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Birst analytics key to partnership between Infor, Snowflake

A new partnership between Infor and Snowflake will use BI tools from Birst, acquired by Infor in 2017, to enable users to build automated data warehouses on Snowflake.

A new partnership agreement between Infor and Snowflake will allow customers of both vendors to build automated data warehouses within Snowflake using the Birst analytics platform.

Birst, a cloud-based business intelligence vendor based in San Francisco and founded in 2004, was acquired by Infor in 2017. Infor, meanwhile, is an ERP vendor based in New York and founded in 2002.

As a result of the partnership, revealed Feb. 25, joint customers of Infor and Snowflake will be able to use Birst's self-service data preparation tools to build their automated data warehouses natively on Snowflake, which recently raised $479 million in financing and could soon go public.

With both Birst and Snowflake running natively on AWS, customers won't need to extract their data out of Snowflake, pull it into Birst to transform and analyze it, then extract it from Birst and load it back into Snowflake.

Instead, they'll be able to do all their modeling, preparation and analysis on Snowflake.

"This is another in a long line of integrations with BI platform vendors for Snowflake, who are building out their partner portfolio nicely," said Donald Farmer, principal of TreeHive Strategy. "But this is likely more important for Birst, who will want to keep within shouting distance of the rapidly evolving cloud data warehouse market."

Joint Infor and Snowflake customers previously could store their data on Snowflake, but before the partnership had to do all of the data modeling, data preparation and data analysis outside of Snowflake.

In addition to eliminating the need to transport data back and forth, as a result of the partnership the Birst analytics platform will provide data governance and data security within Snowflake.

"It's a more streamlined approach to doing BI," said Kim Davis, Infor's vice president of BI and analytics partnerships.

It's also an extension of Infor's relationships with the various cloud data warehouses. Infor has partnership agreements with Exasol and AWS, and close relationships with other cloud data warehouses such as Microsoft SQL Server and SAP HANA.

"We've always looked for the best data warehouse," said Bhargav Addala, Birst's vice president of product management. "All databases are optimized to do one thing or another, and we are database-agnostic."

While the partnership between Infor and Snowflake is a positive development for users of the Birst analytics platform, some observers said Birst has suffered somewhat compared to the rest of the market since being acquired by Infor.

As is often the case as companies try to integrate following an acquisition, the growth of the Birst analytics platform has been held back as Infor and Birst figure out how to coexist, said Rita Sallam, an analyst at Gartner.

"Birst provides an end-to-end data warehouse, reporting and visualization platform built for the cloud," she said. "It has a powerful networked semantic metadata layer that enables business units to create models that can be promoted to the wider enterprise. But software quality and support quality are ongoing inhibitors of wider use."

Addala acknowledged struggles after the acquisition but said that Infor and Birst are now past any problems and focused on growing the Birst analytics platform within Infor's universe.

This is another in a long line of integrations with BI platform vendors for Snowflake, who are building out their partner portfolio nicely. But this is likely more important for Birst, who will want to keep within shouting distance of the rapidly evolving cloud data warehouse market.
Donald FarmerPrincipal, TreeHive Strategy

"We've been honest with our customers," he said. "After an acquisition there are bumps and there were some things that happened, but that happened in the past. Our biggest focus now is to bring Birst into Infor. Our customer base has gone up, our cloud is being rearchitected, and a lot of the challenge was because we hit scale before we expected it. Now it's about how we come out of it."

And as it looks to the future, a significant focus for the Infor-Birst combination is embedded analytics, and specifically Birst's analytic insight embedded in Infor ERP systems.

"A big focus for us is embedded analytics, and being embedded in ERPs," Addala said. "Where we want to go with this is AI, because we feel the value of AI and the ERP together is automatically surfacing insights. We're working on prebuilt smart workflows that will surface insights -- the insights will show up intrinsically within the ERPs, the insights will come to you."

Beyond that, Infor views the Birst analytics platform as a key part of the future for Infor's many customers in the process of migrating to the cloud. While Infor counts some of the largest high tech and aerospace companies among its customers, it also caters to farmers and breweries.

And according to Davis, just 10,000 of Infor's 65,000 customers are in the cloud. Those other 55,000, however, are being migrated. Once they move to the cloud, many will have the Birst analytics platform at their fingertips.

"Infor is releasing 30 cloud ERPs, and Birst is in 23 of those ERPs," Davis said. "In addition to doing standard BI, Birst is very closely tied to Infor's go-to-market strategy in those ERPs."

Infor customers migrating to the cloud will benefit not only from access to the Birst analytics platform, but also the new partnership with Snowflake, she added.

"It's a beautiful opportunity for both us and Snowflake, as well as those customers, are working toward the cloud," Davis said.

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