Simple BI is sustainable BI. (Or: All in for Dr. Imhoff!)

by Sam Lightstone

in Data Analytics and Business Intelligence, Scientific & Super Computing

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Sam Lightstone

Sam Lightstone

Distinguished Engineer at IBM
BIO: Sam Lightstone is Distinguished Engineer for relational Cloud Data repositories as well as co-founder of IBM's technology incubation initiative.He is author or several books, papers, and patents on computer science, careers, and data engineering.
Sam Lightstone

Today I read an article by Dr Claudia Imhoff about sustainable BI.   Imhoff is a Business Intelligence heavyweight. She’s President of Intelligent Solutions, Inc., founder of the Boulder BI Brain Trust, an internationally recognized expert on analytics, and she’s even co-authored five books. Impressive.  Her article “Creating a Sustainable, Easy to Maintain BI Environment” has an elegant thesis: A simple environment is a sustainable one.

Business Intelligence systems have long been relegated to the domain of the complex. Complexity was assumed, expected, undeniable, inescapable.  Now, enter simplicity stage left.  If an IT system is easy enough to deploy, manage, maintain, extend, it will be sustainable. You’ll be able to get it going and keep it going for a long time. Although we may have resigned ourselves to expect complex IT systems in general and Business Intelligence systems in particular, human tolerance for complexity has pretty finite limits. We are drawn to the simple. And why not? Particularly  if it performs with the robustness and speed of the most advanced systems in the world.

Imhoff defines 4 simplicity criteria. Here’s my synopsis of them (the Coles Notes version):

  1. Faster deployments. Push-button simplicity for set up and maintenance of a BI environment translates directly into a faster deployment and better user experience.  Products that claim simplicity should demonstrate the ability to deploy rapidly. If the technology doesn’t deliver on rapid deployments, it’s probably not simple enough.
  2. Simplicity means lower cost. Push-button simplicity also means reduced costs of launching new projects. You really can do more with less. If a product or platform’s claimed simplicity isn’t leading to lower cost, then it’s not really passing the simplicity test – it’s just complexity in disguise.
  3. Easier maintenance and enhancement. Sophisticated administrative functions must be part of the mix before considering changing to a simpler environment. Otherwise, it’s not simplicity it’s a just a toy – and probably more trouble than it’s worth. For me this includes automation of workload management, storage reclamation, automated daily tasks like data stats collections and trivial HA, etc.
  4. Future-proofed. Advanced enough, and flexible enough to withstand whatever the near future throws at it. That means advanced enough to exploit main memory, SSD storage, in-database analytics, cloud, continued rise of core counts per socket and increased hardware threading and increasingly demanding workloads and schemas (of not just varying complexity, but also varying design maturity).

Everyone loves simplicity. Who reads the manual anymore? We laugh about the generation of instant gratification, but really, truthfully, there is a place for it.  But while we sense relief in simplicity few of us deeply reflect on the business benefits that simplicity provides in creating a sustainable platform for Business Intelligence, so long dogged by deployment and design complexity.  I’m glad the research & development teams at IBM took simplicity to heart in the creation of our analytic database systems like DB2 with BLU Acceleration the IBM in-memory database for reporting and business intelligence and PureData for Analytics.  Load-and-go simplicity isn’t just a good way to go, it’s really the only way at all.  Our cutting edge innovations for in-memory faster than RAM processing have certainly helped us stay future proofed for some time to come.  Simplicity = Sustainability. Brilliant insights Dr. Imhoff! Well put.



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