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Tibco WebFocus update aims to make analytics accessible

The platform update adds capabilities including a hub for analytics assets and natural language query designed to increase the number of potential users within organizations.

Tibco on April 19 unveiled the first major update of WebFocus since the vendor acquired the platform in October 2020.

WebFocus was longtime analytics vendor Information Builder's main BI platform. In July 2020, the vendor changed its name to IBI, and just over three months later was acquired by Tibco.

New capabilities

In the 18 months since the acquisition, Tibco, founded in 1997 and based in Palo Alto, Calif., has enhanced WebFocus, but the launch of WebFocus 9.0.0 marks its first major update since becoming part of Tibco's suite of analytics platforms, according to Mark Palmer, Tibco's general manager and senior vice president of analytics, data science and data products.

New capabilities included in WebFocus 9.0.0 include:

  • the Container Edition, a cloud-native version of WebFocus that provides users with a microservices-based platform for container-based deployments on their cloud of choice;
  • the Hub, an index for data content that enables users to easily search and find data assets; and
  • enhancements to Designer that enable users to manage and stage data sets when authoring content, more easily enhance and manipulate data when creating content, create multi-layer maps for geospatial analysis, and receive instant insights via data science and machine learning capabilities.

Each of the new and enhanced capabilities is aimed at making analytics accessible to a broader group of users, according to Palmer.

We fundamentally think that not enough people are using analytics, and the same is true for augmented intelligence and machine learning. So in the WebFocus update, there is a bunch of stuff aimed at solving that problem. It's all about BI for the masses.
Mark PalmerGeneral manager and senior vice president of analytics, data science and data products, Tibco

Many studies have shown that only about a quarter of employees within organizations use analytics as part of their work, and that lack of penetration beyond 20% to 30% has stayed steady for quite some time. With the latest version of WebFocus -- as well as ongoing enhancements to Spotfire and Jaspersoft, Tibco's two other BI platforms -- Tibco said it is attempting to break through that barrier.

"I think there's a theme here," Palmer said. "We fundamentally think that not enough people are using analytics, and the same is true for augmented intelligence and machine learning. So in the WebFocus update, there is a bunch of stuff aimed at solving that problem. It's all about BI for the masses."

According to Wayne Eckerson, founder and principal consultant of Eckerson Group, the Container Edition stands out among the new capabilities included in WebFocus 9.0.0.

The Container Edition is a fully cloud-native version of WebFocus that simplifies and accelerates Kubernetes deployments in any cloud environment and is designed to help customers to complete jobs faster by enabling them to scale their deployments and run multiple tasks concurrently.

"The container edition is interesting," Eckerson said.

A sample Tibco WebFocus dashboard.
The latest Tibco WebFocus platform update includes new mapping capabilities for geospatial analysis.

He also noted that the Hub is a useful tool for customers, but added that such portals are not uncommon.

In addition to the Container Edition, the Hub and enhancements to Designer, WebFocus 9.0.0 includes natural language query capabilities, which, like the other additions, are aimed at making analytics more accessible.

NLQ enables users to query and work with data without needing to know code.

"NLQ is part of that theme of using a machine to generate outcomes," Palmer said.

He added that the addition of NLQ capabilities is the result of Tibco's data science team working with the WebFocus team to take capabilities from Spotfire, another of Tibco's three analytics platforms, and add them to WebFocus.

"We partnered with NLQ vendors on the Spotfire front and we borrowed that for WebFocus," Palmer said.

Future plans

Going forward, while Tibco plans to continue taking capabilities from its many other tools and adding them to WebFocus -- in particular, Tibco Data Virtualization -- Palmer said that Tibco plans to keep its three BI platforms separate.

He compared them to cars. Just as someone who wants a sports car might buy a Porsche, while someone who wants a family-friendly car might buy an SUV or minivan, WebFocus, Spotfire and Jaspersoft each appeal to a different audience.

WebFocus specializes in scalable reporting capabilities that enable thousands of users to view and work with the same data, Spotfire enables deep exploration of data with streaming analytics and data science capabilities, and Jaspersoft is designed for developers and enables them to embed BI within applications.

Tibco's product development plans, meanwhile, will continue to center on the concept of making analytics accessible to a broader audience, according to Palmer.

"The topic of democratization of data is something you're never done with," he said. "Most tools on the market are designed by analytics people for analytics people."

Palmer added that Tibco plans extend integrations between its data virtualization platform and its BI platforms so AI models are more accessible. And with respect to WebFocus, the vendor's plans are to continue enhancing the platform by adding capabilities from other tools within the Tibco ecosystem.

"Those kind of things are technologies that Information Builders wouldn't have ever had access to," Palmer said. "There are things we do well that are additive for WebFocus."

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