4-page Case Study - Posted 12/10/2010
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Analytics Firm Broadens Customer Choice, Growth Avenues with Online Data Market
Alteryx makes geographical business intelligence (BI) solutions that help companies make faster, smarter business decisions. Using Alteryx BI solutions, companies can quickly analyze multiple data sets in combination. Eager to help customers get to market faster with Alteryx-based solutions, Alteryx is using DataMarket, a section of Windows Azure Marketplace and new cloud service from Microsoft, to give developers easy, affordable access to its application programming interfaces and to third-party data sets. By offering its BI solution components on DataMarket, Alteryx gives more flexibility and choice to customers, who can consume—and pay for—only the data and Alteryx components that they need. Customers can get to market faster with their solutions, and Alteryx has more time to focus on its core competency and expand its business.
Companies today must decide how to spend limited resources when integrating corporate and external data to provide business insight. They are increasingly turning to business intelligence (BI) software to help them analyze mountains of data to arrive at sound answers. Alteryx makes this analytical task easier by providing simple BI tools that anyone in an organization can use.
Alteryx, of Orange, California, delivers what it calls “geographic business intelligence solutions” that help small and enterprise customers with data storage, retrieval, management, reporting, and analysis of both spatial and non spatial data. For example, a fast-food restaurant chain uses an Alteryx solution to determine where to open new stores. A retailer uses Alteryx to determine the best product mix to stock at each store location and the best product-placement location within stores. A telecom company uses an Alteryx solution to give salespeople direct access to market analysis data without the need for a trained research analyst. Alteryx solutions are used by a wide range of industries, including automotive, commercial real estate, financial services, media, retail franchising, and telecommunications.
By using the Alteryx BI technology engine, Alteryx and customers can rapidly develop and deliver BI workflows. Alteryx technology synthesizes a wide range of data formats using standard interfaces to many source databases and their associated file formats.
Customers can deploy Alteryx solutions using an on-premises client-server model or over the web as software-as-a-service (SaaS). While Alteryx had done a good job of meeting the needs of business end users—analysts, operations managers, and power users—it wanted to better serve the developer community. “Most of our content providers provide us with raw data, and we have to build a user interface to deliver that data to our customers in useful ways,” explains Dean Stoecker, President and Chief Executive Officer of Alteryx. “We or our customers also have to cleanse the data, apply business rules to prepare the data for analysis, perform data merge and purge, and filter records according to specified criteria.”
Alteryx also had to anticipate the data sets that customers might need. “Developers [working for Alteryx customers] wanted more control over how they consumed our application and the data we offered,” says Ian Erickson, Chief Web Services Architect for Alteryx. “Every time a customer wanted a new feature, it had to be routed through our development group, which was quite expensive in terms of resource usage.” Monitoring data usage transactions and billing customers for data used was another challenge; Alteryx had to devote developer resources to write code to do all this, which was another strain on the software development staff.
Alteryx has been wildly successful over its 13-year history and enjoyed an average 40 percent growth rate each year. But, management wanted to free its own and its customers’ development staffs from custom development work to open up additional growth opportunities. Alteryx also wanted to simplify and streamline the solution for customers, who wanted ever faster deployment and customization of Alteryx solutions.
“We’ve always had a plan to offer our technology and data as pure web services that customers could consume,” Stoecker says. “However, it’s a challenge for a 110-person company to build a data community and a commerce-enabled solution while also continuing to grow at an annual rate of 40 percent with our established on-premises and SaaS implementations.” Solution
In late 2009, Alteryx learned about DataMarket, a section of Windows Azure Marketplace. DataMarket is a cloud service from Microsoft that provides a global marketplace for information and gives developers and information workers access to premium data for building rich applications. They can use DataMarket to easily discover, purchase, and manage premium data subscriptions for data of all types—media, relational, real-time web services, and more. DataMarket is built on the Windows Azure platform and runs on Windows Azure. It stores data using the database service provided by Microsoft SQL Azure.
||DataMarket is an extension of our BI platform and a natural progression for us.
President and Chief Executive Officer, Alteryx
“We were interested in DataMarket, because the global ecosystem of Microsoft-focused developers provides an opportunity for us to expand our business,” Stoecker says. “We can list individual APIs [application programming interfaces] from our platform on the DataMarket for customers to purchase. Our customers can also use DataMarket to find many other data sets that we don’t currently provide. The web services implementation of DataMarket enables customers to easily integrate data that makes their applications more useful and insightful. DataMarket is an extension of our BI platform and a natural progression for us.”
With DataMarket, Alteryx no longer needs to focus its developer resources on customer-specific or industry-specific versions of its solution. Customers can develop their own metaphors for how the user interface should look when combining Alteryx tools with their applications and data. Companies can easily consume Alteryx APIs and put data into a metaphor that is most relevant to their audience.
“With DataMarket, we can experiment with monetizing our SaaS APIs—selling individual services rather than entire modules of our solution,” Erickson says. “By posting our services on DataMarket, we don’t need to think about transaction monitoring or monetization; Microsoft does that for us. It’s a very good model that we can use to help the development community use our content and technology in ways that we can’t even imagine.”
To date, Alteryx has placed five different APIs on DataMarket. One helps retail businesses determine new store locations. Customers can pull U.S. Census data, consumer expenditure data, geospatial data, traffic data, and other data sets from DataMarket and combine all of these with the Alteryx APIs on DataMarket. Retailers use the Alteryx API to overlay and analyze various data sets to determine which neighborhoods have populations most likely to visit their stores and what they would buy there.
They can also tell not only which locales provide the best store locations but obtain the names and addresses of all households in those areas with an income of U.S.$50,000 and children between the ages of 5 and 9 with a drive-time from the store of less than ten minutes.
Adds Erickson, “With DataMarket, we don’t have to interpret the form or purpose of the data being consumed. Our customers are in telecom, finance, retail, insurance, and many other industries, and now we don’t have to understand every aspect of their business problem to develop a solution for them. We still have packaged solutions for various vertical industries, but we can eliminate all assumptions about how customers want to use the data or our platform; we just give them access to those data and tools and remove ourselves as an intermediary.”Benefits
By giving developers access to its APIs on DataMarket, Alteryx gives customers more flexibility and faster time-to-market, reduces its own development work and costs, and opens up more opportunity to grow its business.
Faster Time-to-Market for Customer Developers
By offering its APIs on DataMarket, Alteryx can shortcut development work for customers and help them get their solutions to market faster. “With DataMarket, our customers can devise any workflow they want and simply plug in the appropriate APIs,” Stoecker says. “As a result, the time-to-market for new applications and services decreases from weeks to hours.”
||With DataMarket, developers can make their own choices, and you can’t put a dollar figure on the value of giving customers the ability to build what they want.
Chief Web Services Architect, Alteryx
Alteryx also gives customers more flexibility by offering its APIs on DataMarket. “We want to make it as easy as possible for customers to consume our technology,” Stoecker says. “When you serve up an elegant service like ours with a service like DataMarket, you remove all the friction in providing answers with the right metaphors. There’s huge power in that.”
Erickson adds, “With DataMarket, developers can make their own choices, and you can’t put a dollar figure on the value of giving customers the ability to build what they want. Unless you enable your customers’ processes, you’ll quickly be eclipsed.”
DataMarket also presents Alteryx customers with a more cost-effective payment model. They can select from numerous data sets and buy just the sets that they need when they need them without paying tens of thousands of dollars for an annual subscription to just one data set, plus the cost of storing and managing that data. “Our customers can consume data on a monthly basis with DataMarket,” Stoecker says. “They don’t have to license a data set, manage it, and integrate it with other data sources. It’s there when they need it, and when they don’t need it, they don’t pay for it.”Reduced Development Work and Costs
Alteryx had long desired to create more flexible delivery models for its technology. But by using DataMarket, Alteryx was spared the considerable expense of building and hosting its own web services platform and data community. “To create a service comparable to the Windows Azure platform and DataMarket, we would have to create a massive web infrastructure to handle the traffic, a multitenant database, e-commerce capability, blogs, forums, tons of technical documentation, and on and on,” Stoecker says. “That’s a huge cost avoidance—in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
Additionally, Alteryx no longer needs to build custom interfaces between data sets and its technology. “Some of the data sets that we deal with are several hundred gigabytes in size—hundreds of millions of records,” Erickson says. “Aggregating these data sets so that they interoperate with Alteryx APIs is a daunting task. With DataMarket, neither we nor our customers need to worry about manipulating data sets to meet specific needs.”Opportunity to Expand Offerings
Because Alteryx customers are able to consume only the Alteryx web services and data that they need, Stoecker says that DataMarket really simplifies its selling model and shortens its sales cycle. “Customers can purchase the APIs that they need, and we are free to focus on our core competency,” says Stoecker. “Between our technology and DataMarket, we have a platform that delivers business intelligence with the appropriate content, and that gives us and our customers the agility to do more things.”
Alteryx plans to add new cloud capabilities to its technology platform as it sees early success. “We could dramatically expand our marketplace with DataMarket,” Stoecker says. “When we first started 13 years ago, we had to convince most data vendors that we could be an intermediary for selling their data. Today, data providers gladly come to us, because they know that we can monetize their data. That will accelerate with DataMarket, because people will have an even easier way to find and consume data.”Windows Azure Platform
The Windows Azure platform provides an excellent foundation for expanding online product and service offerings. The main components include:
Microsoft SQL Azure. Microsoft SQL Azure offers the first cloud-based relational and self-managed database service built on Microsoft SQL Server 2008 technologies.
Windows Azure. Windows Azure is the development, service hosting, and service management environment for the Windows Azure platform. Windows Azure provides developers with on-demand compute and storage to host, scale, and manage web applications on the Internet through Microsoft data centers.
Windows Azure Marketplace DataMarket. Developers and information workers can use the new service DataMarket to easily discover, purchase, and manage premium data subscriptions in the Windows Azure platform.
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