Welcome!

Microservices Expo Authors: Matt Brickey, Elizabeth White, Christoph Schell, Liz McMillan, Mehdi Daoudi

Related Topics: Open Source Cloud, Microservices Expo

Open Source Cloud: Article

Case Study: Open Source + Business Intelligence

A marriage made for data-driven businesses

Data-driven businesses are facing some tough challenges in today's rapidly changing information landscape. As decision cycles continue to shrink, companies need to act on information within hours and minutes rather than weeks and days. At the same time, the volume of data that needs to be analyzed is growing exponentially. Business intelligence (BI) approaches that might have made sense a decade or even five years ago may no longer be the best fit for organizations that must quickly and affordably make sense of terabytes of incoming data that shows no sign of slowing down.

For my company, MX Force, speedy data analysis is not simply a "nice to have," it's critical to our business. As a cloud-based provider of email security for organizations of all sizes, we need to identify the origins of spam, viruses and other potential threats for our clients, fast. But as our business has grown, so has the volume of email log data that we must store, filter, search, analyze and report on. Recently, we were challenged to find a database that could reliably enable quick and efficient ad-hoc queries on up to a year's worth of email log data. Our staff uses this data to analyze and report on statistical information, and we also give our clients the ability to query their own logs to diagnose mail delivery issues. It was important to find a database that could deliver the high performance we required, but affordability and ease of administration were also of vital concern. These considerations prompted us to seek an open source solution.

Open Source Meets Business Intelligence
MX Force uses a number of open source tools within our organization. The low cost of open source is one reason for this, but flexibility is another important driver. Because open source projects are community-driven, users can tweak, customize and tinker with the software as much as they like. This is a big advantage when it comes to business intelligence, as data analysis requirements can change quickly, and you don't want to have to wait weeks or months to get a new query set up or to change the parameters of those that are already running. MX Force was already using MySQL in our business, so we decided to try Infobright's open source analytic database, ICE (Infobright Community Edition.) ICE combines a columnar database with innovative compression and self-tuning capabilities that eliminate the need to create indexes, partition data or do any manual intervention to achieve fast response for queries and reports. The software is built on MySQL, so for us there was a very small implementation and training curve - ICE uses the same familiar MySQL interface. The fact that ICE is an open source analytic solution presented us with several key benefits:

  1. Deployment speed: The time from download and installation to first production use was just three weeks.
  2. Affordability: Many of the proprietary commercial BI solutions available today require custom configuration, expensive licensing agreements and equally expensive hardware to support and run it. Not only was ICE free to install, we could also run the software on inexpensive commodity servers, eliminating the need to invest in high performance servers and storage arrays. (Our entire workload is supported by a single quad-core server.)
  3. Simplicity and flexibility: Because ICE is open and standards-based, we can quickly make changes as needed without requiring extensive IT assistance. In addition, it's often a lot simpler to make fixes or upgrade an open source solution because an entire community contributes their expertise to fixing bugs and making improvements. With proprietary software, users have to wait for issues to be addressed by the vendor, which can take much longer.

MX Force is currently using ICE to quickly isolate mail flow problems and trends. In our experience, using a free, open source product has not in any way involved a compromise on performance or capabilities. We are achieving 10:1 data compression, which saves on storage costs and boosts performance. Most statistical queries render results in less than five seconds. Ongoing administration is simple. The net result is that the product delivers the fast query performance and reporting functionality we needed, at an incredibly low cost for hardware and ongoing maintenance.

Look, then Leap
Interested in giving open source a try for your BI and analytic efforts? There are a number of compelling benefits to doing so, but as with any type of software, it's also important to look before you leap. Evaluation and testing considerations are no different than they would be for licensed software - you want to make sure the solution has the features and capabilities most relevant to your business. Also, there's a difference between open source projects that are at a very early and experimental stage and software that is well established and has a vibrant and involved community behind it, strong vendor support, or both. Investigate the support offered for the solution under consideration. How often are new features added? Are bug fixes made in a timely manner? Is there useful and accurate supporting documentation?

With ICE, we were certainly attracted by the many resources and significant participation of both Infobright and the user community. We also knew there was a commercial version available if we decided we needed the additional functionality it offered or a formal support contract. For companies just jumping in to the open source arena, it's best to avoid tools that haven't yet cultivated a strong following. But even if you do make a mistake, the low (and usually free) cost of open source means that there's minimal risk.

The BI requirements of today's data-driven businesses demand speed, simplicity and affordability. As open source solutions continue to mature, it's worth looking at projects that are focused on analytics, BI and other data management activities. The more nimble and flexible approach embodied by open source may just be the best fit for addressing the many information management challenges driven by data growth and complexity.

More Stories By Mike Makowski

Mike Makowski is CTO of MX Force, a leading provider of email security in the cloud and member of Infobright’s Customer Advisory Council. More information about MX Force can be found at http://www.mxforce.com/

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@MicroservicesExpo Stories
From personal care products to groceries and movies on demand, cloud-based subscriptions are fulfilling the needs of consumers across an array of market sectors. Nowhere is this shift to subscription services more evident than in the technology sector. By adopting an Everything-as-a-Service (XaaS) delivery model, companies are able to tailor their computing environments to shape the experiences they want for customers as well as their workforce.
If you read a lot of business and technology publications, you might think public clouds are universally preferred over all other cloud options. To be sure, the numbers posted by Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft’s Azure platform are nothing short of impressive. Statistics reveal that public clouds are growing faster than private clouds and analysts at IDC predict that public cloud growth will be 3 times that of private clouds by 2019.
"Outscale was founded in 2010, is based in France, is a strategic partner to Dassault Systémes and has done quite a bit of work with divisions of Dassault," explained Jackie Funk, Digital Marketing exec at Outscale, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
"We focus on SAP workloads because they are among the most powerful but somewhat challenging workloads out there to take into public cloud," explained Swen Conrad, CEO of Ocean9, Inc., in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
"I think DevOps is now a rambunctious teenager – it’s starting to get a mind of its own, wanting to get its own things but it still needs some adult supervision," explained Thomas Hooker, VP of marketing at CollabNet, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps Summit at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
For over a decade, Application Programming Interface or APIs have been used to exchange data between multiple platforms. From social media to news and media sites, most websites depend on APIs to provide a dynamic and real-time digital experience. APIs have made its way into almost every device and service available today and it continues to spur innovations in every field of technology. There are multiple programming languages used to build and run applications in the online world. And just li...
If you are thinking about moving applications off a mainframe and over to open systems and the cloud, consider these guidelines to prioritize what to move and what to eliminate. On the surface, mainframe architecture seems relatively simple: A centrally located computer processes data through an input/output subsystem and stores its computations in memory. At the other end of the mainframe are printers and terminals that communicate with the mainframe through protocols. For all of its appare...
Your homes and cars can be automated and self-serviced. Why can't your storage? From simply asking questions to analyze and troubleshoot your infrastructure, to provisioning storage with snapshots, recovery and replication, your wildest sci-fi dream has come true. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, Dan Florea, Director of Product Management at Tintri, provided a ChatOps demo where you can talk to your storage and manage it from anywhere, through Slack and similar services with...
"Peak 10 is a hybrid infrastructure provider across the nation. We are in the thick of things when it comes to hybrid IT," explained Michael Fuhrman, Chief Technology Officer at Peak 10, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
There is a huge demand for responsive, real-time mobile and web experiences, but current architectural patterns do not easily accommodate applications that respond to events in real time. Common solutions using message queues or HTTP long-polling quickly lead to resiliency, scalability and development velocity challenges. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ryland Degnan, a Senior Software Engineer on the Netflix Edge Platform team, will discuss how by leveraging a reactive stream-based protocol,...
"DivvyCloud as a company set out to help customers automate solutions to the most common cloud problems," noted Jeremy Snyder, VP of Business Development at DivvyCloud, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Data reduction delivers compelling cost reduction that substantially improves the business case in every cloud deployment model. No matter which cloud approach you choose, the cost savings benefits from data reduction should not be ignored and must be a component of your cloud strategy. IT professionals are finding that the future of IT infrastructure lies in the cloud. Data reduction technologies enable clouds — public, private, and hybrid — to deliver business agility and elasticity at the lo...
"At the keynote this morning we spoke about the value proposition of Nutanix, of having a DevOps culture and a mindset, and the business outcomes of achieving agility and scale, which everybody here is trying to accomplish," noted Mark Lavi, DevOps Solution Architect at Nutanix, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
DevOps at Cloud Expo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 21st Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to w...
"As we've gone out into the public cloud we've seen that over time we may have lost a few things - we've lost control, we've given up cost to a certain extent, and then security, flexibility," explained Steve Conner, VP of Sales at Cloudistics,in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
"I will be talking about ChatOps and ChatOps as a way to solve some problems in the DevOps space," explained Himanshu Chhetri, CTO of Addteq, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
DevOps is often described as a combination of technology and culture. Without both, DevOps isn't complete. However, applying the culture to outdated technology is a recipe for disaster; as response times grow and connections between teams are delayed by technology, the culture will die. A Nutanix Enterprise Cloud has many benefits that provide the needed base for a true DevOps paradigm. In their Day 3 Keynote at 20th Cloud Expo, Chris Brown, a Solutions Marketing Manager at Nutanix, and Mark Lav...
"NetApp's vision is how we help organizations manage data - delivering the right data in the right place, in the right time, to the people who need it, and doing it agnostic to what the platform is," explained Josh Atwell, Developer Advocate for NetApp, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Five years ago development was seen as a dead-end career, now it’s anything but – with an explosion in mobile and IoT initiatives increasing the demand for skilled engineers. But apart from having a ready supply of great coders, what constitutes true ‘DevOps Royalty’? It’ll be the ability to craft resilient architectures, supportability, security everywhere across the software lifecycle. In his keynote at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, Jeffrey Scheaffer, GM and SVP, Continuous Delivery Busine...
"We do one of the best file systems in the world. We learned how to deal with Big Data many years ago and we implemented this knowledge into our software," explained Jakub Ratajczak, Business Development Manager at MooseFS, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.