Catching the Cloud-Based Analytics Wave

If analytics is one of the hottest areas of business technology today, then the cloud-based analytics market is absolutely scorching. Or, more accurately, it’s about to be: Market research firm MarketsandMarkets predicts that the cloud analytics market will reach $16.52 billion in 2018, up from $5.25 billion in 2012,

No doubt emboldened by such lofty projections, is leaping into the fray with its Wave analytics cloud, announced during CEO Marc Benioff’s keynote speech Tuesday at the company’s annual Dreamforce conference.

“We need a breakthrough when it comes to data,” Benioff told the thousands gathered at San Francisco’s Moscone Center. “It’s a huge opportunity for a wave of innovation.”

As this wordplay indicates, Salesforce pulled no punches in pounding home the symbolism of its Wave cloud’s moniker. The company even brought in the Beach Boys to punctuate Benioff’s keynote with a few of their iconic surf-themed classics.

Analytics represents fertile ground for those who can deliver compelling applications: Cisco Systems estimates that annual global data center traffic will reach 7.7 zettabytes by 2017, equivalent to 8 trillion hours of HD video streaming, and more than triple what data centers experienced in 2012.

Wave is designed to deliver the kind of democratized access to data that many companies require. “Analytics is no longer a domain for people with multiple degrees and a mastery of statistics,” Benioff emphasized.

Dan Vesset, a vice president at research firm IDC, agrees. “The demand for self-service analytics is sweeping across every business function, as end users demand relevant business insights delivered at the right time to increase their competitiveness and make decisions that positively impact revenues,” he said.

In a testimonial video shown during the keynote, John Sabino, senior vice president of commercial excellence at General Electric, suggested that the X factor is that “right time” element. “We have to be able to react at the speed of thought,” he said.

Wave will enable companies to connect their various data pools with every device their employees use—in real time. IT teams will be able to build mobile-friendly analytics applications that employees can tap to access whatever data they need. Users will be able to slice and dice that data however they choose, including quickly changing from one type of chart to another, or clicking on any part of the visualization to drill down into the data.

On another front, Salesforce moved to address the insatiable desire for rolling out mobile apps with a new version of its fledgling Salesforce1 mobile app development platform. Dubbed “Lightning,” it’s designed to speed up the process of building mobile apps. Several modules of Lightning, including those for building apps, automating processes and designing communities, will be available in February.