Optimizing BI and Data Warehouse Performance

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1 Optimizing BI and Data Warehouse Performance New Approaches To Get More from Your Information Assets Executive Summary Aligning Business and IT To Improve Performance Ventana Research 2603 Camino Ramon, Suite 200 San Ramon, CA , USA (925) Copyright Ventana Research 2011 Do Not Redistribute Without Permission

2 Pleasanton, California August 2008 Ventana Research performed this research for a fee to determine the needs and practices of organizations concerned about business intelligence (BI) and data warehouse performance. This document is based on our research and analysis of analysis of organizations that we deemed qualified to participate in this benchmark. This research was designed to investigate the practices and needs of individuals and organizations that want to enhance BI and data warehouse performance. This research is not intended for use outside of this context and does not imply that organizations are guaranteed success by using only these results to improve organizational productivity. Moreover, gaining the most benefit from the performance of your BI and data warehouse systems requires an assessment of your organization s unique needs. We certify that Ventana Research wrote and edited this report independently, that the analysis contained herein is a faithful representation of our evaluation based on our experience with and knowledge of BI and data warehouse performance, and that the analysis and conclusions are entirely our own. Copyright Ventana Research 2011 Page 2

3 Table of Contents Executive Summary... 4 How Ventana Research Can Help... 9 About Ventana Research Copyright Ventana Research 2011 Page 3

4 Executive Summary In recent years, business intelligence (BI) and data warehouse systems have evolved from their beginnings as batch-oriented systems for basic reporting, querying and analysis used by small, well-defined user communities. Today, many are enterprise systems that handle many kinds of queries and must be continuously available for diverse user communities. Organizations in nearly all industries view them today as integral to financial reporting, customer relationship management, marketing and other functions. An increasing number see the ability to use data for BI, performance management and other forms of analysis as a competitive differentiator; they want users in nearly all business operations to have access to broad-based, timely, accurate data to use for both trend analysis and daily operational decision-making. This demand puts tremendous pressure on BI and data warehouse systems to perform well. As requirements change, traditional approaches to managing and optimizing BI and data warehouse performance are becoming outmoded. Typically put together piece by piece, most BI and data warehouse systems are managed through tools designed to work only with a single database, storage system, operating system, server or BI system. This silo arrangement has made it difficult for IT managers to see performance from the user s perspective; individual components appear to be working fine, but users still report inadequate performance. Workload analysis and tuning tools can help organizations by enabling IT managers to capture information about user activity, data flows and query performance and to analyze the information for ways to improve BI and data warehouse performance. However, most organizations are just beginning to identify and access information sources for workload analysis and to deploy tools specifically intended for this purpose. In light of these changes, the benchmark research discussed in this report examined the progress organizations are making toward gaining a more complete view of BI and data warehouse performance. This includes an examination of tools to identify queries that perform poorly or put burdens on the system disproportionate to their business importance and then address the performance problems they represent through smarter tuning of current systems and deployment of new technology. An objective of this research was to benchmark the use of technology approaches including appliances, specialized databases, query accelerators and others, and to discover organizations plans for future deployments to address business information demands. Ventana Research believes that both tuning of current systems and planning for new technology purchases should be guided by the best available information about optimizing BI and data warehouse performance. That information should include insights gathered from an analysis of usage and workload patterns, which can help organizations focus the deployment of new technology on specific requirements and increase alignment of IT systems and operations with business goals and objectives. Our analysis of the findings of this research shows that organizations are somewhat mature in their optimization of BI and data warehouse performance. Two-thirds (67%) of the organizations participating in our research were at the two middle levels of our four-tier Maturity Model; 29 percent were at the second-highest level, Strategic, and 38 percent at the third-highest level, Advanced. We also found symmetry at the extremes: Nearly the same percentages were at the lowest Tactical Copyright Ventana Research 2011 Page 4

5 level (16%) and the highest Innovative level and (17%). Organizations at the Strategic level react to unsatisfactory performance within hours, which is somewhat faster than they could do a year ago. In comparison, Advanced organizations respond within days and Tactical organizations within weeks; moreover, these less mature organizations are not getting faster in their responses. Most organizations have not reached the Innovative level, where organizations have shortened the response rate over the previous year, in some cases to within minutes. Our research finds that the quality and breadth of information available about BI and data warehouse performance is a key factor in whether organizations can increase their response rates and the overall maturity of their approach to optimization. Less than 10 percent said that their information sources are excellent; the percentage describing them as good (38%) was only slightly larger than that describing them as fair (37%), and 15 percent said their sources are poor. Almost half (46%) indicated that their organizations have concerns about gathering performance data because the effort itself may degrade performance. Thus, some organizations need to develop less obtrusive processes for gathering information and employ tools that do not cause negative impacts. In the majority of organizations participating in our research, IT and business users collaborate in some fashion to exchange information about performance and take steps to improve it. More than half (56%) of all participants listed meetings with business users as an information source for analyzing and remedying unsatisfactory performance. Slightly more (58%) said that IT and business users collaborate to prioritize queries, reports and users; 55 percent said they collaborate to analyze data about performance, and 52 percent said their IT function works one-on-one with users to improve queries. While we regard this relatively high level of collaboration as an encouraging sign, organizations need to ensure that the information shared during these collaborations is of high quality. If it is not, then even in collaboration, IT and business users will not be able to analyze trends and develop repeatable steps for continuously improving performance. Innovative organizations are, among other things, proactive: They are able to monitor workloads and queries and thus know when to deploy personnel and technology tools to address performance optimization issues. But we found that fewer than onequarter (22%) of research participants organizations are proactive. A larger 34 percent described their organizations as active, which means that they can monitor and tune some systems but have limited insight into future needs. The same percentage (34%) identified their organizations as reactive, and 10 percent said they are very reactive. Our research finds some correlation between how active an organization is and whether it has deployed a BI or data warehouse appliance. The majority (60%) of organizations that have already deployed an appliance take an active or proactive approach to managing and tuning performance. Among organizations that are planning to deploy one within a year, 38 percent are proactive and 40 percent are active. Given that appliances are still relatively new to the market, we find the rate of deployment among our research sample to be significant. Overall, 19 percent of organizations have deployed a BI or data warehouse appliance, and the same percentage plan to within one year. Very large organizations of more than 10,000 employees have a slightly higher rate of deployment (23%). However, compared with other sizes of participating groups, small organizations of less than 100 employees most often plan to deploy an appliance within one year (32%). As for specialized Copyright Ventana Research 2011 Page 5

6 databases and query accelerators, our research finds that fewer organizations have deployed them than have deployed appliances (10%, with 13% planning to within one year). This level of deployment is expected, as column-oriented databases are just coming into the market and query accelerators are more specialized than mainstream technologies and therefore less well known. Our research reveals that organizations in need of improved performance for analytics show the strongest demand for appliances, specialized databases and query accelerators. Four of the top five business functions or information processes for which participants said they have already deployed or plan to deploy these systems were business planning and forecasting (46%), executive management reporting and analysis (44%), customer data analysis (43%) and operational reporting and analysis (43%). The finance function, tied for the second-highest percentage (44%) was the fifth; this function increasingly relies on BI analysis, including for business planning and forecasting. Interestingly, we also learned that participants are dissatisfied with the performance of business planning and forecasting tools compared with enterprise BI and reporting tools, online analytical processing (OLAP) tools or servers, or other BI and analytic technologies. Thus, while analytic performance in general is the biggest driver for organizations deployment of appliances, specialized databases and query accelerators, we believe that these insights highlight business planning and forecasting in the finance function as a specific area of demand. When organizations attempt to scale their BI and data warehouse systems to meet increased demand, performance can suffer. Our research finds that the number-one cause of unsatisfactory performance is the inability of systems to handle higher volumes of complex queries. Often necessary for customer data analysis, OLAP and other BI processes, these kinds of queries have multiple clauses and operations, and they group or join data from different tables, rows, columns or databases. More participants (58%) indicated complex queries as a cause of performance difficulty than other factors we suggested, including scaling for more data (55%), more realtime data needs (54%) and more data loading (48%). We conclude from this that organizations are under pressure from users to deliver analytical results faster. In an earlier, batch-oriented era, users placed less pressure on BI and data warehouse systems to return the results of complex queries quickly; now, however, to compete organizations must be able to respond to more aggressive querying demands, including for real-time analytics. We believe that being able to deliver quality information and analysis of performance data will be critical to scaling up successfully; of participants who said that more complex queries were a cause of unsatisfactory performance, 45 percent regard their information sources for optimizing performance as only fair, and 18 percent said they are poor. Organizations are least satisfied with the performance of their BI and data warehouse systems when used to address information demands resulting from changing plans and forecasts (20% are somewhat dissatisfied and 4% very dissatisfied). They are most satisfied with their performance in meeting the information demands associated with regulatory compliance (15% very satisfied and 42% somewhat satisfied) and business growth (13% very satisfied and 55% somewhat satisfied). The bottom line, though, is that the user demand having the most impact on performance remains one of the most common requirements for BI and data warehouse systems: providing executives with access to data. Nearly half (45%) rated this as their number-one challenge. More than one-third (36%) rated operational data analysis as their top challenge, and the same percentage said it is Copyright Ventana Research 2011 Page 6

7 spreadsheet-based data analysis. We believe that these results underscore the need to improve the performance of analytics, not only for executives but also for operational managers. Providing better operational data analysis performance is critical to achieving the top business benefits that participants told us their organizations seek from BI and data warehouse deployments: optimizing business processes (81%) and identifying opportunities for improvement (78%). These high percentages are evidence that many organizations are pursuing ambitious goals to establish competitive advantages. However, meeting these goals requires the ability to access and analyze more data faster and more effectively for a broader range of users than the designers of traditional systems contemplated. We recommend that organizations let business drivers and benefits direct their performance improvement efforts of any kind. Knowledge of the purpose of BI and data warehouse systems will help them set priorities for tuning current systems and augmenting them with new ones. Organizations should make it a goal to improve their information about the performance of BI and data warehouse systems, especially as seen from the users perspective. While it is important for IT to meet with business users to understand performance and collaborate on how to remedy problems, we recommend that organizations supplement these meetings with data analysis. Then they can develop independent analysis and metrics to measure IT s response to unsatisfactory performance, to anticipate when demand will be at its highest and to guide new technology deployments toward meeting strategic business objectives. In conclusion, we find that organizations acknowledge that their information sources for optimizing performance fall short of being excellent. We believe that by improving their sources and analysis, they can become more mature in their optimization of BI and data warehouse systems. More mature organizations are less reactive and more proactive; they can identify the most important queries and users and anticipate when performance demand will be greatest. They can use their knowledge to determine where and when to deploy new technologies, including appliances, specialized databases and query accelerators. Organizations overall are having the greatest difficulty meeting performance demand for analytics. Our research also indicates that they deploy appliances, specialized databases and query accelerators most often to optimize the performance of analytics. The rates of current deployment of these systems are significant given that many products are relatively new to the market. However, we note that the majority of organizations continue to take traditional steps to improve performance in response to rising demand, including deploying more hardware and expanding the size of existing database systems. Budgetary pressures can constrain how effectively an organization can respond to unsatisfactory performance; nearly two-thirds (65%) of research participants organizations spend 25 percent or less of their IT budget on tuning systems and deploying technology to optimize BI and data warehouse performance. We believe that these pressures increase the importance of having information-based insight into how to optimize the performance of current BI and data warehouse systems and where to deploy new technology so it can have the most beneficial impact on the business. Copyright Ventana Research 2011 Page 7

8 This Executive Summary is drawn from the full Ventana Research Benchmark Research report. The full report is available for purchase, payable by check or credit card. For more information about the full Benchmark Research report or assessment of your organization using the Maturity Index, please contact us at Copyright Ventana Research 2011 Page 8

9 How Ventana Research Can Help Ventana Research helps organizations develop, execute and sustain business and technology programs that align people, processes, information and technologies essential for success. As an objective and trusted advisor, we are your insurance that your business and IT initiatives deliver both immediate and long-term improvements to your business. We offer a variety of customizable services to meet your specific needs including workshops, assessments and advisory services. Our education service, led by analysts with more than 20 years of experience, provides a great starting point to learn about important business and technology topics from compliance to business intelligence to building a strategy and driving adoption of best practices. We also offer tailored assessment and benchmarking services to help you connect the business and technology phases of your project by leveraging our research foundation and methodologies. And we can provide Ventana On-Demand access to our analysts on an as-needed basis to help you keep up with market trends, technologies and best practices. Everything at Ventana Research begins with our focused research, of which this report is a part. We work with thousands of organizations worldwide, conducting research and analyzing market trends, best practices and technologies to help our clients improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their organizations. Through the Ventana Research community we also provide opportunities for professionals to share challenges, best practices and methodologies. Sign up for Individual membership at to gain access to our weekly insights and learn about upcoming educational and collaboration events webinars, conferences and opportunities for social collaboration on the Internet. We offer the following membership levels, as well as an additional PLUS option for bundled education: Individual membership: For business and IT professionals* interested in full access to our Web site and analyst team for themselves. The membership includes access to our library of hundreds of white papers and research notes, briefings and telephone/ consulting sessions to provide input and feedback. Team membership: For business and IT professionals* interested in full access to our Web site and analysts for a five-member team. The membership includes access to our library of hundreds of white papers and research notes, briefings, telephone/ consulting sessions to provide input and feedback and the use of Ventana Research materials for business purposes. Business membership: For business and IT professionals* interested in full access to our Web site and analyst team for their larger team or small business unit. The membership includes access to our library of hundreds of white papers and research notes, briefings, telephone/ consulting sessions to provide input and feedback, use of Ventana Research materials for business purposes. To learn more about Ventana Research services including workshops, assessments and advice please contact * Additional services are available for solution providers, software vendors, consultants and systems integrators. Copyright Ventana Research 2011 Page 9

10 About Ventana Research Ventana Research is the most authoritative and respected benchmark business technology research and advisory services firm. We provide insight and expert guidance on mainstream and disruptive technologies through a unique set of research-based offerings including benchmark research and technology evaluation assessments, education workshops and our research and advisory services, Ventana OnDemand. Our unparalleled understanding of the role of technology in optimizing business processes and performance and our best practices guidance are rooted in our rigorous research-based benchmarking of people, processes, information and technology across business and IT functions in every industry. This benchmark research plus our market coverage and in-depth knowledge of hundreds of technology providers means we can deliver education and expertise to our clients to increase the value they derive from technology investments while reducing time, cost and risk. Ventana Research provides the most comprehensive analyst and research coverage in the industry; business and IT professionals worldwide are members of our community and benefit from Ventana Research s insights, as do highly regarded media and association partners around the globe. Our views and analyses are distributed daily through blogs and social media channels including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Business Week s Business Exchange. To learn how Ventana Research advances the maturity of organizations use of information and technology through benchmark research, education and advisory services, visit This material is copyrighted. Reproduction or distribution of this research in any form without prior written permission is forbidden. Copyright Ventana Research 2011 Page 10

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