Compare the cloud: “The Rise of Cloud BI”

This article, ’The Rise of Cloud BI’, originally appeared on as a contributed article from Yellowfin EMEA Managing Director, Peter Baxter.

Up until fairly recently, Business Intelligence (BI) was rarely run in a cloud environment. Issues surrounding security, and concerns around entrusting sensitive corporate information to the cloud, meant the technology was seen as a much less credible alternative to the well-established, on-premise versions.

But today, as cloud marches towards becoming a mainstream technology, the adoption of cloud BI is growing steadily. Enterprises, large and small, are beginning to appreciate the many potential benefits of delivering BI in a cloud-based environment. Here, Peter Baxter, EMEA Managing Director at Yellowfin, looks at the advantages that cloud BI solutions are bringing to businesses. Baxter believes that, as the technology continues to evolve, enterprises across almost all industries will be looking to reap the flexibility benefits of cloud BI.

Cloud unleashed

Fundamental to this new and growing interest in cloud BI, is the appreciation of, and rise in, the cloud services market more generally. Improved security has seen concerns around storing critical information off-premise abate. Enterprises are overcoming these concerns and focusing instead on the advantages – primarily in the form of time and cost efficiencies enabled by the cloud. According to research from the Cloud Industry Forum (CIF) carried out earlier this year, the overall cloud adoption rate in the UK stands at a considerable 84 percent.

Indeed, on a global scale, enterprises across sectors are looking to the cloud for a multitude of business processes and services. A new study by Cisco Systems and IDC (entitled “Don’t Get Left Behind: The Business Benefits of Achieving Greater Cloud Adoption”) suggests that, beyond the incentives of increased efficiency and lower costs, a “second wave” of cloud adoption is emerging with businesses adopting cloud services in order to achieve transformative and measurable business value.

The lure of Cloud BI

Enterprises are embracing cloud-based BI for a number of reasons. Key factors behind its current appeal are affordability, scalability, low ongoing strain on IT resources, as well as speed of implementation and delivery of results. These lucrative benefits are now also being coupled with the fact that cloud-based BI has moved, from being an ‘edgy alternative’, to a ‘tried and tested’ technology with an increasing number of successful and convincing use cases.

Industry research also lends serious credibility to these touted benefits, with Enterprise Management Associates’ January 2015 report, “Analytics in the Cloud”, revealing time-to-delivery as the primary business motivation for choosing cloud-based analytics. It also uncovered the top three financial drivers behind the move from on-premise to cloud BI as: minimized hardware and infrastructure cost, reduced implementation costs and reduced administrative costs.

Cloud BI offers enterprises a more affordable means of business reporting and analytics compared to traditional on-premise implementations, which often have a total cost of ownership (TCO) that exceeds the budgets for all but large enterprises. The enhanced flexibility and scalability of cloud-based BI offerings has made enterprise-grade BI accessible to the mid-market, while enabling larger enterprises the option of rolling BI out across more departments and types of users – rather than purely the IT and senior executive teams.

Together with the cost incentive, cloud BI offers small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs) a flexible, fully-scalable (both financially and technologically), low TCO solution that does not require significant in-house IT expertise to set-up, manage and govern. It’s even possible for SMBs to run cloud BI services completely free – through services such as Yellowfin’s no-cost BI offering on Microsoft’s Azure Marketplace or Amazon’s AWS Marketplace – that enable businesses to set themselves up with a cloud-based BI environment in just a few clicks.

Pervasive BI and the importance of the cloud

Enterprises are increasingly looking to ‘next generation’ BI tools that are quick and simple to use, can analyse data from different sources, and provide impactful visualisations that are easy for business people to consume. But, critically, they also need tools that enable key decision-makers to share this information with the rest of the business and draw input from other stakeholders (while maintaining governance and control of the analysis).

Cloud BI offers the ideal platform both for analysing data from multiple sources and sharing content throughout the enterprise. Cloud BI platforms are better at integrating dataflows from different internal systems and external sources than many on-premise models. As the volume and number of data sources (both internal and external) that organisations look to analyse for competitive advantage increases, so too will the business case for cloud BI.

Similarly, because cloud BI tools tend to be accessible to a greater number of users within an enterprise compared to traditional server-based tools, due to their comparative affordability, organisations that embrace cloud-based BI are empowered to share findings with a greater number of users.

The future of cloud BI

While we have yet to see mass implementation of enterprise-wide cloud BI, the signs are that adoption rates will grow. Analyst firm Research & Markets predicts that the global cloud analytics market will grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 26.29% from 2014 to 2019.

Market statistics aside, the multitude of benefits that cloud-based BI and analytics offer – from reduced implementation and running costs, complete scalability, ease-of-use and the potential to offer BI to all types of users across an enterprise – are attracting the attention of businesses of all sizes.

Indeed, we are almost at a stage when the question is not “should we be implementing cloud BI?” but “when will we be implementing cloud BI and reaping the benefits this form of BI technology has to offer?”