Information Builders adds support for Kubernetes, Kafka and AI

Enterprise BI veteran goes modern with support for containerization, real-time streaming data, AI and improved tooling.
Written by Andrew Brust, Contributor

The WebFOCUS portal design environment

Credit: Information Builders

Information Builders (IBI), the New York-based fixture in reporting and BI, continues its modernization campaign. Kicking off its Summit 2019 user conference in Orlando, FL, the first such gathering in the era of Frank Vella as CEO, IBI is showing new spring in its step. In fact, that company has been modernizing its stack for some time -- it first announced its revamped platform back in September, 2018 during the Strata Data NYC event -- putting in robust efforts on important groundwork. And with that groundwork done, the company is ready to add some flashy, but nonetheless important, new features.

Also read: Strata NYC 2018: AI, data governance, containers and the production-ready data lake
Also read: Information Builders names Frank J. Vella new CEO

In this morning's Summit general session, Chief Executive Officer Vella will announce four major elements in the platform, classified in the company's press release as "product innovations."

Designer Improvements, K8s support

To begin with, the Information Builders is enhancing WebFOCUS Designer, the company's core BI and data visualization tool, adding performance improvements, interface upgrades, and faster integrated search.

In addition, IBI, which has already modernized deployment options via its Amazon Web Services (AWS)-based Information Builders Cloud, is upping the ante, by offering Docker containerized deployment via Kubernetes orchestration. Information Builders says containerized deployment will support elastic scaling and so-called "cloud-based sandboxes" for experimentation. Partners benefit too, as their WebFOCUS apps can now also be deployed in containerized fashion.

IoT and AI, oh my!

Like any company that grew up in New York, selling to Wall Street, Information Builders has always been focused on Enterprise customers. Not surprisingly, then, machine data and the industrial Internet of Things (IoT) is of major importance to the company. To that end, IBI is adding support for Apache Kafka-based real time streaming data, and application of that data to analytics, including real-time dashboarding. And given services like Amazon's Managed Streaming for Apache Kafka (MSK) and Kafka API support on Microsoft's Azure Event Hubs, it grows the cloud story, too.

Finally, IBI is announcing AI features in the platform. The information provided by IBI on that count was rather sparse (pointing only to IBI's "...ability to simplify the curation and deployment of machine learning models...") and a request for more information had not elicited a reply at the time of this post was authored. But I know from previous briefings and demos that IBI has worked hard to integrate both the R and Python programming languages into its platform, enabling machine learning development in an integrated fashion within WebFOCUS. Even if the company weren't adding much to its AI story at this juncture, the previous functionality was significant and the other features discussed here -- especially support for Kubernetes and Kafka, will make it more valuable still.

Back in action?

The combination of innovation and plain old hard work that Information Builders has exhibited, along with a long-established install base across a range of Enterprise customers is significant, and analytics industry watchers dismiss it at their peril. There's good stuff going on at IBI's headquarters atop Madison Square Garden. If the company sustains these efforts, it's going to be a highly-relevant key player not just in BI, but in modern analytics, and the intersection between the two.

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