Recently I was inspired to learn more about Sisense after seeing them listed as a Visionary in the 2017 Gartner Magic Quadrant for BI and Analytics Platforms. I also noticed Sisense categorized with smart data discovery vendors at Gartner’s future trends session in Grapevine, TX. Smart data discovery and analytics automation are areas that I am obsessed with since those solutions can disrupt the data discovery market that ironically disrupted traditional BI.

The following solution review outlines the findings from my Sisense 6.6 analyst briefing and a technical “hands-on” evaluation. Proactive alerting powered by machine learning, natural language Sisense bot, in-chip analytics technology impressed me the most. All in all, I was shocked at how far Sisense has evolved since I last reviewed them in 2013. They are one to keep an eye on over the next few years.

Introducing Sisense

Sisense is a business analytics software company with offices in New York, Tel Aviv, Scottsdale, Kiev and Japan. The company was born in the early 2000s with an idea. The idea that data analytics can be made fluent, easy and fast by radically improving data processing capabilities through technological innovation. After working for six years in stealth mode on an In-Chip™ data engine along with an intuitive dashboard offering, Sisense launched its first commercial release in 2010.

Sisense’s In-Chip data engine is a collection of proprietary software technologies that allows businesses to scale to more data, more complex data models, and more users by better utilizing computer resources across disk, memory, and CPU. This technology enables sub-second query times on a terabyte of data. In-chip makes full use of available memory on the machine across RAM and CPU caches, learns to fetch and cache compressed result sets in advance and builds on columnar database technology to increase performance and get more out of multi-core CPUs that have become commodity. It enables clients to get more out of a smaller hardware footprint, deliver higher performance analytics so that queries are snappy and users are happy.

Bottom line = Fast Sisense = Smiling Customer

Sisense In-Chip

Just like this diagram, team Sisense has a zesty personality! I found them to be quite enjoyable to work with during the evaluation. Here is my impression of their offerings.

Solution Overview

Sisense offers an end-to-end, single stack agile BI solution. It contains features for data preparation, data modeling, dashboards, intelligent alerting, native mobile apps for iPhone and Android, a “bot”, and rich developer options for embedding, extensibility and API integration. Today Sisense can be deployed on-premises or as infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) on public cloud platforms. No software-as-a-service (SaaS) cloud option is currently available.

Sisense technical architecture

Getting Started

After installing Sisense, the user is guided through the user interface and shown excellent links to online help, tutorials, community site, examples, extension galleries and more. Sisense connects to a wide variety of data source types to bring data into the platform. A new capability in Sisense 6.6 is the ability to pass-through queries via direct connect to data sources without having copy data. In my opinion, direct connect capabilities are a “must have” when buying these solutions in a big data world.

Sisense supports popular data sources and is also extensible allowing additional data sources to be created. Many useful Sisense connectors are hiding in an elusive, categorized online data connector library that users can download and install.

Sisense Connectors

An immediate high value-add asset for Sisense customers is a lovely industry model template library covering customer service, digital marketing, finance, healthcare, human resources, manufacturing, sales & marketing, retail, social responsibility and telecom. Typically, data preparation and data modeling is the most time-consuming process for analytics pros. Plug-and-play templates eliminate a lot of development work and allow you to simply customize your insights.

An immediate high value-add asset for Sisense customers is a lovely industry model template library

Once data is connected, users can quickly prepare, customize, or optionally model data in a visual diagram view. They can also create global hierarchies. Notably Sisense enables powerful “drill-anywhere” that does not require hierarchies to be pre-defined. Drill-anywhere is compelling and flexible as it allows users to ask any question without having to go back to update a data model. In traditional BI, adding hierarchies was a BI professional level task, required development team cycles and required OLAP processing. Drill-anywhere is a perfect example of truly modern, agile approaches to BI that allow the business to get answers right away…not wait for them.

Dashboards and Alerts

Sisense’s simple and intuitive HTML5 dashboards are attractive and fully responsive with standard D3 visualizations. A vast custom gallery of visualizations and extensions along with color palettes and custom colors allows users to design creative, actionable dashboards.

Sisense Custom Viz

Through simple point-and-click options, users can enjoy rich time intelligence, select advanced measures, trendlines, add R calculations, apply conditional formatting to tables and design interactive dashboards. Notably a few of these features are hidden gems that can be easily missed.

Sisense R

By default, Sisense dashboards automatically contextually filter all charts on the page with filters. However, users can assign global or widget level filters to each object. Extensions provide users that ability to add Actions to dashboards to link and pass values to an app, web site, report or another dashboard.

Sisense Features

Strong scheduling functionality provides granular options for emailing secure report links or Adobe PDF report attachments in various layouts and sizes on a defined schedule or when data is updated.

My favorite feature by far is Sisense Pulse alerting. Users can select a metric on a chart for Sisense to automatically, intelligently monitor for them. Alerts are triggered by conditions users define including threshold-based alerts, automatic alerts powered by machine learning and continuously monitored alerts that notify any time there is a change to a widget’s data.

Sisense Pulse Alerts

Sisense Pulse Feed provides a streaming updates list and the Pulse page is a centralized portal of user selected KPIs. Pulse notifications can be delivered through email, through the Sisense mobile app, and through other enterprise apps such as Slack or Zapier. Pulse events can be used to create automated workflows, which tie notifications into other applications for data-intelligent automation of business processes. For more information on this feature, check out the check out the video in this article.

With Sisense Pulse, users select metrics to automatically, intelligently monitor

Another capability that I appreciated is Sisense’s analytics bot. In case you missed the memo, analytics bots are hot. Bots deliver immediate, actionable answers to analytics questions using natural language and your favorite device or app. This technology is still relatively new but it does have potential to make insights even more accessible to anyone when and where they need it.

Sisense Analytics BotDeveloper APIs and Extensions

Today Sisense excels in embedded analytics with approximately half of their customers in that segment. Developers love because it enables them to build their own product on top of a functional platform. Every element in Sisense is designed to be accessed and modified via extensively documented JavaScript and REST API.

Sisense Analytics Bot is an example of using Sisense APIs in action for innovative use cases or integration.

 

Highlighted developer features include:

  • Single-click single-sign-on (SSO)
  • Active Directory (AD) integration
  • White labeling
  • SQL API
  • REST API
  • Custom REST connector
  • JavaScript API
  • Pre-build and post-build plug-ins
  • Shell script automation

Summary

That wraps up my overview of Sisense 6.6. The solution is very nice, deep and leads the pack with regards to intelligent alerting. The only grumbles that I had were related to data preparation that is already being improved on and discoverability of cool calculations, data sources and extensions that I totally missed! Like many other analytics solutions that I review, Sisense also may want to consider the trends of natural language query search and analytics automation with machine learning in the platform to take the analytics experience even further.

For more information on Sisense, check out the following resources.