Tibco's Spotfire ties in-memory analytics to SharePoint, Tibbr social network

Version 4.0 of the analytics platform is set for release this month

Tibco is giving its Spotfire BI (business intelligence) and visualization tool an injection of social collaboration through integrations with Microsoft SharePoint and its own Tibbr enterprise social networking product, the company announced Monday.

Spotfire has always been great at helping individuals analyze business data, but version 4.0, which will be available this month, "really brings us to a new level of harnessing their collective capabilities," said Lou Bajuk, senior director of product management.

Spotfire, which uses in-memory processing, allows users to quickly create new visualizations and interactive dashboards with a drag-and-drop style authoring environment they can point at various data sets.

The 4.0 release now allows them to embed those visualizations within a SharePoint portal as well as Tibbr. Its possible for customers to build integrations with other portals if they desire, but for now customer demand has focused mainly on SharePoint, he said.

Spotfire's integration with Tibbr allows users to share their creations with others and engage in threaded conversations about a given visualization. Security measures are in place to allow threads to be open or private.

Tibbr also features live videoconferencing and chat functions, all of which either can be embedded within the Spotfire UI (user interface) or brought up side-by-side in a new window, he said.

Other information, such as a wiki page, can also be plugged into Spotfire, according to a statement.

Version 4.0's other major theme is improvements to the software's dashboards to make them more refined and able to give certain users the information they need "at a glance," Bajuk said.

The release's "crisper, cleaner presentations" provide for "new visualizations that summarize a lot of information at a high level," he added. "A handful of interactive dashboards can replace the need for dozens of static dashboards."

Array BioPharma is currently using version 3.3 of Spotfire and plans to upgrade to 4.0 in the first quarter of next year, said Daniel Weaver, director of scientific computing at the Boulder, Colorado, drug company.

The tool has allowed Array's scientists to sift through large and diverse stores of data for insights while researching new drugs for cancer and other conditions.

Weaver has been a fan of Spotfire for its technology stack. "It has very well-worked-out integration points," he said. "It's very easy to get data into out of it. And they have the best software API I've seen in the BI space."

Performance is solid even with very large data volumes, he added.

But earlier versions have some shortcomings which 4.0 seems to have taken steps to fix. "In 3.3, it's laborious to take a Spotfire visualization that has couple of key filters and package that up. They've made it so that packaging up is a drag-and-drop operation," he said.

This should help Array run more of a "self-service" BI operation with Spotfire, according to Weaver. "That's the hope, anyway. The proof's always in the pudding."

Version 4.0 also has "significantly better" dashboarding tools that shed "unnecessary visual clutter," he said.

Array is also interested in the new SharePoint integration, Weaver said. The company began rolling out SharePoint about a year ago and has already created templates for project teams. Tying in Spotfire visualizations to those workspaces is definitely on the agenda, he said.

But Array is less enthused about the hooks into Tibbr. "It's interesting but its not going to be a priority," he said. Array doesn't currently use Tibbr and is centrally located enough that it doesn't need such software right now, he said.

Spotfire encompasses a number of components, including a server that handles data access and modeling, as well as a number of Web and desktop clients. Pricing varies according to the installation.

Tibco's offering competes with the likes of QlikView and Microsoft PowerPivot, both of which also incorporate an "in-memory associative data model (as opposed to relational or multidimensional) which indeed allows a lot more flexibility in analysis," Forrester Research analyst Boris Evelson said in an email.

While social BI collaboration features like the Tibbr integration "are important," rivals including Panorama Software and QlikView have introduced or will shortly introduce similar features, he added.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris's e-mail address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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