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Do the Infrastructure Headaches of Going Real Time Scare the Heck Out of You?

  • January 31 2003, 1:00am EST

DM Review would like to welcome Frank Gelbart as our newest online columnist. His monthly "BI Trends" column will provide insight gained from surveying systems managers, administrators, application users and senior IT and corporate managers about business intelligence application and infrastructure trends and issues. Click here to read the results of the online survey conducted in December on the prioritization real-time business intelligence needs.

Does the thought of having to cope with up-to-the-minute business intelligence (BI) make you want to run screaming from the room? Do you have nightmares about your production systems being taken down by hundreds of ad hoc queries and complex user demands?

If the answer is yes, take heart! You are not alone. We have found that two out of three companies see infrastructure management and maintenance as "major pains" in deploying real- time BI systems.

My company conducts monthly surveys to keep a finger on the pulse of business intelligence application and infrastructure trends and issues. Our online surveys are completed by hundreds of business intelligence systems managers and administrators, BI application users and other senior IT and corporate managers. Participants are asked to consider different issues, challenges and innovations every month. And, from now on, I’ll be sharing our findings with readers of in my monthly column, BI Trends.

This month, our research reveals that most companies are completely missing out on the important business benefit of making sound decisions based on real-time information. They are afraid. They know that their infrastructures can’t support real-time reporting, and they fear the costs of deploying complex systems in these days of budget constraints.

Our survey was carried out in late December and included 210 U.S.-based companies of all sizes and across industry sectors. More than half of the respondents are from large or very large organizations and hold positions in either business or IT management. Forty percent of respondents are responsible for managing or administering BI applications in their organizations, while another 40 percent are business users of those applications. Here is what we found:

  • Almost two-thirds of respondents listed infrastructure management and maintenance as "major pains" in deploying BI systems. Another 60 percent named data freshness and quality as significant headaches. (Participants could choose more than one answer.)
  • Three quarters of respondents indicated that their company would benefit from the ability to make quick decisions based on access to real-time information. Of that group, almost 40 percent indicated that benefit would be "significant."
  • One in five organizations need BI data fresh up-to-the-minute, one in 10 need it hourly and 35 percent need fresh data daily.
  • More than one-third of respondents have an adequate BI infrastructure in place and another one-third plan to complete deployment this year. The remainder has a two-year plan.
  • Three out of four respondents indicated that automation of BI infrastructure maintenance is important to the success of real-time deployments.
  • User security is the single most cited automated task in BI with almost 45 percent of the vote. Report creation is the second most popular with 37 percent. A third of respondents would like to implement automatic tuning soon.
  • The high degree of complexity and soaring implementation costs were cited as the two biggest obstacles in deploying real-time BI. Lack of in-house knowledge was also a concern.
  • More than half of respondents are likely to implement an intelligent operational data store (ODS) solution to enable real-time business intelligence as a way to reduce the cost and complexity of managing multiple data sources for BI reports and analytics.

What these numbers show us is that companies recognize that there are real business benefits to having access to timely information to make sound decisions, but infrastructure headaches are holding them back from wide scale deployments of real-time business intelligence systems.
They see real-time BI as a nightmare, but what they dream of is a way to dramatically simplify the infrastructure for timely business intelligence to break through the information bottlenecks that kill application performance. Also, if they could take the tasks of BI system management and administration off their plates, all their dreams would be fulfilled.

As our survey results reveal, professionals realize the importance of real-time BI. And, with one in five of companies needing up-to- the-minute data freshness and one in ten needing it hourly, they realize competitive advantage is at risk.

There are alternatives. You could deploy reporting systems against your production database and risk significant performance deterioration. You could establish a mirror database with an operational data store. This relieves the production database of reporting duties, but be prepared to pay for a costly and complex set up. And then, you have to cope with complicated replication tasks (not to mention DBA time spent tuning, optimizing and maintaining).

If companies are to fully realize the promise of the real-time enterprise they need to simplify their BI infrastructure. With today’s advances in artificial intelligence and automation, real-time BI is no longer just a dream.

Watch for next month’s column which will look why users need "up-to-the-now" information.

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