Infor Bolsters Cloud Analytics Play with Birst Buy
May 3, 2017 Alex Woodie
IBM i shops that run applications from Infor will be interested to know that the ERP giant has acquired Birst, a business intelligence and analytics software vendor with a large cloud presence. The Birst solutions will definitely be sold into Infor’s large IBM i installed base, the company informs IT Jungle.
Birst is a soup-to-nuts platform that provides many of the software capabilities companies need to build analytic applications that can turn large masses of data into actionable insight. The San Francisco-based company was founded as Success Metrics back in 2004 with a cloud-first strategy and a goal to target the pharmaceutical, insurance, and retail brokerage verticals, as we wrote in a Birst profile back in 2010. But since then, the strategy has widened out, and today a good portion of its 300 customers are across many industries, and run in an on-premise mode
The Birst software stack rides atop a column-oriented, massively parallel processing (MPP) database, which is utilized to provide fast SQL access to relational data. The company has had OEM relationships with various MPP database developers, including Ignite Technologies for InfobrightDB, Exasol for its MPP database, and Amazon’s RedShift, which itself is based on the ParaAccel database, which is now called Matrix under current owner Actian. Birst can also reside atop SAP HANA.
Birst exposes a range of analytic capabilities to data analysts, data scientists, and skilled end-users, including:
* Building extract, transform, and load (ETL) scripts to pull data from sources and land it in a data warehouse
* Cleansing and enriching source data in a GUI with assistance from machine learning algorithms
* Using metadata to track the lineage of the data to ensure accuracy
* Guiding self-service discovery of data sets by groups of analysts or data scientists
* Developing machine learning models to automatically act upon data
* Generating dynamic HTML5 dashboards and reports
With its highly regarded visual data discovery capabilities, Birst competes with traditional desktop BI vendors like Tableau, QlikView, and Microstrategy. It also competes against BI vendors that target cloud deployments, like GoodData, and vendors that do both, like Domo.
Judging from the comments of Infor CEO Charles Phillips, the cloud figures to play heavily in Birst’s future at the New York City-based ERP giant.
“The founders of Birst have a deep BI pedigree. This is much of the same team that built Siebel Systems BI, which is now Oracle‘s BI stack,” says Phillips, a former Oracle president, in a statement. “They put the band back together, pivoted to the cloud, and built a modern BI platform with an understanding of future needs, experience with a wide variety of use cases, and commitment to the cloud.
But the cloud talk didn’t end there. “Now is the time to converge this cloud-native BI platform with the world’s first industry cloud company,” Phillips continued. “We’re going to define the next generation of analytical applications.”
Infor will undoubtedly want to hook Birst into SkyVault, the cloud-based data warehouse built atop Amazon Redshift that Infor launched in 2013. As previously mentioned, Birst already lives on the AWS cloud and can use Redshift to power its big data discovery and serve analytic products to users.
Less clear is the future of Infor BI, the in-memory OLAP solution that’s based on the MIS product formerly sold by Systems Union, a German software company that Infor acquired in 2006 for about $200 million.
In any case, there’s plenty to like about Birst if you’re running one of Infor’s IBM i-based solutions. “We do plan to enable and sell Birst to the System i base,” Infor spokesman Dan Barnhardt tells IT Jungle. “One of the reasons Birst is such a good fit at Infor is that both companies understand that data and information come from many systems, and the best way to make better data-driven decisions is to have more data – including from IBM i.”
Infor sounds particularly eager to use Birst’s analytic capabilities to simplify analytic deployments that involve sourcing data from multiple ERP systems. “Enterprise data is complicated, federated, and inconsistent,” the company says. “Birst has strong data aggregation capabilities including a networked semantic layer to standardize definitions across federated data sources.”
Brad Peters, chairman and chief product officer at Birst and one of its co-founders, sounds eager to explore the opportunities posed by Infor’s extensive collection of enterprise software and its “micro-vertical” approach to ERP development.
“Infor is the perfect home for Birst,” Peters says, adding that the company provides “global scale and resources to accelerate our short-term growth and also a common long-term vision for the future of data-driven businesses using advanced business intelligence, artificial intelligence and machine learning.”
Terms of the deal were not disclosed. As a privately held company, Birst had collected $129 million in financing over the years from five investors, according to Crunchbase, including Sequoia Capital and Wellington Management.