MicroStrategy Takes BI Mobile – What are The Implications of Mobile BI for BI Platforms?

Having just got back from the MicroStrategy World Conference in beautiful Cannes, I thought I would cover what was announced this week at the event. CEO Michael Saylor launched MicroStrategy Mobile for iPhone, iPad and Blackberry describing it as “the most significant launch in MicroStrategy history”. In his opening keynote he talked about mobile as “the 5th major wave of computing” starting with mainframes, then mini-computers, then personal computers, desktop internet and now mobile internet. Their vision here is a good one – BI all the time, everywhere and for everyone. Mobile device access to BI has been around for a while in some offerings but I was impressed with the work MicroStrategy have put into the mobile user interface on touch sensitive ‘gesture’ devices like Apple iPhones and iPads. They have taken advantage of the full set of Apple gestures and also added BI specific gestures including Drill down and Page By. They have also released an Objective C software development kit (SDK) for MicroStrategy Mobile. This allows developers to build custom widgets and embed them in the MicroStrategy Mobile application or embed MicroStrategy Mobile in your own application.

Also it is possible to re-brand and re-skin MicroStrategy Mobile to fit your own corporate branding look and feel standards. Overall, the user interface appears very interactive and very natural. To support alerting, MicroStrategy Mobile is also integrated with the Apple push notification service so that personalised alerts are possible. Also data can be cached so that when alerted users touch “view data”, the data is already there.

Architecturally speaking, MicroStrategy Mobile sits on top of the MicroStrategy Intelligence Server to allow BI to be made available to mobile employees, customers, partners and suppliers. Therefore all the capabilities of the MicroStrategy platform are still there. I particularly liked the fact that the same design tool can be used for both web browser and mobile device access. Pre-built templates are also available to get you started quickly. Getting started seems therefore fairly straightforward. You can download the MicroStrategy Mobile App from Apple and point it at your own server.

One thing that was not covered enough in my opinion was the Portable Documents capability. This allows you to build up a library of dashboards and re-use them across projects. The reason this is important is consistency. We all want trusted and consistent BI. In addition re-use is better than re-invention every time and so you can gain both from a productivity perspective as well as from a consistency perspective.

Implications of Mobile BI on Traditional BI Environments
Looking at this announcement there are several implications on any BI environment when implementing Mobile BI. This includes the fact that the number of concurrent users is likely to increase significantly. If you intend to make mobile BI available to external users like customers then the concurrent usage could skyrocket. So your BI platform and the underlying DBMS need to be able to scale to handle concurrent usage. 64-bit support in a BI platform will help a lot as more data can accessed in-memory. This together with caching will make a significant contribution to performance when handling more users. If your customers are worldwide and you make mobile BI available to them then it is very likely that you will also push your BI system into a 7×24 hour operating environment. High availability therefore starts to become critical. I also believe that Mobile BI will become a ‘workhorse’ in business operations with many employees making use of it. Therefore the number of on-demand BI requests from mobile devices is set to increase. The upshot is that workload management is going to be needed both in the underlying DBMS and in the BI platform to handle concurrent user requests from mobile devices as well as the traditional reporting and analysis taking place on a BI system. Also, if your mobile dashboards on an iPad are accessing data via data federation, there are implications here too. There are likely to be many more federated queries and so caching matters here also.

Overall then, MicroStrategy has entered the mobile market with a robust implementation that exploits native interfaces to mobile devices. With other BI vendors already in the mobile BI market the only question is how much of a differential will it have over its competition. I like the offering. It also covers Blackberry which is more than Oracle BI 11g (announced yesterday) does. MicroStrategy customers will no doubt exploit it.


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