[caption id="attachment_1527" align="aligncenter" width="576" caption="Clickfox (above) and other IT vendors offer cloud-based analytics and data support."] [/caption] Not too long ago, making use of advanced analytics required massive investments in IT infrastructure and application software. Obviously, that tended to limit the number of organizations that could afford to take advantage of advanced analytics software. But with the advent of cloud computing, the situation is starting to change. Not only has advanced application software become more accessible via the cloud, the cost of launching a consulting organization based on a particular analytics capability has dropped considerably. Case in point is Pitagora Informationsmanagement GmbH, which leverages IBM Cognos software in the cloud to provide analytics and business intelligence services. According to Stefan Illwitzer, a partner in the firm, the service allows customers to take advantage of the “cloudbursting” capabilities of the IBM cloud—in other words, they only need to invest in enough IT infrastructure to support average workloads versus peak processing times. Nor is Pitagora the only company making use of IBM software in the cloud to provide analytics capabilities. CloudTrigger relies on a combination of IBM Cognos software, Salesforce’s CRM platform, Geographic Information System (GIS) software from ESRI, and Google Maps for its services, which include the creation of geo-analytics applications. Cloud analytics applications can now be cost-effectively applied to short-term projects. IBM, for example, provides an IBM Slamtracker analytics service that captures, analyzes and visually renders a range of sporting-match data that can be compared in real time to historical data. IBM expects to apply that same capability to a range of sporting events—something that would be cost-prohibitive for most local data centers to set up and support. Nuevora’s customer analytics application, delivered as a service in the cloud, relies on a small army of analysts based in India who collectively act as an on-demand service. And Clickfox’s on-demand customer experience analytics application is delivered via the cloud as well. In the latter case, the idea is to deliver an application that is pretty much a turnkey environment once the network connections between Clickfox and the various sources of data are established.  Most recently, Clickfox updated its Customer Experience Analytics (CEA) platform with support for Big Data sets. “It can take about five to 10 days to set a system up for a customer,” said Jeff Goshman, vice president of product management for Clickfox. “But once that happens, we do all the heavy lifting on behalf of the business user.” The existence of these analytics services in the cloud is making it possible for organizations with pockets not as deep as those of a Fortune 500 company to develop in-house analytics capabilities. The other option involves signing up for one of the boutique analytics services that are starting to spring up all over the cloud, especially as organizations look for alternative approaches to dealing with the processing costs associated with Big Data. “With the rise of Big Data,” said Jeff Kaplan, managing director for THINKstrategies, a consulting firm that specializes in cloud computing, “organizations are looking for ways to scale analytic applications in the cloud.” The business implications of this trend are profound. Instead of relying on gut instinct, business executives will be able to validate decisions in seconds using facts that are readily available. In many instances, it should also provide smaller companies with the ability to gain insights into trends that will give them a strategic advantage. Of course, there is a relative shortage of people with the right level of business analytics skills—an issue that IBM, for example, is trying to address by investing in academic initiatives intended to increase the number of skilled business analysts. The good news is that, as it becomes less expensive to collect and analyze massive amounts of data, it’ll be possible for businesses to examine that data in new and deeper ways—revealing all sorts of insights in the process.   Image: Clickfox