Tag Archives: analytics

Tibco analytics capabilities get upgrade in Spotfire X

Spotfire X, the latest iteration of the Tibco analytics and data visualization platform, aims to give users a more streamlined experience by incorporating more AI and machine learning capabilities when the upgraded platform is released this fall.

Notably, the platform update, characterized by what Tibco has dubbed a new “A(X) Experience,” will enable users to type in requests to navigate and visualize their data through natural language processing (NLP), to automatically record dataflows that can later be explored and edited. It also will natively stream data in real time from dozens of sources.

The new Spotfire X features are designed to create a faster and simpler user experience, according to Brad Hopper, vice president of product strategy, analytics and streaming at the integration and analytics software vendor. “This will allow us to take a complete novice off the street, put them in front of the tool, and no matter what they will get something back,” he said.

Search for simple

With the rise of citizen data scientists, it has become a trend for self-service analytics vendors to design platforms that are easier to use and more automatic, turning to employing AI and machine learning algorithms to do so.

Brad Hopper, TibcoBrad Hopper

Earlier this year, a Tibco competitor, Tableau, acquired MIT AI startup Empirical Systems, whose technology is expected to provide Tableau platforms with more advanced predictive analytics capabilities and better automated models. Also this year, Qlik, another big-name self-service analytics vendor, acquired startup Podium Data in a bid to better automate parts of its platforms and make them simpler to use.

“There is a trend in the market … for AI and machine learning to be used to explore all the possible data, all the possible variables,” said Rita Sallam, a Gartner analyst.

With the new Spotfire X features, Tibco analytics is looking forward, even if the features aren’t necessarily innovative on their own, she said.

“They’re leveraging natural language as a way to initiate a question and they are, based on that question, generating all the statistically meaningful insight on that data so the user can see all the possible insights on that data,” Sallam said.

A(X) Experience in Tibco Spotfire X
The A(X) Experience in Tibco’s Spotfire X enables faster and easier analytics with NLP tools and improved AI

AI advice

With the A(X) Experience, Spotfire X also will deliver AI-driven recommendations for users.

“We’ve built in a fairly sophisticated machine learning model behind the scenes,” Hopper said.

The Tibco analytics platform can already use AI to automatically index different pieces of data and suggest relationships between them.

Now from the Spotfire X’s NLP-powered search box, users will be able to receive a list of visualization recommendations, starting first with “classical recommendations” before getting to “a ranked list of interesting structural variations,” Hopper explained.

Forrester analyst Boris Evelson said the Tibco analytics and Spotfire X moves are “yet another confirmation of a trend that leading BI products need a dose of AI to remain effective.”

While AI is not replacing BI, BI tools that infuse AI functionality will displace the tools that don’t.
Boris Evelsonanalyst, Forrester

“While AI is not replacing BI, BI tools that infuse AI functionality will displace the tools that don’t,” Evelson said.

Tibco made the Spotfire X announcements during the Tibco Now conference in Las Vegas in early September 2018. 

The enhancements to Tibco analytics capabilities were among other product developments unveiled at the event. Others included the a user-partner collaboration program called Tibco Labs, more tools for Tibco Cloud, and a new collaboration between Tibco and manufacturing services company Jabil.

Zoomdata unveils data visualization and analytics channel program

Zoomdata, a data visualization and analytics vendor, has launched a global partner program as it looks to expand its roster of systems integrators.

Unveiled this week, the Zoomdata Application Partner program offers access to support representatives and integrated support systems, training, and sales and marketing resources. Zoomdata’s SI partners can also tap deal registration and tracking through a partner portal, the vendor said.

Zoomdata said in the last year it experienced “3X growth” in channel sales of its data visualization and analytics technology. Much of those sales were derived from SI partners in European and Asia-Pacific markets. About 30% of Zoomdata’s business is international, said Russ Cosentino, co-founder and vice president of channel sales at Zoomdata, based in Reston, Va.

Cosentino said Zoomdata aims to have a global base of about 100 SI partners within the next year. About 30 partners, including global systems integrators Deloitte, Atos, Hitachi INS and Infosys, currently provide the vendor’s data visualization and analytics tools. Zoomdata also has alliances with regional SIs focused on specific geographic and vertical markets such as pharmaceuticals and life sciences, telecom, and financial services.

“For us, a good partner is a partner that brings to the table skilled resources [from] across the big data ecosystem,” Cosentino said.

Quisitive inks blockchain pact with SaaS provider

Quisitive Technology Solutions Inc., a Microsoft national solution provider, is under contract with Jumptuit, a SaaS company, to build a blockchain solution that tracks subscriptions and entitlements.

Jumptuit, based in New York, offers a search assistant service that uses AI to find users’ documents, photos, audio and video files. The SaaS offering supports Microsoft Office 365, Microsoft OneDrive and other cloud services.

Scotty Perkins, senior vice president of product innovation at Quisitive, said Microsoft referred Jumptuit to Quisitive after the SaaS provider approached Microsoft about a blockchain solution. Quisitive met with Jumptuit, held a requirements workshop and is now in the process of completing a proof of concept, he said. 

Quisitive’s propriety blockchain solution, which uses Microsoft Azure, will let Jumptuit track active subscriptions, who they belong to and when they are up for renewal. On the entitlement side, the blockchain offering will determine the level of information access users have based on the terms of their subscriptions.

Quisitive, a portfolio company of Fusion Agiletech Partners Inc., focuses on Microsoft technology and has made private blockchain deployment one of its areas of emphasis. Quisitive has offices in Dallas, Denver and Toronto.

Zebra Technologies targets healthcare partners

Zebra Technologies Corp. is offering preferred product pricing to participants in its recently launched healthcare specialization program.

The Lincolnshire, Ill., company targets a number of verticals, but has created a series of purpose-built products for the healthcare industry. Those include mobile computers, barcode scanners, printers, patient wristbands and barcode label supplies.

Bill Cate, vice president of global channel strategy, programs and operations at Zebra Technologies, said healthcare has emerged as the company’s strongest growth opportunity, with the North American market experiencing particularly rapid expansion.

Zebra Technologies’ healthcare specialization, part of the company’s PartnerConnect Partner Program, has four segments:

  • Healthcare solutions specialists — Companies in this category dedicate their entire business model to healthcare. Cate pointed to Cerner and McKesson as examples.
  • Group purchasing organization (GPO) provider specialists — GPOs aggregate purchasing to negotiate vendor discounts for healthcare organizations. This specialization segment is designed for partners that have built healthcare sales groups. Cate cited CDW and Insight Enterprises as examples.
  • Advanced specialists — This segment is for hardware and services integrators that have devoted a large percentage of their businesses to healthcare.
  • Specialists — Partners in this segment include systems integrators that maintain a focus on healthcare, but dedicate a smaller percentage of their business to that vertical compared with advanced specialists.

Benefits for partners obtaining Zebra Technologies’ healthcare specialization include preferred pricing on the company’s purpose-built healthcare products. Other features include performance rebates, deal registration and specialized channel account managers.

Battery tech promises longer flights for drone service providers

Impossible Aerospace has unveiled a drone capable of flying two hours on a single charge, a development the company said dramatically increases the battery-powered flight time available to drone services providers.

The company manufactures the quad-rotor US-1 drones in Sunnyvale, Calif., and plans to begin deliveries in the fourth quarter of 2018. Impossible Aerospace also announced a $9.4 million round of funding, in which Bessemer Venture Partners is taking the lead. The company has raised more than $11 million in funding overall.

Spencer Gore, founder and CEO at Impossible Aerospace, said the two-hour unladen flight time can make an important difference for drone service providers accustomed to fight times in the 20-minute range — or less. Drone missions may be worth hundreds of dollars per hour for drone service providers, but the amount of time such companies spend changing or charging batteries proves an economic drain.

The US-1 drone’s flight time can “help drone service providers counting on more endurance in order to do their work,” Gore said.

Impossible Aerospace is positioning its initial drone as a surveillance product, geared toward law enforcement, public safety and private security organizations. Gore said the longer flight time stems from the company’s engineering approach, which starts with the battery as opposed to the airframe. The company’s design principle is to make sure “everything in the aircraft serves at least two roles,” one of which should be storing, using or transporting electricity, Gore said.

Other news

  • Bomgar’s pending acquisition of BeyondTrust in the privileged access management space could expand sales opportunities for channel partners working with those companies. The combined company will create an integrated channel program. “Based on the sizable scale and mass of BeyondTrust’s channel presence, we will continue to build upon what has already been successful,” said Matt Dircks, CEO at Bomgar. “We expect that the integration process will enable legacy partners to cross-sell both BeyondTrust and Bomgar products by 2019.” The deal is expected to close in October 2018.
  • Adtran, a networking solutions provider, unveiled an enterprise Wi-Fi solution for service providers. The company said the offering features machine learning technology and a cloud-managed IT model.
  • Identity and access management vendor OneLogin has bolstered its partner program. The OneLogin Accelerate program will now feature expanded training programs, new sales tools and incentives, and a partner portal featuring deal management and marketing campaigns, the company said. OneLogin noted that for a limited time it will offer extra margins for enterprise deals.
  • InterVision, a solution provider headquartered in Santa Clara, Calif., and St. Louis, expanded its cloud services capabilities with the acquisition of Infiniti Consulting Group. Infiniti, based in Folsom, Calif., will provide InterVision with expertise in AWS and Azure, hybrid cloud, on-premises cloud services, and software design and development, according to InterVision.
  • Green House Data, a company that provides managed services, cloud hosting and Microsoft advisory services, announced an international expansion. The company said it has open positions in Costa Rica and Sri Lanka, noting that it now provides IT services and consulting from six countries.
  • Kofax has entered an alliance with PricewaterhouseCoopers to provide intelligent automation solutions. Kofax offers robotic process automation and digital transformation products.
  • HyperGrid, a hybrid cloud management vendor, announced the closing of a $25 million Series C funding round. The move follows a year of 300% revenue growth across the company’s enterprise and MSP customer base.
  • Software analytics company New Relic revealed a developer program. The program helps customers and partners take advantage of application and infrastructure data, enhance their New Relic data capabilities, and automate New Relic into their workflows, New Relic said.
  • Nonprofit IT trade association CompTIA introduced a member community focused on emerging technologies. The CompTIA Emerging Technology Community will explore opportunities involving a number of developing technologies, such as IoT, 5G wireless, 3D printing and quantum computing, CompTIA said.
  • NetEnrich, a managed cloud services provider, appointed David Dragonetti to vice president of global sales.
  • Convey Services said it added Mango Voice and ComTec Cloud to its roster of vertical market solutions available through its Channel Accelerator program. Mango Voice, a hosted voice provider, specializes in the hospitality and dental industries. ComTec, meanwhile, provides a unified communications voice platform in the healthcare and education markets.

Market Share is a news roundup published every Friday.

Ytica acquisition adds analytics to Twilio Flex cloud contact center

Twilio has acquired the startup Ytica and plans to embed its workforce optimization and analytics software into Twilio Flex, a cloud contact center platform set to launch later this year. Twilio will also sell Ytica’s products to competing contact center software vendors.

Twilio declined to disclose how much it paid for Ytica, but said the deal wouldn’t significantly affect its earnings in 2018. Twilio plans to open its 17th branch office in Prague, where Ytica is based.  

The acquisition comes as AI analytics has emerged as a differentiator in the expanding cloud contact center market and as Twilio — a leading provider of cloud-based communications tools for developers — prepares for the general release of its first prebuilt contact center platform, Twilio Flex.

Founded in 2017, Ytica sells a range of real-time analytics, reporting and performance management tools that contact center vendors can add to their platforms. In addition to Twilio, Ytica has partnerships with Talkdesk and Amazon Connect that are expected to continue.

Twilio is targeting Twilio Flex at large enterprises looking for the flexibility to customize their cloud contact centers. The platform launched in beta in March and is expected to be commercially released later this year.

The vendor’s communications platform as a service already supports hundreds of thousands of contact center agents globally. Twilio Flex places those same developer tools into the shell of a contact center dashboard preconfigured to support voice, text, video and social media channels.

The native integration of Ytica’s software should boost Twilio Flex’s appeal as businesses look for ways to save money and increase sales by automating the monitoring and management of contact center agents. 

Ytica’s portfolio includes speech analytics, call recording search, and real-time monitoring of calls and agent desktops. Businesses could use the technology to identify customer trends and to give feedback to agents.

Contact center vendors tout analytics in cloud

The marketing departments of leading contact center vendors have placed AI at the center of sales pitches this year, even though analysts say much of the technology is still in the early stages of usefulness.

This summer, Google unveiled an AI platform for building virtual agents and automating contact center analytics. Twilio was one of nearly a dozen vendors to partner with Google at launch, along with Cisco, Genesys, Mitel, Five9, RingCentral, Vonage, Appian and Upwire.

Within the past few months Avaya and Nice inContact have also updated their workforce optimization suites for contact centers with features including speech analytics and real-time trend reporting.

Enterprise technology buyers say analytics will be the most important technology for transforming customer experiences in the coming years, according to a recent survey of 700 IT and business leaders by Nemertes Research Group Inc., based in Mokena, Ill.

Nice inContact adds analytics, omnichannel support to CXone

Nice inContact has expanded the analytics and quality management capabilities of its flagship cloud contact center, CXone, as businesses increasingly look to such tools to boost sales and customer satisfaction.

CXone Quality Management Analytics Pro uses speech and text analytics to monitor customer-agent interactions. It lets companies make sure agents are saying the right things — for promotional or regulatory purposes — and flags inappropriate behavior.

The system also identifies trends by tracking conversations based on keywords, categories and the sentiments being expressed by customers. The trend discovery should help managers coach agents and develop customer engagement plans.   

In addition to the analytics and quality management system, Nice inContact added to CXone omnichannel support for Instagram and the Japanese messaging app Viber, while also giving businesses the ability to schedule tweets and Facebook posts. 

The vendor announced the changes this week as part of its summer 2018 update to CXone, a contact-center-as-a-service platform the vendor launched one year ago. The vendor said 250,000 agents in more than 100 countries now use the platform, including some employed by Fortune 100 companies. 

The summer update also gave businesses more tools for complying with the General Data Protection Regulation, such as automated and manual controls over which customer interactions get recorded, retained and deleted. 

Contact center analytics gets results for businesses

In a recent survey, 700 IT and business leaders cited analytics as the top technology for transforming customer experiences, according to Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, based in Mokena, Ill.

Businesses that had already deployed agent performance analytics credited the tools with a 121% increase in customers won, a 68% increase in self-service use, a 45% improvement in customer ratings and a 41% increase in digital sales, Gareiss said.

“Nice inContact is focusing where our research says it should focus,” Gareiss said. “Specifically, Nice inContact is focusing on agent analytics, where our research showed significant success correlations.”

Nice inContact competitors, including Five9, 8×8, Cisco and Genesys, have also been investing heavily in AI-powered analytics and management for contact centers. Google also recently entered the fray, with the release of an AI platform designed to integrate with the products of any vendor.

Beyond analytics, this year, cloud contact center vendors have been focused on delivering intelligent call routing — a tool for finding optimal customer-agent pairings — and using AI to give agents better information faster during customer conversations.

InsightSquared unveils marketing analytics tools

BOSTON — InsightSquared unveiled new marketing analytics tools aimed at providing better insights to how marketing is getting leads into play and how they translate to sales.

“There’s natural tension between sales and marketing,” said Matisha Ladiwala, general manager of marketing analytics at InsightSquared, based in Boston. Ladiwala spoke to an audience of about 500 — mostly customers — at the data visualization and reporting vendor’s second annual Ramp 2018 conference at the Westin Boston Waterfront hotel.

InsightSquared executives at the conference on Aug. 7 said bringing together marketing, sales and service departments — collectively known as revenue ops — is its main business goal, and the new marketing analytics tools would help unlock those hidden insights.

Measuring marketing revenue

The marketing analytics tools are intended to relieve some of the tension often found between those departments by providing interactive, current dashboards that display how marketing campaigns are doing and when and how many leads entered the sales funnel. The new tools also include more planning and reporting capabilities.

InsightSquared executive Matisha Ladiwals speaking at Ramp, the vendor's annual user conference
Matisha Ladiwala, GM for marketing analytics at InsightSquared, demos new marketing analytics tools.

“It’s a great way to build trust and credibility with other departments and optimize which marketing campaigns are giving you results,” Ladiwala said. “The dashboards are there to give you the confidence that you’re investing in the right things.”

Most InsightSquared customers at the conference hadn’t yet seen the marketing analytics software in action to gauge how it could affect revenue operations or how well it brings different departments together. But a few customers used the marketing analytics tools in beta, and while speaking onstage at the conference, they said the software helped find key insights that were often somewhat hard to unearth.

The marketing analytics tools are commercially available now, according to InsightSquared.

Automation key to efficiency

There’s natural tension between sales and marketing.
Matisha Ladiwalageneral manager of marketing analytics at InsightSquared

“Aggregating that information from those areas was very manual and time-consuming,” said Guido Bartolacci, manager of acquisition and strategy for New Breed, a marketing and sales agency based in Winooski, Vt. “We were taking all this time pulling together information, rather than analyzing it.”

Bartolacci said New Breed was having difficulty bringing together its own information from its disparate sources, including Google Analytics and Salesforce.

By using the marketing analytics tools, New Breed was able to measure the value of marketing processes and help its sales department focus on the right leads, he said.

“What we’ve been able to do with a marketing-generated revenue [report], we can tell how much revenue marketing is creating for the bottom line,” Bartolacci said. “It’s been great for sales and marketing and helps unify our teams to work more efficiently. Marketing exists to drive revenue, but these reports help us understand how and why that happens.”

Dashboards help sales enablement

Another customer, ThriveHive, a digital marketing company based in Quincy, Mass., is using InsightSquared’s marketing analytics software to help connect its disparate marketing and sales tools.

“We have a complicated marketing and sales stack,” said Adam Blake, ThriveHive’s chief marketing officer. “Every week, I’d make my team go through a day of hell by compiling data from all these different platforms and put them in Excel.”

By doing those reports manually, Blake said ThriveHive employees often wouldn’t know if something went wrong with a prospect until it was too late. By switching to live reporting and dashboards with the InsightSquared marketing analytics tools, ThriveHive was able to find more insights in its prospect funnel.

 “We now have dashboards showing how quickly sales reps follow up with leads,” Blake said.

HPE InfoSight automates customer support on 3PAR

Hewlett Packard Enterprise today deepened integration of the HPE InfoSight predictive analytics on its 3PAR arrays, adding automated support resolution of issues affecting servers and storage.

HPE picked up InfoSight storage intelligence as part of its $1.2 billion acquisition of Nimble Storage in 2017. Nimble was among the first to use cloud-based predictive analytics for its SAN arrays, with an application designed specifically for the vendor’s own storage. A re-engineered HPE InfoSight in November added automated templates for capacity planning and visibility on how operating systems interact on a shared storage array. At that time, HPE extended InfoSight to 3PAR arrays.

The latest version of HPE InfoSight on 3PAR added the capability to predict problems faster and automatically generate resolutions.

InfoSight receives incoming data across global 3PAR deployments and correlates known problems to users with similarly configured environments. InfoSight creates a service ticket when it spots vulnerabilities and will automatically close the ticket when the issue is resolved.

HPE today also introduced developer tools to consume 3PAR storage on demand when launching containerized cloud applications.

3PAR flagship first HPE storage to get InfoSight analytics

InfoSight is a customer-optional HPE cloud that collects analytics on capacity, data protection, performance and system health across the 3PAR installed base. The data analysis isolates common problems that are known to affect customers with similar application workloads.

Storage analytics have historically been closely connected to storage resource management. AI inferencing and cloud computing have helped to provide more fine-grained analysis of data in real time. Vish Mulchand, senior director of product management at HPE Storage, said the improved InfoSight reduces the level of manual intervention by IT.

“HPE InfoSight logs any anomalies it sees so our engineers can resolve them. We take that workload signature to notify any 3PAR customers that might be at risk, and we give them a set of actions to take,” Mulchand said.

Mulchand said HPE made 3PAR patches available immediately for three signatures discovered by InfoSight, including a memory leak that had not yet been reported by customers.

HPE plans to port InfoSight to all its storage platforms. The vendor started with 3PAR because the array was originally designed with onboard telemetry and rack-mounted storage servers to process storage analytics. HPE claims to have more than 60,000 3PAR installations.

HPE InfoSight beta customer alerted to ‘Super Bowl issue’

Analysts cite three key ingredients needed to engineer actionable analytics: massive and diverse historical data sets, well-instrumented algorithms and a scalable data lake for running computations and analyses.

“It can be hard to assemble, integrate, and then smartly analyze the metrics from multiple distributed storage systems,” including misalignments in time-stamping, configurations and patch versions, and related issues, said Mike Matchett, a storage analyst at IT consulting firm Small World Big Data.

Matchett said he expects HPE to implement InfoSight with the remote call-home monitoring support on other products, such as SimpliVity OmniStack-powered hyper-converged appliances.

“HPE should extend the vision to cover their HCI infrastructure. The real trick will be to unify the actual analytics across vendors, IT silos and eventually include APM (application performance monitoring)-type views,” Matchett said. 

Mulchand said the HPE roadmap for InfoSight is to take analytics across the stack, including network infrastructure and services.

“This is just the beginning. We’re working on two dimensions. One dimension is moving up the platform axis as we add capabilities. The other dimension is to supporting more platforms with InfoSight,” Mulchand said.

One 3PAR customer, BlueShore Financial, based in West Vancouver, B.C., began using the HPE InfoSight automation earlier this year. BlueShore runs InfoSight in beta on its three 3PAR arrays, including all-flash and hybrid systems.

“We call it the Super Bowl issue. HPE found about an issue on Super Bowl Sunday involving a certain version of the software. It wasn’t an issue we were seeing, but HPE proactively sent out a revision. We patched and moved on with no issues,” said Ryan Burgess, BlueShore’s manager of technology infrastructure.

Burgess said InfoSight predicts behaviors at the array, compute and fabric level simultaneously.

“Looking at an array level doesn’t give you the full picture,” he said. “I’m excited about the global visibility. We’ve had 100% uptime on our 3PARs over five years, and also 100% uptime on the previous generation. The big piece of InfoSight is that it ensures that our uptime remains the same [across other infrastructure tiers].”

Aside from InfoSight, HPE brought out 3PAR blueprints and tool sets for DevOps teams. New virtualization includes a Docker-certified plug-in for persistent storage-containers-as-a-service and platform-as-a-service automation with Kubernetes and Red Hat OpenShift.

A new 3PAR VMware vSphere Orchestrator plug-in comes with templates to automate storage management. Development teams can get prebuilt management-configuration blueprints for Ansible, Chef and Puppet, as well as language software development kits in Python and Ruby.

BI vendors aim to ease visual data analysis by business users

As analytics teams look to make it easier for business users to analyze and visualize data on their own, more BI vendors are adding visual data analysis capabilities designed to meet those needs — and new software releases from GoodData and Periscope Data provide fresh evidence.

GoodData last week launched a UI design framework called Spectrum for use with its embedded BI and analytics platform. The additions include a JavaScript library that BI developers can use to build custom applications with built-in data visualizations, plus functionality for creating alert-driven dashboards and enabling end users to visually explore data sets prepared for them by data analysts.

A week earlier, Periscope Data also rolled out new features that let business users analyze curated data sets in its data modeling and analytics platform. Instead of looking at static charts and dashboards, users can now tap a visual query editor with a drag-and-drop interface to create their own data visualizations without having to do any SQL coding.

Visual data analysis has been a trending topic for years, with self-service BI tools like Tableau, Qlik Sense and Microsoft’s Power BI setting the pace. Gartner again listed interactive visual exploration as one of the core capabilities of modern BI and analytics platforms in its 2018 Magic Quadrant report on them, published in February. However, making the use of BI software in business operations more pervasive — and more user-driven — remains a challenge in many organizations.

Screenshot of sample application built with GoodData Spectrum
GoodData’s Spectrum technology adds new capabilities for embedding BI functionality and data visualizations in applications.

Room to grow on visual data exploration

For example, Fivestars, which runs a customer loyalty program for local businesses, has 10 Tableau users — but they’re data analysts who do “heavy-lifting analytics” with the software, said Matt Curl, the San Francisco company’s vice president of business operations. Periscope Data’s platform offered less of a learning curve for business users as a data visualization and dashboard tool, Curl said. On the other hand, end-user data exploration in it has largely been limited to people with SQL skills, he added.

Matt Curl, FivestarsMatt Curl

Curl, who manages data infrastructure and analytics at Fivestars, said he sees “a lot of upside potential” for using Periscope’s new capabilities to expand visual data discovery and analysis by end users. As a trial, he built a table that holds data on the use of the Fivestars program by ZIP code; business managers can drag and drop the different data elements they want to examine into a chart template.

That gives the end users more control over the analytics process than they get in a set of dashboards Curl’s team built to track key business metrics and company initiatives. “It lets them look at what they want to look at when they want to look at it,” without having to call the data analysts for help or deal with “a wall of text in SQL,” he said.

Fivestars runs the Periscope Data platform on top of a repository from Treasure Data that pulls together data from 20 or so source systems for analysis. Curl is still assessing the new visual data analysis technology, but he expects to use it in real applications at the company, which is formally known as Five Stars Loyalty Inc. “The early signals are that people like it,” he said.

Periscope Data CEO Harry Glaser said the new features are meant to give business users “a sort of mini-Tableau” to explore data sets curated for them by data management and analytics teams. From a competitive standpoint, he added, they’re aimed at putting the San Francisco-based vendor on an equal footing for end-user analysis and visualization with Looker Data Sciences, its closest rival.

Screenshot of Periscope Data's visual data discovery tool
Business users can now drag and drop elements to create charts and other visualizations in Periscope Data’s analytics platform.

Not just a job for data scientists

GoodData’s Spectrum framework is similarly designed to enable users of its embedded BI software to do ad hoc visual data analysis and track key performance indicators (KPIs) in interactive dashboards. That’s in addition to GoodData.UI, the new JavaScript library based on React, an open source library created by Facebook. It gives developers access to thousands of visual components that can be incorporated into applications; they can also use D3.js and other visual libraries to design custom visualizations.

GoodData, also based in San Francisco, hopes Spectrum’s UI design features will grease the skids for broader use of its software by business managers and workers who aren’t particularly data savvy. “Not everyone is cut out to be a data scientist, or even a citizen data scientist,” CEO Roman Stanek said.

Those are precisely the kinds of users Zalando SE wants to reach with an analytics service that the Berlin-based online retailer is testing with about 185 product companies. Zalando, which sells shoes, clothing and beauty products in 15 European countries, has embedded GoodData’s software into the Consumer Insights service’s web portal to visualize data on sales and customer buying behavior for brand managers, marketers and other outside users.

Cody Alton, ZalandoCody Alton

Initially, the GoodData platform offered “a really quick way for us to visualize sort of standard information,” said Cody Alton, product manager for the service. Zalando began using GoodData.UI as a beta tester early this year, and the JavaScript library makes it easier to visualize data in different ways, according to Alton. He said that’s an important capability for his team, which is looking to make data visualizations “more playful and interactive” to better engage users of the service.

“We want to represent data in a way that isn’t complicated and seems a little fun,” Alton said. For example, that might mean “calling out one number they’re interested in, instead of listing 150,” he added. Doing so could also help Zalando justify the cost of the analytics service, which will be offered in two versions: a free one that tracks a few basic KPIs, and a paid one with a much broader set of metrics.

Cisco Assurance services verify intent-based networking

Cisco has introduced a policy-centric layer of network analytics for the data center, campus and the wireless LAN, providing customers with additional intelligence to pinpoint problems and fix them. The latest technology represents a significant advancement in Cisco’s march toward intent-based networking.

Cisco’s Assurance analytics, launched on Tuesday, focuses on the nonpacket data the company’s Tetration network monitoring and troubleshooting software doesn’t cover. Unlike Tetration, Assurance keeps tabs on policies created in Cisco software to control the network’s infrastructure, such as switches, firewalls and load balancers.

Cisco Assurance is the latest step in the company’s intent-based networking (IBN) initiative, which is centered around creating policies that tell software what an operator wants the network to do. The application then makes the infrastructure changes.

The engine behind Cisco Assurance services

Cisco’s latest layer of analytics for the data center is called the Network Assurance Engine, which Cisco has tied to its software-defined networking (SDN) architecture, called Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI). The new technology is virtualized software that network operators deploy on any server.

Once installed, the software logs into the ACI controller, called the Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC), which shares network policies, switch configurations and the data-plane state with the Assurance Engine.

At that point, the software creates a map of the entire ACI fabric and then builds a mathematical model that spans underlays, overlays and virtualization layers. The model establishes the network state, which Assurance compares to what operators want the network to do based on policies they’ve created.

“If a network engineer used flawed logic in expressing intent, the Assurance Engine would find that flaw when the intent is translated to network state,” said Shamus McGillicuddy, an analyst for Enterprise Management Associates, based in Boulder, Colo.

Other vendors, such as Forward Networks and Veriflow, also build models of network state and then perform analytics to spot discrepancies with a network operator’s intent. Cisco’s differentiator is the integration with its APIC policy controller, which creates a closed-loop system for ensuring operator intent matches network state, McGillicuddy said.

Knowing where an engineer’s policies have “gone off the rails” is a big help in keeping networks running smoothly, said Andrew Froehlich, the president of consulting firm West Gate Networks, based in Loveland, Colo. “For network administrators, this is a huge win, because it will help them to pinpoint where problems are occurring when people start shouting the network is slow.”

Cisco has tied the analytics engine to a troubleshooting library of what the company has identified as the most common network failure scenarios. As a result, when an engineer makes a change to the network, the Assurance Engine can determine, based on its knowledge base, where the modification could create a problem.

Initially, the Assurance Engine will cover only the Nexus 9000 switches required for an ACI fabric. Later in the quarter, Cisco plans to extend the software’s capabilities to firewalls, load balancers and other network services from Cisco or partners.

Cisco Assurance services for the campus

For the campus, Cisco has added its new analytics engine to version 1.1 of the Digital Network Architecture (DNA) Center — Cisco’s software console for distributing policy-based configurations across wired and wireless campus networks. DNA Center, which costs $77,000, requires the use of Cisco Catalyst switches and Aironet access points. Companies using DNA Center have to buy a subscription license for each network device attached to the software.

The Assurance analytics in the latest release of DNA Center draws network telemetry data from the APIC-EM controller, the campus network version of the ACI controller used in the data center. The model created from the data lets operators monitor applications, switches, routers, access points and end-user devices manufactured by Cisco partners, such as Apple.

As the data center software, the Cisco Assurance services for the campus are focused on troubleshooting and remediation. Later in the quarter, Cisco will add similar features to the cloud-based management console of the Meraki wireless LAN. Problems the Meraki analytics will help solve will include dropped traffic, latency and access-point congestion.

Today, most operators manage networks by programming switches and scores of other devices manually, usually via a command-line interface. Proponents of IBN claim the new paradigm is more flexible and agile in accommodating the needs of modern business applications. In the future, Cisco, Juniper Networks and others want to use machine learning and artificial intelligence to have networks fix common problems without operator involvement.

Despite progress vendors have made in developing IBN systems, enterprises are just beginning to roll out the methodology in their operations. Gartner predicted the number of commercial deployments will be in the hundreds through mid-2018, increasing to more than 1,000 by the end of next year.

Apstra bolsters IBN with customizable analytics

Startup Apstra has added to its intent-based networking software customizable analytics capable of spotting potential problems and reporting them to network managers.

Apstra introduced this week intent-based analytics as part of an upgrade to the company’s Apstra Operating System (AOS). The latest version, AOS 2.1, also includes other enhancements, such as support for additional network hardware and the ability to use a workload’s MAC or IP address to find it in an IP fabric.

In general, AOS is a network operating system designed to let managers automatically configure and troubleshoot switches. Apstra focuses on hardware transporting Layer 2 and Layer 3 traffic between devices from multiple vendors, including Arista Networks, Cisco, Dell and Juniper Networks. Apstra also supports white-box hardware running the Cumulus Networks OS.

AOS, which can run on a virtualized x86 server, communicates with the hardware through installed drivers or the hardware’s REST API. Data on the state of each device is continuously fed to the AOS data store. Alerts are sent to network operators when the state data conflicts with how a device is configured to operate.

AOS 2.1 takes the software’s capabilities up a notch through tools that operators can use to choose specific data they want the Apstra analytics engine to process.

“This is a logical progression for Apstra with AOS,” said Brad Casemore, an analyst at IDC. “Pervasive, real-time analytics should be an integral element of any intent-based networking system.”

Using Apstra analytics

The first step is for operators to define the type of data AOS will collect. For example, managers could ask for the CPU utilization on all spine switches. Also, they could request queries of all the counters for server-facing interfaces and of the routing tables for links connecting leaf and spine switches.

Mansour Karam, CEO, ApstraMansour Karam

“If you were to add a new link, add a new server, or add a new spine, the data would be included automatically and dynamically,” Apstra CEO Mansour Karam said.

Once the data is defined, operators can choose the conditions under which the software will examine the information. Apstra provides preset scenarios or operators can create their own. “You can build this [data] pipeline in the way that you want, and then put in rules [to extract intelligence],” Karam said.

Useful information that operators can extract from the system include:

  • traffic imbalances on connections between leaf and spine switches;
  • links reaching traffic capacity;
  • the distribution of north-south and east-west traffic; and
  • the available bandwidth between servers or switches.

Enterprises moving slowly with IBN deployments

Other vendors, such as Cisco, Forward Networks and Veriflow, are building out intent-based networking (IBN) systems to drive more extensive automation. Analytics plays a significant role in making automation possible.

“Nearly every enterprise that adopts advanced network analytics solutions

is using it to enable network automation,” said Shamus McGillicuddy, an analyst at Enterprise Management Associates, based in Boulder, Colo. “You can’t really have extensive network automation without analytics. Otherwise, you have no way to verify that what you are automating conforms with your intent.”

Today, most IT staffs use command-line interfaces (CLIs) to manually program switches and scores of other devices that comprise a network’s infrastructure. IBN abstracts configuration requirements from the CLI and lets operators use declarative statements within a graphical user interface to tell the network what they want. The system then makes the necessary changes.

The use of IBN is just beginning in the enterprise. Gartner predicts the number of commercial deployments will be in the hundreds through mid-2018, increasing to more than 1,000 by the end of next year.

VirtualWisdom brings visibility to the cloud

Expanding beyond storage, Virtual Instruments has integrated the analytics and performance management technology from its Xangati acquisition into its VirtualWisdom platform.

VirtualWisdom 5.4 includes tools that give administrators deeper visibility between the application and infrastructure for performance management. The product now includes a new NetFlow Probe tool that discovers and maps LAN traffic flow among the applications, hosts, virtual machines, NAS controllers and software-defined-storage (SDS) nodes.

VirtualWisdom now supports additional protocols such Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) within its SAN Switch Probe and SMB within its NAS Performance Probe, which previously only monitored the NFS protocol. Virtual Instruments also added monitoring of VMware vSAN, Dell EMC ScaleIO and Nutanix hyper-converged appliances  for application-centric performance management.

“For us, these are different sources to evaluate the health of the infrastructure,” said Len Rosenthal, chief marketing officer at Virtual Instruments. “We are collecting more sources of data to analyze the infrastructure so you can understand the infrastructure that the application is running on. Previously, we were 100% storage-based.”

The new capabilities come from virtualization infrastructure performance monitoring vendor Xangati, which Virtual Instruments acquired in November 2016.

Steve Brasen, research director of systems and storage management at Enterprise Management Associates, said the cloud has reduced visibility between applications and the infrastructure for administrators. That makes Virtual Instruments’ application performance management a valuable tool, he said.

“If you have a performance problem, all you see is that it has something to do with the cloud,” Brasen said. “VirtualWisdom can see through the virtualization, cloud and grid layers. It provides visibility from the application through the virtualization layer to the infrastructure.

“The product can map down to the storage, network and server levels,” he said. “And it can move applications to a location where it works better. It can dynamically place workloads. Virtual Instruments has the broadest visibility into the infrastructure.”

Virtual Instruments initially did performance monitoring of SANs with its SAN Performance Probe appliances for Fibre Channel (FC) storage but expanded to include network attached storage (NAS) with a NAS probe after merging with Load Dynamix.

VirtualWisdom has an analytics layer with tools that target performance optimization. A storage port balancer analytics tool performs workload and capacity optimization at the array level while the collaboration investigation runbooks helps debug problems that are hindering performance.

“In the past in was a manual process for customers to debug problems, such as which array do I use and what sequence of events do I implement to solve problems,” Rosenthal said. “What we have done is taken all our knowledge and we built a runbook or workflow that sets the sequence to solve a problem. Now it’s all automated.”

VirtualWisdom’s storage port analyzer helps fine-tune performance at the array level.

“This means you can look at the storage port utilization on the arrays,” Rosenthal said. “And look at the traffic patterns across those ports. We had this for the virtual servers for a number of years, but we did not have it on the arrays.”