Trendwatch: BI in the cloud

Cloud computing continues to evolve, but is it ready to be a BI platform?

It was only a year ago that Panorama Software's PowerApps brought BI (business intelligence) to the cloud, and since then, more companies have warmed to the idea of cloud-based BI. Microsoft announced that it intends to bring BI software to the cloud via its Windows Azure platform, though the software is unlikely to appear before 2013, and there's even a company called BI Cloud that aims to specialize in SaaS BI.

The latest entry into the space is Qliktech's Qlikview 9 software, which promises mobile (including an iPhone app), cloud, and on-premise deployment and easy scalability and management.

[ In other BI news, SAP thinks its BusinessObjects Explorer tool will be a game-changer. ]

Qlikview 9 points to many of the positives of bringing BI to the cloud: Easy deployment and distribution to users, lower expenses compared to the traditional software license model, simple customization, and so on. Going to the cloud saves you time, money, and hassle, which for some businesses is reason enough to make the move.

However, there are some problems inherent with the cloud BI model. For starters, there's the security issue that still dogs cloud computing in general: You're sending your business data over the Internet, and the cloud provider is storing that information, at least temporarily. This scenario makes security folks nervous, and some companies trust their in-house security more than a cloud provider's.

Also, cloud BI providers haven't had the decades of experience honing algorithms that the traditional companies can claim, which means when it comes to key BI functions like predictive analysis, cloud BI apps tend to lag behind.

In choosing cloud versus traditional BI applications, companies still have to consider the tradeoffs of each side: Fewer hassles and lower costs on one hand, better security and analytics on the other. Companies like Qliktech are trying to push the cloud BI model, and it will be interesting to see what Microsoft's cloud BI foray looks like as well.