Our Data & Analytics team explores key features, business benefits, industry applications, and technical capabilities of Microsoft Cortana Intelligence Suite.
Blog two of a series.
Cortana Intelligence Suite is Microsoft’s foray into the emerging and rapidly maturing area of what Gartner refers to as advanced analytics platforms.
Advanced analytics platforms package the following: data collection, data management, advanced analytics and machine learning capabilities into one cohesive bundle.
The goal of these platforms is simple: To eliminate the need to cobble together disparate tools that include database solutions, analytics and/or machine learning, and visualization capabilities. Instead, they provide one solution that gives an organization the ability to mine data, learn from the data, and present those findings all in one easy-to-use package.
The growth in this area has been aggressive over the past few years and we expect it to continue on that path for the foreseeable future.
The State of Advanced Analytics Platforms
Gartner refers to these packages as advanced analytics platforms. Forrester refers to them as enterprise insight platforms.
Forrester further differentiates the offerings by separating private server, on-premise solutions from public cloud solutions. Cloud vs. on-premises is a major decision that organizations must make, but for the sake of this article, we will leave that decision to the individuals.
The growth of cloud services and solutions indicates that a growing number of organizations are comfortable with public cloud solutions.
No matter what you call this space, it is a competitive environment with technology giants as well as start-up and emerging tech companies – all of whom are swimming in the same pool.
Companies such as SAS and IBM have been in the advanced analytics and machine learning space for a considerable time. IBM is probably the best known, mostly because of Watson and its exposure on Jeopardy.
Although Microsoft also has capabilities in this area, it’s relatively new when it comes to being seen as a thought leader and visionary in this space.
Microsoft Closes the Gap on the Competition
Indicators point to fierce competition with rapid advancements in tools – and platforms – as all of the companies strive to make advanced analytics and machine learning an easy-to-use, easy-to-implement component of day-to-day business decision-making.
During the past couple years, however, Microsoft has been rapidly closing the gap on industry leaders, which includes companies such as SAS, IBM, KNIME and RapidMiner.
In 2016, Gartner saw Microsoft leading the pack in regards to the completeness of vision with Cortana. Some of the differentiators:
- Microsoft’s Azure Marketplace allows vendors to sell their data services, which includes things like address verification modules, market basket analysis APIs, and healthcare-related solutions that can run on Azure as a part of Cortana Intelligence Suite.
- Another differentiator for Microsoft is the extensive marketplace and partner network. The Microsoft Partner Network includes third-party solutions for industries such as healthcare, utilities, retail and aerospace.
- Microsoft has also heavily invested in Cortana Intelligence Suite as a selling point for Azure. As a result, it has put a lot of energy into its vision, roadmap and strategy.
Look for Microsoft to continue its rapid growth and maturity in 2017 and beyond.
About Microsoft Cortana’s Competition
When it comes to the competition, some of the other players have been around longer and have more mature offerings. Below are three:
- IBM – With its Watson-related offerings, IBM continues to be the most recognized name driving momentum in the area of advanced analytics and machine learning. The company’s most powerful tools include SPSS Statistics and SPSS Modeler. Microsoft and IBM compete on a daily basis. However, they differ in approach, cost, and target clients. Also, if an organization is heavily invested in either Microsoft or IBM products, they will most likely remain with that vendor in this space.
- SAS – Another big player in this space is SAS, which has a large user and partner base. With products for data mining, statistical analysis, forecasting and text analytics, SAS offers a compelling solution. Although SAS has long been seen as a market leader in the analytics space, the high cost of licensing is an issue that has led some of its loyal customer bases to switch to other platforms.
- KNIME – It’s free open-source offering (they also offer a commercial desktop-based solution) makes KNIME a strong player in this space. Many companies find open-source offerings appealing – and for this reason alone KNIME will continue to be a key player. KNIME has an active community of users and contributors but comes with the same challenges as all other open-source platforms – contributors with competing visions, a lack of focus, and lack of well-defined product roadmaps.
How Microsoft Cortana Offers an Advanced Solution
In evaluating the competitive landscape, it was clear to us that Microsoft Cortana Intelligence Suite is a strong player that needs to be considered in any strategy and assessment effort.
What does Microsoft’s offering have working in its favor? The Cortana Intelligence Suite offers a complete solution. The full range of capabilities includes:
- Information Management through tools such as a Data catalog and Event Hubs.
- Data Management through SQL Data Warehouse and Data Lakes.
- Machine Learning and Advanced Analytics.
- Dashboards and Visualization tools.
- Intelligence delivered through a Bot Framework and Bot services.
Cortana Intelligence Suite also offers a large and growing number of pre-configured solutions delivered through the Microsoft Partner Network. These pre-configured solutions support business processes including demand forecasting, financial forecasting, risk management, and predictive maintenance.
The fact that Microsoft’s platform offers SQL Server 2016 is another differentiator as SQL Server is a widely known and widely adopted database platform that is fast, reliable and scalable.
Finally, Microsoft’s newfound openness to open platforms and integration make another compelling argument for taking a closer look at Cortana Intelligence Suite.
As we move into 2017, it will be interesting to watch the maturation of Advanced Analytics Platforms. Microsoft’s heavy investment in Azure and Cortana Intelligence Suite, the ever-growing marketplace and partner network, their openness to open platforms and integration, and Cortana’s price point make it a viable solution.