Salesforce has unveiled a cloud analytics service called Wave, which will let users process data from the vendor's own and third-party applications.
Salesforce chief executive Marc Benioff made the announcement at the company's Dreamforce event, claiming that Wave will disrupt the analytics market much like the firm did with the CRM market 15 years ago.
"We're not only connecting companies with customers in a whole new way with our Customer Success Platform, we're empowering companies to know their customers like never before with the ground-breaking Wave Analytics Cloud," Benioff said.
The service will be available on iOS devices initially, with support for other mobile platforms following later.
Some 30 partners, including Deloitte, Accenture and Informatica, will showcase their use of Wave, Salesforce said.
Wave is being integrated into the Salesforce platform to allow users to drag and drop data into the analytics tool. It will also be able to extract data from third-party, non-partner sources, such as structured data from SAP and Oracle, and unstructured machine and social data, according to Salesforce.
Wave has been designed to be a mobile-first tool with a graphical interface to display business analytics in a highly visual fashion on small screen devices and desktop monitors.
Unlike other analytical tools, Wave is less of an end-to-end business intelligence system and more of a platform that enables data to be linked across business departments and presented via graphical visualisations.
Essentially, this approach is aimed at making viewing and digesting analytical data accessible for business users, such as sales and marketing teams, rather than just data scientists and dedicated business analysts.
By using cloud-powered analytics, Wave bypasses the need for data to be sorted and organised in a defined manner, and instead allows users to access and analyse data almost instantaneously.
Developers are also set to benefit as Wave can be used as an API platform that can allow custom analytics apps to be built on top or enable analytics to be embedded into apps.
The move by Salesforce to push into the business intelligence and analytics market was not unexpected, given how rivals such as SAP have diversified their cloud and software services to make use of analytics.
Andrew Lawson, Salesforce's UK managing director, believes that integrating Wave in the Salesforce platform is a coherent move for the company, particularly given Wave's mobile capability.
"I think it was a logical evolution to move to analytics," he said. "Making it simple, building upon it, and making it work on multiple devices is key; analytical power that I can get on my phone just makes life easier."
Yefim Natis, vice president at Gartner, believes the move to incorporate analytics will appeal to customers.
"Salesforce is in possession of a lot of customer data from its CRM applications," he said.
"Combining that with some public and premium data sources via various data brokers will give Salesforce customers the opportunity to make more real-time context-aware decisions. So, the intent is right on."
Natis added, however, that "the execution will have to be proven over time", indicating that Wave will need to prove itself as an analytics tool.
Fellow Gartner analyst Rita Sallum, research vice president, suggested that Wave could use Salesforce's position in the CRM market to increase the awareness and take up of analytics, although this could challenge smaller companies specialising in analytics in relation to business intelligence (BI) .
"It could also threaten cloud BI start-ups that have grown, in part, because they had a more complete offering for Salesforce data, whereas salesforce.com had only operational reporting," she explained.
"The [Wave] platform offers an alternative to traditional BI platforms for customers needing to combine cloud and on-premises data, including unstructured data such as log data.
"Traditional BI vendors are likely to respond by accelerating their cloud plans and increasing their cloud emphasis."
Despite the opportunity to harness other Salesforce platforms, Sallum also believes that Wave is a little lacking in its current guise and needs further enhancements.
"This first release lacks certain features, such as advanced data exploration for the business analyst, and geospatial and self-service data preparation," she said.
IDC values the analytics market at $38bn, so it is unsurprising that many major IT companies, including Oracle, are looking to grab more of the action.
However, the analytics market is fiercely competitive, and is likely to be the next major battleground for large and small IT companies.
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