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Why RIA allows a New Breed of Business Intelligence Solution

by Nicolas Raspal, We Are CloudThursday, March 4, 2010

Why RIA allows a New Breed of Business Intelligence Solution

As you probably know Business Intelligence is a pretty competitive space and you have to come with strong innovations to find your audience. RIA has opened the door to a whole new wave of innovation, allowing Software as a Service (SaaS) products to deliver user experience to rival on-premise software but with a much smaller price tag. This new breed of application has the potential not only to revolutionize BI for those already using it, but to open the door to millions of new users who previously found it too hard or too expensive.

Most RIA technologies have their roots in drawing tools so data visualization is in their blood.  When you build using them, you hold in your hands real weapons to push the limits of information visualization. For example, it is possible to implant Google Maps to create stunning heatmaps with a couple of clicks. RIA also allows something so often missing in the software industry – sexiness.

RIA technology is cloud computing ready. While the battle rages about the applications and techniques of cloud computing, it is widely seen as the way forward in computing. RIA allows you to handle a lot of the work inherent in cloud computing API on the client side. This includes complex web services interactions, authentication mechanisms, encryptions and XML processing. Of course, the customer never sees a lot of the functionality but they nevertheless derive a lot of value from it.  An example of this is the client RIA processing data in streaming and uploading it directly to the SaaS platform of choice.

Building scalable, enterprise ready, SaaS Business Intelligence is hard.  Thousands of users can assault your data centers with monster queries at anytime.  ‘Intelligent’ RIA applications allow the distribution of the workload between the multi-tenant server side and the client side. Hence, a lot of the data processing such as in memory calculations and data pre-processing, can be efficiently delegated to the client.

This means that you can do a huge amount on the client side without any performance hit for the system, leading not only to a very reliable user experience but to security advantages as client-server traffic is reduced. In contrast to traditional web pages, no server/client roundtrip is needed; users modify queries, create dashboards and interact with visualizations in seconds as everything is synchronized with the servers in the background.

Security is often cited as a major barrier moving to SaaS solutions. However, modern RIA clients interact directly with the platform without need for a proxy server. Combined with client side encryption that can be built into RIAs, this makes the linkage extremely secure. Different SaaS companies have different server models. We use Amazon’s S3 server for our platform. Amazon pour a huge amount of money into the security of their cloud systems and the result is a much more closely guarded system than anything most SMBs could ever produce behind their own firewall.

Is it possible to build such tool with Javascript? Even though we have seen huge improvements in these areas in the recent past, it is still a long way from coming close to what can be achieved with RIA such as Adobe Flex and to a lesser extent Microsoft Silverlight.  A lot of eyes are looking toward HTML5 but this standard has everything to prove and it will takes year to come close to today’s RIA applications.

About the Author

Nicolas Raspal is founder and CTO of We Are Cloud, producers of the SaaS BI software Bime. Nicolas is a committed believer that BI should be easier to use, easier to manage, easier to buy and easier to get right. The recent advances in cloud computing and in-memory processing have allowed him and his team to create a product to deliver exactly this. Before We Are Cloud, Nicolas was a consultant building BI systems for retail and banking organisations.

For more information please visit http://businessintelligence.me/product

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