In a past life, I was an architect for a prominent business intelligence product. I worked with the product for 10 years, setting it up on-premises, and in private or public cloud environments. I did software and hardware installs; designed server architecture, and helped build data warehouses—just about everything needed to work with the data and deliver the business intelligence dashboards my clients needed.
When I was recruited to work with this new data analytics tool, Incorta, I was a little worried. My real value add as a consultant is in working with the data and the business on analytics. The rest is essentially plumbing, but having the ability to do the plumbing efficiently gets you to the really valuable work quicker.
Not only would I be learning Incorta, but the product I worked with previously runs on top of Windows, whereas Incorta runs on Linux. I knew Windows inside and out. It was going to take me quite a while to bring my Linux skills up to the level where I could start delivering value as quickly as with the other product.
It turns out I worried for nothing, because after just a couple of on-prem installs I started working directly with clients using Incorta cloud. That was a breath of fresh air.
Imagine not having to design a server architecture to support an estimated capacity, or not having to build a data warehouse from the ground up. With my first cloud implementation of Incorta, we produced insights in days, not weeks. On day one we established the primary data source, created multiple schemas, and loaded dozens of tables. Just the data loading itself would take most of the day for a traditional platform, not to mention the lead time and overhead to design an architecture first.
What is most impressive is that Incorta does all this while storing the data from the source system in the same transactional state. This means that the business person looking at an aggregated dashboard can drill down to the lowest level of detail available without compromising performance.
Incorta accomplishes this with direct data mapping between tables via joins that are quick to set up since they utilize the unique keys in each table. Add incredibly fast data ingestion and some drag and drop dashboards and voila, you now can get right to valuable insights all without the complicated project planning and meetings. Most of my first week with Incorta cloud was spent analyzing data, not performing ETL jobs or scheduling nightly workloads.
See results quickly
Clients realize the benefits in a much shorter timeframe than with any other analytics tool I’ve worked with. It’s not just that Incorta cloud is fast, and that they manage the servers and the software and the upgrades. It also means that we don't have to have hours set aside for architects. This can really slow things down because these people are in high demand, and you may not always be able to get an architect right away for an on-prem install. Having that expert available from the software vendor on-demand is a value add in itself. You don't have to do the research, or dig through documentation to find the correct answer and then prove it out. You just submit a ticket and their architect will make the change for you.
This has definitely made work with clients more fun. As a consultant, I always try to stay two steps ahead, so I’m used to always thinking in the back of my head about what could come up that we didn't expect from a hardware or software perspective. It’s a relief not to have to do that.
Now we’re able to make recommendations that are much more workable. As consultants we always like to present clients a range of options, and let them decide what’s valuable to them, but some options could be a tall order to execute. For example, we might offer up solutions involving very large Incorta tables or SparkSQL tables or some Python scripts. To do something like that without Incorta cloud would require us to first install Python packages, or develop a SparkSQL table, but run it with a small amount of data and then slowly increase it over time. With Incorta cloud, it’s not a stretch to do all three of these. We just enter a support ticket, Incorta’s team makes the change to the server and then we can start development.
Expansion made easier
Setting up data source connections to other cloud sources is much less complex. We can put the vendor in direct contact with Incorta and create that VPN tunnel. We have one client where we were able to merge data sets from an ERP and a WMS system in less than a month. Trying to do this in a traditional data warehouse would have taken two or three times as long. It is a cleaner, simpler approach to offer the client.
All of this allows us to really push the boundaries. We’re working with one client where we have schemas that are three billion-plus records—definitely the largest data sets I’ve ever worked with.
This would have been so much more difficult in the on-prem world. You’d have to have an architect increase the RAM and see if it works. Since it's an architecture change and a configuration change on a server, you have to prove that you need that much RAM. Let’s say you do it and it doesn't work. Then you have to come back to the table asking for more. It’s a lot of trial and error and risk that can be hard for a client to agree to doing.
Data analytics has been slower to move to the cloud than other enterprise workloads. But that's finally changing.
In today's analytics space we need to work more efficiently and make decisions faster, and our technology has to support this momentum now and in the future. Incorta cloud lives up to this expectation. The overhead and transformation days of the past are replaced with an agile system allowing direct access to business data from all source systems. That allows the customer to focus on the business and extracting value from the data. For consultants, it allows us to exceed our clients’ expectations each and every day.
Dan Csoke is Sr. Manager, Analytic, at eCapital Advisors. He has 15 years of experience in IT, with background in analytics implementations and advisory projects spanning multiple industries. In his free time, Dan enjoys any outdoor activity, grilling, and home brewing award-winning beers.