INSIGHT: MicroStrategy World 2015 - A Kiwi customer's perspective

Desmond Lemmon-Warde, BI Consultant at Xero, looks back on MicroStrategy World, held in Las Vegas in January.

Business Intelligence software MicroStrategy is steadily increasing its presence in the New Zealand market, now boasting over twenty-five major companies as clients.

Desmond Lemmon-Warde, BI Consultant at Xero, looks back on their annual conference 'MicroStrategy World' held in Las Vegas in January.

It is the morning of the Internet of Things. There are sensors everywhere and people are broadcasting their every move and thought.

Businesses are sharing and on selling data to advertisers and governments are using technology to predict campaign outcomes and monitor public sentiment.

Unprecedented access to information brings opportunities to unlock business and market insights, predict inventory requirements, segment customers, optimise processes and effectively promote and recommend products based on correlational analysis.

What business, or government, would not want to surf the information wave we see coming?

However, to compete in a datafied world, organizations need the right tools and choosing the best Business Intelligence suite is a challenging task.

Given the broadness of capabilities required in a rapidly evolving technology landscape, software providers not only need to cater for today’s analytics requirements.

They must also show they can execute against projected future use cases and engage the development communities which will ultimately put their product features to use.

With these thoughts in mind I attended MicroStrategy World in Las Vegas to see what the provider had in store for its customers. I returned with mixed feelings...

The keynote presentation, delivered by CEO and Founder Michael Saylor, focused on security - or, more particularly, Usher.

Usher is Saylor's brainchild to solve the authentication and access control problems of the future. After announcing their new Cloud platform and MicroStrategy 9S, Saylor continued his talk by going into some detail about Usher, set against the backdrop of a business world plagued by data breaches and weak passwords.

While information security is a key concern for business, I question why enterprises would choose an analytics software provider for their end-to-end security platform, given the position of competitors like Microsoft, RSA and Verisign already in control of the directory services, VPNs and authentication gateways of so many businesses.

More engaging presentations included the announcement of a strategic alliance with cloud technology provider Amazon Web Services.

Brian Matsubara from AWS spoke about Amazon's continuing expansion around the globe and the perfect fit a partnership with MicroStrategy makes.

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Even though cloud-based BI is in its infancy this market segment will grow in the future and designing products to work in this ecosystem should put MicroStrategy in a good position.

But the giant Microsoft is also in the ring, sharing Gartner’s leaders quadrant for IaaS with AWS and Business Intelligence and Analytics with MicroStrategy.

Time will tell who dominates the cloud-based BI market, but this seems a promising mix...

In Tim Lang’s speech on Technology Advancement he discussed MicroStrategy’s strategic technology focus.

During his talk he highlighted performance and governance coupled with tighter desktop to server integration. We can look forward to HTML 5 and PRIME - the massively scalable in-memory engine developed onsite with Facebook.

Analysts will get Mac and Windows versions of Analytics Desktop and data visualization enthusiasts can enjoy full D3 integration and a new version of the R integration pack.

We will be able to connect to public data sets and easily integrate these with local data, analyzing it seamlessly across all of our devices.

Certainly hitting the right notes here…

Outside of the keynotes hall, thirteen tracks of session presentations occupied attendees, covering subject matter delivered by MicroStrategy and customer staff, including major clients such as Facebook, Netflix and Bank of America.

Subjects included Big Data, Mobile Analytics, Cloud Analytics and strategies for becoming a data driven business.

Of particular interest was a presentation by long time MicroStrategy insider Rick Pechter, titled “Aspirelytics” which detailed MicroStrategy’s significant capabilities in data mining and predictive analytics, no doubt key tools for unlocking value from data.

The conference concluded with the Futures presentations which focused on what customers can expect from their much anticipated version 10 release, currently still in beta, available to customers since late 2014.

In conclusion, MicroStrategy 10 looks promising but Usher seems a distraction from their core business and can only be contributing to the continued delay of a GA release of the new version.

As I write, competitors like Qlik and Tableau are winning the hearts of developers and businesses with their modern and powerful toolsets and engaging communities, while giants like Microsoft and Oracle who enjoy broad enterprise client bases are guaranteed a place at the table.

So I can only recommend that MicroStrategy fire on all cylinders to get version 10 to the market – your customers are hungry for it.

By Desmond Lemmon-Warde - Business Intelligence & Database Specialist, Xero