Posted by Karthikeyan Sankaran
Comments (4)
April 25th, 2010

I have been encountering ‘this’ situation in BI consulting engagements with increasing regularity and thought that it merits a blog post. ‘This’ situation mentioned above is a scenario where enterprises are utilizing a combination of On-Demand cloud applications (CRM functionality) with On-Premise systems (Traditional BIG ERP’s like SAP, Oracle Apps etc.) with exchange of data between these systems on a regular basis. What’s more! – It’s the ubiquitous ETL tools like Informatica, SQL Server Integration Services, etc. that are used to exchange data between the systems.

Here are some instances of such a scenario, that I have seen recently:
1) Large Healthcare information processing company uses SalesForce.com as the cloud based CRM system and needs to interact with on-premise SAP system, using Informatica as the ETL engine.
2) Leading Airline Company uses Oracle CRM On-demand and wants to exchange data with Oracle Apps which is installed in the company’s data center. The enterprise standard ETL tool is SQL Server Integration Services and that needs to be leveraged for data integration.
3) A large Telecom company, which uses Jobstreet as an on-demand recruitment engine wants to integrate the recruitment data with Oracle HR Analytics (BI Apps) module installed on-premise, to develop a comprehensive BI platform for HR data.

I am very sure that there are many other scenarios where the integration between on-demand and on-premise software is required, and this trend is bound to accelerate in the future. The good news for BI practitioners is the fact that such integration (for any scenario) can be accomplished with a good understanding of web-services in the context of ETL platforms.

At a high-level, the data integration architecture for the On-demand plus On-premise scenario, is as described below:
1) On-demand applications provide webservices for insert, update & delete for each entity
2) Each WSDL file has a set of methods that needs to be understood for its functionality
3) ETL tools have the capability to call webservices within its flow
4) ETL tools increasingly are providing specific integration packs with On-demand solutions that provide for an easier & more comprehensive way of integration. For example, Informatica provides a connector for SalesForce.com that just makes the integration all that more easier

BI practitioners would do well to understand the business imperatives behind the on-demand with on-premise scenario and think through a solid ETL technology architecture to enable it.

Before signing off, I would like to introduce the EbizQ forum where I have been a forum contributor for the past few months. Given below is a forum question and my reply, that is relevant in the context of this blog post.

Thanks for reading. Please do share your thoughts.

Question:
Is There a Certain Size Business or Certain Vertical Industry for Which SaaS BI Makes Most Sense?
By ebizQ on Mar 1, 2010 at 10:05 AM

• Karthikeyan Sankaran | March 2, 2010 12:16 AM | Reply
I think SaaS BI has a role to play in organizations across industries and of various sizes. Every organization has a set of business functions (Finance, Marketing, Operations, Sales, Strategy etc.) each with its own characteristics that dictate the business decisioning requirements. The applicability of SaaS BI is more a function of these characteristics than the organization themselves. That the characteristics themselves might be dependent on the industry or size is definitely a valid argument but I will leave that for another discussion.

For example, certain business decisions require a tightly coupled information chain (from ERP to DW to Reporting) and this is best served by in-house / on-premise BI platforms. On the other side of the spectrum, certain decisions are to be taken based on a loosely coupled information chain and these decision makers would be well served by on-demand / SaaS platform.

Bottom-line, I expect, every organization, big or small, to have a mix of on-premise and on-demand BI platforms each serving a specific business community and opportunity.

Comments (4)

Akanksha - July 21st, 2010

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Shankar Vist wanathan - April 27th, 2010

Definitely - price to performance is a factor. However, the key would be security to the data as I had cited an example with Amex. If this can be addressed, then there is nothing that can stop the movement to the cloud.

Karthikeyan Sankaran - April 27th, 2010

Thanks Shankar. I completely agree with your thoughts. My feeling is that SaaS BI, though nascent, has the potential to change the way IT solutions gets delivered. The price to performance ratio for on-demand services is low and once it crosses a certain minimum threshold, the whole thing can take off quite rapidly.

Shankar Vist wanathan - April 26th, 2010

Karthik Excellent post. I think I should start reading your blogs regularly from now on. :) On your answer to question on BI on the cloud, I would think that organizations that have more applications on the cloud would drift towards a SaaS BI whereas those with predominantly inhouse applications would prefer an inhouse BI. Again, it will also depend on the security required for the data. An org like Amex may not want to go on the cloud - it will be due to their own insecurities about the data being secure on the cloud as well as regulation compliance. SaaS BI still seems to be in its infancy.

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