a data schema upfront have been forced either to overprovision their schemas, thereby wasting resources, or compromise on them, and thereby risk doing the opposite.
But because Wave has a schema-free design under the hood, it can allow a wide variety of different types of the data to be gathered and analysed in very heterogeneous mixtures, he argued.
“This is important as the old way of doing things is really only capturing the products of business activities, and this process is compromised by the legacy of the rectangular [database] table.” he said.
“But in today’s world, the gathering of data is carried out more opportunistically, mostly from outside [the enterprise], tapped from unstructured sources such as social feeds.
“The underlying Wave engine does this effectively, efficiently and rapidly, and is going to make it far more appealing to the kinds of data that we believe people want to use in the future,” he proclaimed.
Asked how else Wave distinguishes itself from the competition, Coffee said that Wave simply isn’t just another analytics engine or some new tool that is able to devise appropriate visualisation or to manipulate data.
“If that is all it was, it would be exciting but not extraordinary,” he stressed. Wave is not analytics for customer relationship management (CRM), it is new analytics technology that can be appropriated to the types of data of interest today, he argued.
“It is optimised to take advantage of the vastly distributed processing power of the world today, and present in a mobile-centric world,” he said.
In this sense, it could be said that Wave is the first 21st century ‘cloud-appropriate’ view of how analytics should be put into the hands of people today, he declared.
“When people appreciate what we’re trying to do, they would understand why we didn’t just want to come up with the best possible version of 20th century analytics, but wanted to build something entirely new,” he said.
Next: Analysts weigh in on Wave and its potential