Birst, a provider of cloud BI and analytics, debuted a new product delivery and consumption framework today called Networked BI. 

The company is hoping that this is a concept with industry legs: It's building its next-generation of BI products on this platform. 

Networked BI is more than just a product strategy for Birst. Rather, the company sees it as the start of a movement for the virtualization of business intelligence.

"We want to do the same thing for business intelligence that VMware did for servers," Pedro Arellano, senior director of Product Strategy at Birst, told CMSWire. "We believe we are in a position to virtualize the entire BI ecosystem.

What It Does

Networked BI, as the name suggests, virtualizes the BI ecosystem from the use of analytics, to application development lifecycles to what the end users do with these tools. Data mashups and content will be transformed as well by Networked BI, according to Birst.

The new framework, which has been built on top of Birst's cloud architecture, creates a network of interwoven BI instances that share a common analytical fabric.

Arellano defines analytical fabric as the layer between the raw data, the data warehouses and analytics and the end user. It is the metadata or semantic layer, he said.

With Networked BI, employees can augment their company's "global analytical fabric" with their own local data to, for example, create localized marketing initiatives or better fine tune local sales pipelines.  But, because the original BI instance is virtual, this augmentation doesn’t change the data at its source.

"This addresses one of the biggest changes that have always faced IT leaders in their analytics deployments," Arellano said. "Traditionally, the way to extend the use of BI across an enterprises entailed a lot of physical replication of the BI infrastructure. The constant synchronization that was necessary was very time consuming and expensive and led to data silos and questions about the accuracy of data."

For that reason, virtualized BI will also support good governance practices because the source data stays intact, he added.

Crowdsourcing BI

Meanwhile, decentralized teams and individual users can customize to their heart's content, adding not only local data but also business definitions that may be relevant in a specific region or city.

"Think of it as an organically grown — 'crowdsourced' if you will — network of common business semantics, Arellano wrote in a blog post that went live this morning:

"A Sales Operations Manager, for instance, can analyze opportunities by salesperson across different regions. Through virtualization and smart discovery, an automatically generated business model can be shared with the Marketing team. A Campaign Manager may then augment this model with her own data and expand the analysis to include market segments, without impacting the work of the Sales Ops manager."

The virtualization of BI will redefine our approach to enterprise analytics, Arellano concludes in his post. He doesn't specify exactly who is meant by "our." Clearly, though, he is hoping it will be more universal than just Birst and its client base.

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Title image by Ryan Tauss.