MicroStrategy Powers Up Security for Analytics and BI

At its annual MicroStrategy World conference, this provider of analytics and business intelligence systems for business and IT introduced a new version of its flagship product, MicroStrategy 9s. Among many advances it adds enterprise grade security with MicroStrategy Usher as part of the maintenance update to its 9.4.1 release. Security is increasingly critical for analytics and BI. Technologies that work intensively with data, including reporting, business intelligence, analytics and data preparation, have access to a range of applications and databases and could leave gaps in access controls and security of essential business data. Already in 2015 the data breach at Anthem put more than 80 million medical records at risk. Our benchmark research in big data analytics finds that integration into security and user access frameworks is a very important capability to 37 percent of organizations.

MicroStrategy has spent years and significant investment of resources on MicroStrategy Usher. On the company’s mobile platform Usher provides multifactor authentication that includes fingerprinting for biometrics, unique identification through smartphone verification and a mobile device pass code to ensure secure access. Further identification security is offered through geo-fencing, which requires a user to be within range of a specified access point such as a building or a computer, by permitting access only during a specific time window or using QR code scanning to rapidly match the individual with authorized access. At the conference MicroStrategy demonstrated VR2014_TechInnovation_AwardWinnerthese security techniques along with AES-128 GCM encryption of data on devices and in transit.

Ventana Research recognized MicroStrategy Usher with a Technology Innovation Award in 2014 for using mobile technology to provide secure access to applications, information and even physical locations; in the last case it has partnered with building companies such as Honeywell. Organizations should realize the risk of having only single sign-on through insecure passwords, which can expose access to all their systems. Usher is available as part of MicroStrategy 9s or as a stand-alone product.

On another advanced technology front, MicroStrategy has advanced its cloud computing offering to embrace Amazon Web Services (AWS). This partnership can provide flexibility for its customers while reducing the effort it must put into building vr_Big_Data_Analytics_15_new_technologies_enhance_analyticsout its own data centers to support its products. Here also the company is addressing security of information and systems. MicroStrategy Secure Cloud includes enterprise security capabilities to ensure authenticated access. This is an important feature: Our big data integration benchmark research finds that security concerns are the most common barrier (in 54% of organizations) to using big data through cloud computing. Many buyers want to reduce the amount of software they have to license and install, but they must have confidence that their data is safe in on-demand cloud systems. Keeping it simple but secure for cloud computing is critical, and our research finds room for improvement here across the technology industry.

Regarding big data MicroStrategy has advanced its computing power through PRIME, its in-memory and parallel processing technology. Our research in big data analytics finds that in-memory systems are the most sought-after innovation in half of organizations seeking to enhance analysis. That research also shows that the number and dispersal of data sources is a major issue. More than one-third (36%) of organizations have six to 15 sources and one-fourth (26%) have 16 or more information sources that need to be integrated for optimum access. And blending data from so many sources raises security concerns; in our research in big data integration security is the fourth-most important data activity, cited by 61 percent of organizations. MicroStrategy continues its efforts to help organizations get access to any data sources. For example, it now supports the Oracle Database 12c with in-memory and databases releases and has embedded its BI software in Oracle appliances that become big data machines. In addition MicroStrategy has embraced Apache Spark to maximize compute potential across Hadoop, NoSQL and RDBMSs and expands its database support every quarter. Earlier in 2014 MicroStrategy announced support for MarkLogic 7 NoSQL technology, which is becoming more relevant in the analytics and BI market. MicroStrategy also has been continuing its efforts to support data preparation tasks performed by analysts rather than administrators as some other vendors do. Our big data analytics research finds that in creating and deploying information and using analytics, almost half (47%) of organizations spend the largest portion of time in data preparation; this is true across customer service, finance, HR and other operational areas.

Like many others MicroStrategy discovered painfully in 2014 that overall the IT market for purchasing software to deploy on-premises has slowed down and specifically that the BI market has reached a saturation point in organizations that have more than US$10 billion in revenue. Even so the company exceeded $579 million in total revenue for 2014. Its investments in cloud computing over the last several years have helped it vr_Big_Data_Analytics_12_benefits_of_visualizing_big_datathrough this transition. To adjust to the market changes it has brought in new executives including CTO Tim Lang, who has decades of experience dating back to Holistic Systems and Crystal Software, and CMO Mark Gambill who has over 18 years’ experience leading marketing teams; these two are streamlining their respective areas to make them more efficient. MicroStrategy continues to get brand-name customers on board with its mobile and analytic offerings, and its focus on security in 2015 should help in these efforts. In the past several years demand has been strong for visualization-related discovery and analytics tools among the lines of business and analysts, and now MicroStrategy has caught up and matched these capabilities. Visualization and presentation of analytics and data remain very important, according to our research: Half (49%) of organizations said it helps those who have the right skills perform analytics faster. Our research also finds that the majority of businesses want analytics to be simpler and easier to understand and available quickly on their mobile devices.

In our 2014 Value Index on Mobile BI, MicroStrategy earned the Hot Vendor rating for its mobile business intelligence VRMobileBIVI_HotVendortechnology across device platforms, primarily for Apple and Android support. But MicroStrategy will have to ante up its support for Microsoft who is making inroads with smartphones and even more so with its Surface 3 tablets and also with new generations of notebooks using Windows Touch, which enables the use of gestures in Windows; Microsoft is finding opportunities in businesses that are phasing out older desktop and laptop computers with new ones running Windows Touch technology. MicroStrategy in 2014 simplified packaging and pricing of MicroStrategy Mobile and its Web products that operate on its MicroStrategy Server platform. MicroStrategy is building on a solid year of technology advancement as I pointed out in 2014 and is poised for innovation. It provided a sneak peek at MicroStrategy World of MicroStrategy 10 (now in beta and early release), which will up the ante with the next generation of in-memory analytics and simpler administration. Developments include further support of Apple Mac OS and iOS and advancing visualization and sophistication of analytics, which may be available fairly early in 2015.

I believe that MicroStrategy should do more with search vr_Customer_Analytics_02_drivers_for_new_customer_analyticsand collaborative capabilities, which our research finds to be a priority for business professionals (less so for IT). All BI vendors must be careful to listen to all audiences and stop paying attention only to IT. They will need to make sure that those in the lines of business understand how they can use analytics within the context of solving problems and opportunities, and make it as easy as possible for them do so on their own. Vendors also must understand their purchasers’ own business priorities. For instance, our next-generation customer analytics benchmark research shows that improving the customer experience and customer service strategy are the top drivers in this analytics segment. The release of MicroStrategy 9s and the upcoming MicroStrategy 10 continue this company’s prominence as an enterprise-class provider. We advise organizations to assess its evolving portfolio to identify missing elements in their existing BI and analytics deployments, with an eye on mobile platforms and security of data.


Mark Smith

CEO and Chief Research Officer

MicroStrategy Reveals New Generation of Analytics for Cloud and Mobile Computing

At its recent MicroStrategy World 2014 conference, the enterprise software company introduced a portfolio of products to make it easier to perform analytics and make them easier to access throughVRLogobug400x400 the cloud and mobile forms of computing. These announcements accelerate MicroStrategy’s transition to approaching corporate business users of analytics from its past focus on business intelligence, which typically is purchased by IT. This is a subtle but strategic shift that recognizes where growth opportunities lie and that analytics must be available on any device at any time. MicroStrategy made it clear that advances in the cloud, mobility and big data were integral to its product releases last year and is continuing in this direction in 2014 with the products in its MicroStrategy 9.4 suite.

A little recap from the end of 2013 will illustrate the trend. MicroStrategy launched a product called Analytics Desktop that is freely available to download and use. The product runs locally and provides capabilities for data and visual discovery, the building of dashboards and standard business intelligence. This is part of an update to MicroStrategy Analytics Enterprise and also runs in the cloud to support MicroStrategy Analytics Express for self-service analytics. MicroStrategy Analytics Desktop and Analytics Express generate a local data file that securely contains the data and related information for analysis and presentation. This new MicroStrategy file format can be used to import data to both the cloud and on-premises applications. MicroStrategy emphasizes its advantages in analyzing a range of databases and secure Web and mobile publishing, which are freely available in its products while competitors charge for them. In the past some customers and observers perceived MicroStrategy as making it difficult to try out its technology without having to deal with its sales team; now anyone can try it at any time and use it afterward.

At the conference MicroStrategy unveiled release 9.4.1 of its platform, in which ESRI Maps is embedded. It supports a range of vr_LA_most_important_location_analytics_capabilitieslocation analytics, which our research shows is important to three out of four organizations. This capability can be a competitive differentiator for MicroStrategy that other BI providers lack. MicroStrategy 9.4.1 provides location analytics capabilities most important to organizations according to our location analytics benchmark research.

In addition new advances in data blending will appeal to analysts; our information optimization benchmark research finds nearly half (45%) of organizations still spend more of their time on data-related tasks than analysis and recommendations. And there are advances in the platform’s computing power: Now it can handle 10 times more data in memory and has a 40 times performance gain in multisource analytics. MicroStrategy has significant depth in its analytics capability from historical to predictive that most do not realize is more sophisticated than many others in the analytics and BI software market.

Other advances enhance the data performance and scalability of the platform. MicroStrategy Parallel Relational In-Memory Engine (PRIME) is a re-engineering of its OLAP Services and can handle in-memory computing on a massive scale. It has a load rate of more than 7 terabytes per hour and does not require a star schema; clearly this is designed for big data analytics. The CIO of Facebook, Tim Campos, took the stage at MicroStrategy World to discuss his company’s use of PRIME and testified that it can analyze the large volumes of data from activity of Facebook’s billion members. Through PRIME and broader support for big data sources MicroStrategy is able to provide big data analytics that can exploit the span of sources including Hadoop, in-memory processing, appliances, non-SQL data, columnar databases and RDBMSs. MicroStrategy has made significant investments to support any source of data including the very long list of new ones in the big data and noSQL environments such as Cloudera, Hortonworks, MapR, MarkLogic, mongoDB and many others. I was impressed by how widely the company has expanded in embracing these sources. MicroStrategy also has been certified to access data from SAP HANA, which has a rapidly growing ecosystem. MicroStrategy should continue to market into the big data ecosystems, each of which has its own community.

In mobile technology MicroStrategy made a series of announcements for new products now available. For example, MicroStrategy Analytics App for iPad furthers its ability to provide best-in-class mobile capabilities as does the self-service application MicroStrategy Analytics Express for iPad. Both are available in the Apple App Store, where you can download and try them. Probably more important is significant improvement to the computing experience of MicroStrategy’s native support for Apple iOS 7; it also supports transactional computing through widgets in the application. MicroStrategy Usher offers full support for identity management and secure access to applications, making this one of the most secure platforms for analytics and applications. MicroStrategy also will make technical support available on mobile platforms in an application coming soon through iTunes App Store.

Our analysis of business intelligence for mobile technology confirms VRMobileBIVI_HotVendorMicroStrategy’s leading position in this market. Our recently released 2014 Value Index on Mobile Business Intelligence rates MicroStrategy the top Hot vendor among the 16 we assessed. Mobile capabilities for using business intelligence are important to 69 percent of organizations according to our next-generation business intelligence research. Operating on Apple and Android devices while supporting Web browser-based support for Microsoft Surface devices puts MicroStrategy in position to gain a return from its mobile investments.

In cloud computing, MicroStrategy ranks highly in adoption by very large corporations. But many organizations do not know much about its cloud offering compared to its on-premises and mobile approaches. Yet this is increasingly important: Our research finds in enterprise business intelligence 47 percent of organizations prefer on-demand access or applications hosted by the supplier. MicroStrategy needs to make its cloud presence known, and PRIME for large scale in-memory computing will be available exclusively in the cloud, which should highlight its efforts. To be more successful with its cloud offering the company will need to focus on the lines of business: sales, marketing, human resources, customer service, finance and others where cloud computing has advanced rapidly where business has used its operational expense budget to acquire applications and tools on the Internet.

At MicroStrategy World a variety of speakers from customer companies discussed not only what they are doing in analytics and business intelligence but also how mobile technology is enabling a new class of applications for internal use and in relating directly to consumers; examples were fashion retailer GUESS and Gucci, which demonstrated its new mobile application for customer engagement. Also present was the CIO of McCain Foods, Roman Coba, who was the recipient of our 2011 CIO Leadership Award. The many presenters showed MicroStrategy does not lack customer validation of the use of its tools.

For enterprise management of its technology the MicroStrategy Health Center continues to advance in diagnosing problems and suggesting fixes. Through diagnostics and alerts from the center, administrators can take action to resolve issues. For those serious about enterprise deployment of analytics for business and business intelligence in IT, this approach to support is essential.

vr_Info_Optimization_02_drivers_for_deploying_informationIn addition, MicroStrategy is advancing in information optimization, which is about providing relevant and timely information to business users on any device at any time. Our research on the topic finds that analytics is the top driver in two-thirds of organizations and that information access in general is critical to more than half. Also MicroStrategy’s investments in Usher for identity management and applications like Alert are critical for interactions with customers; our latest customer engagement research finds that mobility and analytics are the top technologies companies will apply to this business priority.

MicroStrategy is off to a great start this year with a solid portfolio of products and has made strong progress since my colleague Tony Cosentino analyzed its efforts. To realize its potential the company will have to market the portfolio of possibilities better, as the products are ready to help organizations. The only area that it has not invested is providing online collaboration among business users and analysts to streamline analytics and business processes and reduce the encumbrances of email and meetings.  Generating more awareness on its support for discovery and exploration across big data both visually and interactively on data will help it grow even faster to meet the demand for analytics by business. If you have not examined MicroStrategy lately, try out its free products for cloud, mobile and Web environments.


Mark Smith

CEO & Chief Research Officer