IT Science Case Study: Moving Data Faster into Analysis

eWEEK IT SCIENCE RESOURCE PAGE: In Incorta’s analytics platform, Broadcom found a solution that easily combines data from myriad enterprise systems, enabling real-time and live access to point solutions like Excel, and ultimately accelerates the creation of new analytical applications while also reducing report run times.

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Here is the latest article in an eWEEK feature series called IT Science, in which we look at what actually happens at the intersection of new-gen IT and legacy systems.

Unless it’s brand new and right off various assembly lines, servers, storage and networking inside every IT system can be considered “legacy.” This is because the iteration of both hardware and software products is speeding up all the time. It’s not unusual for an app-maker, for example, to update and/or patch for security purposes an application a few times a month, or even a week. Some apps are updated daily! Hardware moves a little slower, but manufacturing cycles are also speeding up.

Go here to see a listing of eWEEK's Top Predictive Analytics Companies.

These articles describe new-gen industry solutions. The idea is to look at real-world examples of how new-gen IT products and services are making a difference in production each day. Most of them are success stories, but there will also be others about projects that blew up. We’ll have IT integrators, system consultants, analysts and other experts helping us with these as needed.

Today’s Topic: Getting Data Moved Faster into Analysis

Name the problem to be solved: Broadcom, a global technology leader that designs, develops and supplies a broad range of semiconductor and infrastructure software solutions, has made more than $65 billion in acquisitions over the years. Each business unit in the company makes decisions based on information residing in systems housed within the individual business unit, as well as at the corporate level. The information is housed in a variety of software solutions such as Workday, Oracle ERP, Model N, Oracle Demantra and Microsoft Excel.

Before deciding to use Incorta, generating a new analytical dashboard or report based on this data took six, eight, or even 12 weeks. Broadcom’s IT department is tasked with providing insights, detailed reports, summary dashboards and ad-hoc reporting capabilities to finance and business management for review. Broadcom experienced this long delay between business request and production availability despite investing significant time and money into a traditional data warehouse and multiple data marts.

“Our employees can’t wait weeks for the information they need to do their jobs,” said Alan Davidson, director of IT infrastructure at Broadcom. “But at the same time, we have billions of rows of data in our database. It’s no small challenge to quickly slice and dice that amount of information.”

Broadcom’s needs extended beyond the day-to-day business, to mergers and acquisitions. Following several acquisitions in recent years, Broadcom needed to combine and analyze vast amounts of data from the acquired organizations. Onboarding these acquisitions required integrating data from acquired systems with Broadcom’s systems, and would have taken up to a year; Broadcom didn’t have nearly that long to wait.

Describe the strategy that went into finding the solution:

As they continued to find their previous infrastructure inadequate, Broadcom sought to shorten this dashboard and report development cycle and reduce report run times. The Broadcom team charged with selecting a new analytics solution had two overarching goals in mind — dramatically reducing the time it took to get information to employees and “doing more with less,” per a company-wide initiative. Additional selection criteria included cost-effectiveness, self-service capability, ease of maintenance, and minimizing the number of peripheral technologies required for solution support. Topping this list was the ability of the new solution to easily integrate with other applications — especially Microsoft Excel.

“Ninety percent of our company uses Excel,” said Ajit Oak, senior manager of business intelligence at Broadcom. “So, we knew that if we could find a solution to bring data into Excel, it would be a huge benefit to our users and, ultimately, the business.” In its search, Broadcom evaluated a wide range of leading analytical tools.

Finally, in Incorta’s analytics platform, Broadcom found a solution that easily combines data from a myriad of enterprise systems, enabling real-time and live access to point solutions like Excel, and ultimately accelerates the creation of new analytical applications while also reducing report run times. “Before Incorta it could take up to two hours to run a report against Oracle ERP,” Oak said. “With Incorta, we can do it in seconds.” Additionally, the BI team is now able to provide self-service access to business users and dramatically reduce their ticket backlog.

List the key components in the solution:

Incorta’s innovative Direct Data Mapping architecture provides the industry’s only no-ETL analytics platform, aggregating complex business data in real time and eliminating the need for cumbersome and costly ETL and data modeling. This approach speeds up the time-to-insight because Incorta allows Broadcom to ingest entire Oracle EBS schema directly, with all their complexity, without having to reshape them. Business users then have full, self-service access to their business data and don’t need to wait on IT, as they do with traditional data warehousing, to update the data models and ETL pipelines for every additional question they are looking to answer. Typically, these updates take IT months to deliver, thereby stalling business velocity.

Broadcom is focusing on adopting technologies that reduce complexity in its system, and their use of Incorta exemplifies the advantages of this approach. Incorta’s lightweight technology stack requires less time and fewer people for maintenance and management, which reduces total cost of ownership. “Upgrading legacy reporting systems like OBIEE or Hyperion took months, because we had to perform extensive testing,” Oak said. “With Incorta, we can upgrade in hours because of how confident we are in its technology stack.”

Describe how the deployment went, how long it took, and if it came off as planned:

Broadcom initially rolled out Incorta to finance, sales, and marketing—the departments with the most immediate need for fast, easy access to information. Incorta runs against Broadcom’s ERP environment, bringing together and analyzing financial, sales, supply chain, and manufacturing data. “These departments are full of users with very stringent analytical requirements,” Davidson said. “Incorta’s speed, flexibility, and accessibility are not just meeting their expectations but beating them. Now, other departments are asking to use Incorta as well.”

Illustrating that success, Broadcom now has more than 1,500 users and nearly 2,000 dashboards that have allowed them to run around 6.5 million queries–each of which is returned in roughly two seconds. The switch to Incorta has brought massive time savings to Broadcom, with each of the following phases of a given analytics project seeing a time reduction of 75%: Data Sourcing, ETL, DW Modeling, Dashboard and Report Development, and Ad-Hoc Reporting. Lastly, Incorta’s Spark integration in native mode enables technical teams to use the open source libraries for machine learning very easily.

Describe the result, new efficiencies gained, and what was learned from the project:

Today, Incorta is increasing employee productivity across Broadcom by speeding the analysis of complex business data. “Now that we’re using Incorta, our users are blown away by how fast they’re getting the information they need,” Oak said. Due to Incorta’s self-service capabilities, IT no longer has to predict what business users are going to ask, but it can instead create flexible frameworks that let business users slice and dice the data themselves.

Describe ROI, carbon footprint savings and staff time savings, if any:

Using Incorta, Broadcom quickly created analytical applications incorporating acquired data so that employees could make faster, more-informed decisions during a time of rapid change. “We’re an organization that’s generating more than 10 times the revenue of 10 years ago, and Incorta has managed that growth flawlessly,” Oak said. “The analytics solutions we’ve used in the past couldn’t scale fast enough to handle that rate of expansion.”

In addition to speeding access to information, Incorta’s robust architecture is helping Broadcom to meet its goal of doing more with less. By speeding up traditionally costly join operations, Incorta reduces report run times from hours to seconds, and lets users create new reports and dashboards in days instead of months. In addition, Incorta simplifies security by offering single sign-on and the ability to inherit other applications’ security parameters—including row-level security for data access. “It used to take eight to 12 weeks to get a report from request to production,” Oak said. “With Incorta, business users can do that on their own, instantaneously. It’s been a huge surprise to the business community that they can do more—with less IT support.”

Incorta’s unique architecture has become ingrained in Broadcom’s DNA. “Whenever we come across a business challenge, we first ask ourselves how Incorta can help. Its flexibility and performance have made it our go-to analytics solution,” said Davidson. “As we move forward with Incorta, we expect to be able to do more than ever before, more economically, and with a speed that’s unmatched across the analytics industry.”

If you have a suggestion for an eWEEK IT Science article, email cpreimesberger@eweek.com.