Feb 01 2012
I missed the keynote on the first day, but I made sure I made it on day two. The four pillars of the conference were cloud, big data, mobility, and social. I get the first three; they’re very similar to the Business Objects themes of cloud, mobility, and in-memory for the past few years. The social aspect bothers me a bit, and not just because I’m not a huge fan of Facebook. They showed off a number of Facebook apps (Usher, Wisdom, and Emma are three names that I remember as I’m finishing up this post). The apps themselves are okay, but I really don’t think they should be the focus of the company. Michael Saylor is apparently very big into the social scene, and he’s betting big that the company efforts in this area are going to pay off. I keep thinking back to what the core competencies are, and how does social fit? Not so well, in my opinion, but as the next few years play out I guess we’ll see how that strategy works out. I recently read another article on CNN that was musing about the future of Facebook, titled, “Will Facebook Be The Next Yahoo?” that sums it up nicely, I think.
Mobility was another subject that was emphasized during the keynote. Various studies were quoted that suggested that within a few years almost every customer will have at least one mobile app, and by 2015 mobile development projects will outweigh desktop projects by a ratio of four to one. I get that, but so does SAP. I believe it was Steve Lucas (or perhaps Vishal Sikka) who said at a recent event that “Mobile is the new desktop.” I found that most folks at this event believe that MicroStrategy is currently ahead of SAP’s mobility offerings. (That’s probably not a surprise, given the venue.) The primary advantage that they have over SAP is the fact that everything has grown organically, so integration is already there. SAP is still trying to work to get Web Intelligence and Xcelsius and other content delivered to the iPad in a seamless fashion. They’re making progress, but it’s not like MicroStrategy is waiting for them to catch up either.
Both vendors (SAP and MicroStrategy) are making a lot of noise about the cloud. I can see where this would be very attractive, especially for a smaller or mid-sized company. The ability to spin up a project with minimal (or no) investment in hardware would save money but more importantly allow faster time to delivery for the project. They did a good job of spinning that advantage during the keynote, but I don’t think it needs that much “spin” to show the advantages. There wasn’t anything super exciting about this that I haven’t also seen from SAP.
After the keynote we had another nice lunch (again, the food and service at this event reminded me of the way things used to work at Business Objects events) and then it was time for some track sessions. Overall I found this event did not have very many deep-dive technical sessions, and I really missed the labs that are available at Business Objects events.
I attended one session on data “mashups” that reminded me a lot of the features provided on the bi.ondemand.com cloud site. I did pick up a few new sites that are interesting sources for public data. For example, we looked at garbage collection statistics from NYCOpenData. MicroStrategy offers direct interfaces to any URL-enabled data source but also Twitter, FourSquare, and of course Facebook. Another site that provides open data is InfoChimps.
I went to a few other sessions on day 2 and more on the morning of day 3, but nothing that I really want to cover in detail. As I’ve mentioned (more than once) I felt that at least for me this event did not offer enough deep-dive technical content. Even when a talk was interesting (see the notes about the LinkedIn talk from day 1) they often didn’t offer much about MicroStrategy.
But I did get a t-shirt.
I have had a couple of people ask me (offline) if I’m leaving Business Objects and working with MicroStrategy now. Rest assured the answer is no, I am not. But I’m excited about the opportunity to get my hands on another tool, especially when both tools have strengths. Ultimately it’s about getting data to end users in a format that they can use to improve the business, so why not have more than one choice? In fact it has been over a year since I renamed my blog from “Adventures in Business Objects” to “Adventures in Business Intelligence” in order to be able to talk about different ideas like this. I’m nowhere near as fluent in MSTR as I am in BOBJ, but I hope to fix that over the coming years. We’ll see how that goes.