VP of strategy and marketing, Panorama

A Toronto company is hoping to offer software companies a way to analyse information gathered within business intelligence applications through the so-called cloud computing model and write reports via GoogleApps.

Panorama Software started private beta testing of its PowerApps service earlier this summer and plans to make it more broadly available later this year. Basically an online analytical processing (OLAP) engine hosted online, PowerApps will use multidimensional expression (MDX) to query the data with Google Apps as the default front end, although even Microsoft Excel could be used, according to the company.

Oudi Antebi, Panorama’s vice-president of strategy and marketing, said the potential benefits using of cloud computing to handle business intelligence (BI) data is the same as for any other application.

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“You want to reduce the IT costs, you want to be able to access the browser from everywhere else in the world, you want to have no need to upgrade, and better collaboration,” he said. “The big difference is BI uses data that is not owned by the BI application. It’s produced in line of business systems inside the firewall.”

Panorama is best known for products like NovaView, an on-premise analytics software offering that allows reporting and data modelling, but Antebi said PowerApps will create brand new market opportunities. The company formed a partnership with Google in mid-March that enhanced the pivot table functionality for Google Docs.

“That entire mechanism is all Panorama,” he said. “They needed to develop an analytical data engine in the cloud to take spreadsheet data into an OLAP environment. That normally uses local computing power, but in software-as-a-service you don’t have that luxury.” The fuctionality includes support for SQL Server Analysis Services.

If I’m a CFO in a large enterprise, I really couldn’t care if it’s based in a cloud or in a relational database. All I really want is the final resultOudi Antebi>Text

Antebi said PowerApps may be best used by an ISV that wants to add analytics to their software but would otherwise by constrained by various limitations.

“Normally they would have to buy SQL Server or Oracle, host it, develop for it and upgrade and optimize the cube. Now they can hook into a transparent cloud-based OLAP solution, put the data in and get results out.” He used Salesforce.com and Netsuite as the kinds of potential users that would fit the PowerApps customer profile. “This could be much bigger than powering our own solution.”

“If I’m a CFO in a large enterprise, I really couldn’t care if it’s based in a cloud or in a relational database. All I really want is the final result,” he said. “You need to source the data, find the data, integrate the data and manage the data before you even get to modelling the data in an OLAP cube.”

Even Panorama doesn’t foresee a wholesale movement of BI applications off-premise.

“It will be many years before all data is produced in the cloud. It will continue to reside in data warehouses,” Antebi said.

Panorama is still working out the pricing details of PowerApps, which may include charging by blocks of users.

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