Wednesday, June 10, 2009

QlikView 9.0 Reaches for Broader Business Intelligence Market

QlikTech released version 9 of its QlikView business intelligence software today. The product has been in public beta for several months, so the general features are well known to people who care about such things.

Probably the item that attracted the most advance attention is an iPhone version that supports interactive analysis; this also works for other Java Mobile clients like Blackberry. It's cool (or ‘qool’, if you must) but not so important in the grand scheme of things. More significant changes include:

- availability through the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), which lets companies order up a QlikView-equipped server in minutes. (Of course, they still have to purchase a QlikView license.) Users can also expand or reduce the number of servers to match fluctuating needs. Advantages including avoiding the wait for new hardware, no need to physically install a server, and the ability to meet peak demands without making a fixed investment.

- API for real-time updates of in-memory data. This is an extension of previous changes that allowed incremental batch updates and manual data entry. But it still marks a major step towards letting QlikView run time-critical applications such as stock trade analysis, pricing and inventory management. No one will be processing orders on QlikView (hmm, never say never), but the line between analytical and transaction databases just got that much thinner.

- enhanced support for enterprise-level deployments. This includes centralized control panels for multiple servers; load balancing and fail-over; better thin-client support; multi-billion-row data sets; and more efficient calculations. These are critical as QlikView moves from being a departmental solution run primarily by business analysts to a mission-critical system backed by corporate IT.

- free Personal Edition with full development capabilities. The main limit vs. the licensed version is that Personal Edition cannot read QlikView files developed on any other copy of the software, and no one else can read files that Personal Editon generates. The goal is to make it easier for users to try the system on their own – a continuation of the company's long-standing "seeing is believing" strategy.

- functional enhancements including improved visualization, search and automation functions. These are nice but none seemed especially exciting. Changes in previous recent releases, such as set analysis (simultaneously comparing two sets of selected records) were more fundamental. Remember, we're talking about version 9: the system is already quite polished.

Of all these items, the one I found most thought-provoking was the free Personal Edition, which replaces a 15-day free trial. Removing the time limit let users build QlikView into their regular work. The strategy makes sense, but it doesn’t lower the $30,000 - $50,000 investment required for the smallest licensed QlikView installation. Few analysts, who are the most likely users for Personal Edition, have the clout to sponsor so large an investment. Competing analyst tools such as LyzaSoft, ADVIZOR Solutions and Tableau can generally provide a 5-10 user departmental deployment for under $10,000. Although QlikView is vastly more powerful than the others, the lower cost will give them an initial advantage. And once they’re in place, it’s hard to get a company to switch.

On the other hand, maybe QlikView is really moving to compete with traditional business intelligence tools like Cognos, Business Objects and MicroStrategy. QikView’s entry cost is vastly lower than those products, especially once you consider the savings in labor. But most enterprises have a BI tool already in place, so it’s not a matter of comparing entry costs. Rather, the choice is entry cost for QlikView vs. incremental deployment cost on the incumbent. The labor savings with QlikView are so great that it will still be cheaper for many projects. But QlikView will remain be a tough sell because IT departments are reluctant to invest in the staff training needed to support an additional tool.

QlikView will never fully replace the traditional data warehouse and BI tools because its in-memory approach limits the size of its databases. With 64 bit systems, the product can easily handle dozens of gigabytes of data. This is quite a lot, but even the smallest enterprise data warehouses now hold multiple terabytes. QlikView works with such systems by executing SQL queries against them, pulling down limited data sets, loading these into memory, and analyzing them. That’s an excellent and perfectly viable approach, but it does rely on the warehouse being there in the first place.

None of this is to suggest that QlikView has anything but a very bright future. When I first spoke with the company in 2005, it had just reached 2,000 clients; at last count, it had over 11,000. Revenue for 2008 was $120 million and had risen 50% from the previous year. The product has finally attracted attention from analyst firms like Gartner and Aberdeen and is very well rated in Nigel Pendse’s latest BI Survey. My brief fling as a VAR ended two years ago, but I still use it personally for any non-trivial data analysis work and remain absurdly pleased with the results. I won’t say QlikView is better than sex, but its pleasures are equally difficult to describe to the uninitiated. Anyone interested in BI software who hasn’t given it a try (QlikView, not sex) should download a copy and see what they’ve been missing.

9 comments:

Ben said...

Great review, David. I agree with you, folks really have to try QlikView to understand what the fuss is about. It's a really refreshing approach to BI that seems unburdened by the layers of overhead that the traditional tools have accumulated over time.

-- Ben (btaub@dataspace.com)

Vlad said...

I am curious why Qliktech starts to provide the free personal edition and if it is long term strategy. My thoughts:
personal users will push their IT departments to purchase the payed versions;
de-bug the new version(so next versions will not be free);
more optimistic variation of previous thought: lthe ong term strategy where community of users de-bug and contribute additional modules that obviously benefit payed versions.


What do you think?

David Raab said...

Hi Vlad,
I think the strategy is more your option 1 (personal users will push IT to adopt paid versions) than option 2 (help with debugging). QlikView already has a quite vibrant user community on its public forums so I don't think the free personal version would add much along those lines.

What's interesting about the new personal edition is that it can't open QlikView applications developed on any other copy of the software. The previous trial version could, but allowed only 15 days of free use. The new limit prevents "viral" sharing of QlikView projects among non-paying users, which might make it a less effective selling tool. I've already seen a few complaints about the sharing limitation.

On the other hand, removing the time limit would let users integrate QlikView into their personal work routines, which might be better on balance at promoting the product.

Either way, I still see QlikView's fundamental problem as the lack of a low-cost entry product. Paying $20,000 to $40,000 to get started is still a steep barrier compared with other products offering $1,000 personal editions. The BI market is undergoing a disruptive change right now due to new technologies, and if QlikView does not establish itself quickly as a dominant player under the new regime, it may never be able to catch up.

Benjamin said...

David, I knew that new pricing was coming but wasn't aware of the final structure. Isn't there still a standalone desktop version for around $1500 / desk?

David Raab said...

Benjamin, I'm not aware of a $1,500 standalone product, either in the past or present. But I purposely gave a broad range because QlikView is pretty secretive about the details of their pricing and I don't want to give anyone a false impression.

Benjamin said...

Thanks, David (BTW, Ben is OK), I thought there was a single-user desktop version in the past where each person got their own ADB, kind of like the old PowerPlay model where each user got their own local MDB file (can't remember the extension). Anyhow, I'll look into it with QlikTech.

-- Ben

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Aman Vats PMP said...

Its Good explanation. But I have one question about pricing. Why QlikView is not coming as CPU based license. This way the big organizations can think of expending the usages and finally the indorect marketing for qlikview. I am not sure, whether, I am right??.

David Raab said...

Hi Aman,

I can't really speak to the logic or details of their pricing strategy. They have a variety of options. Best to ask them directly.

David