Getty Images/iStockphoto

Yellowfin enhances NLQ tool in analytics platform update

The release is the vendor's first since being acquired by Idera in early 2022 and builds on natural language query features it first launched in late 2021.

New natural language query capabilities highlight the latest analytics platform update from Yellowfin.

The update -- Yellowfin 9.8 -- is the analytics vendor's first since it was acquired in January 2022 by B2B software specialist Idera Inc., which is parent company to about 30 companies in addition to Yellowfin.

At the time of the acquisition, Yellowfin founder Glen Rabie, who had been the vendor's CEO from its inception in 2003 before stepping down shortly after the sale, said he hoped the sale to Idera would enable Yellowfin to reach a broader customer base than it could while operating independently from its base in Melbourne, Australia.

Yellowfin, whose wide-ranging analytics platform is made up of capabilities including embedded BI and data storytelling, was made part of Idera's developer tools business, where it joined APILayer, Embarcadero, Filestack, Froala, FusionCharts, LANSA, Sencha, UltraEdit and Whole Tomato.

Now headquartered in Austin, Texas, Yellowfin is under the leadership of Atanas Popov, general manager of Idera's developer tools business.

While it remains to be seen if Idera will make significant changes to Yellowfin or keep it largely the same, the first platform update since the acquisition revealed little, according to David Menninger, analyst at Ventana Research.

It's hard to tell from this one release if there has been any change in direction or priorities for Yellowfin now that it is part of Idera. It's always a challenging period following an acquisition.
David MenningerAnalyst, Ventana Research

"It's hard to tell from this one release if there has been any change in direction or priorities for Yellowfin now that it is part of Idera," he said. "It's always a challenging period following an acquisition. People leave, [and] the ones who stay don't necessarily know the new processes yet."

New NLQ capabilities

The latest analytics platform update from Yellowfin, which launched on Sept. 29, builds on the last one it released before being acquired by Idera.

Yellowfin released version 9.7 in December 2021 and featured a tool called Guided Natural Language Query (NLQ).

The tool enables customers to ask questions of their data using natural language rather than code. It also guides them through thousands of modeled questions and follow-ups before delivering an automated visualization and report.

At the time, though beneficial to existing customers by enabling them to do more self-service exploring of data, the addition of the capability was seen as a catch-up move more than innovation, given that Yellowfin competitors including Amazon QuickSight, ThoughtSpot and Tableau have strong NLQ capabilities.

Yellowfin 9.8 updates Guided NLQ with the intention of making it more powerful and easier to use, according to the vendor.

The new capabilities in Guided NLQ include the following:

  • cross-tabulation reports -- two-dimensional or more -- that enable users to view metric data in both rows and columns, and ask questions using a cross-tabulation keyboard;
  • added intuitive capabilities that let users create synonyms for fields so that they don't have to remember the specific name of a field to use it in a question;
  • query cancellation capabilities so that users can cancel a query that might take a long time to run and slow the performance of a database while running;
  • the ability to query data that does not contain a date, whereas previously a date range had to be associated with data to run a query; and
  • auto-population of the date period by setting a default date period for queries and reports.

While not an entirely new tool, the updated version of Guided NLQ has the potential to substantially benefit Yellowfin users, according to Menninger.

He noted that NLQ is an emerging technology, so it's expected that there would be enhancements to a feature that was first introduced less than a year ago.

"NLQ is a valuable way to expand access to analytics -- it makes it easier -- but it's also hard to get right, so it's no surprise to see some fine-tuning needed," he said.

In particular, the intuitive capabilities that enable users to create synonyms are an important addition.

"The notion of synonyms is critical for making NLQ more flexible," Menninger said. "Not everyone in an organization knows the terminology used in creating the data model. Since Yellowfin uses a guided NLQ approach, which prompts users with the list of terms available, it may not have been considered critical for the first release a year ago."

A sample Yellowfin dashboard
A sample dashboard from analytics vendor Yellowfin displays an organization's tequila sales.

More features

In addition to the new version of Guided NLQ, the latest Yellowfin analytics platform update includes a new auto-run setting for building reports, simplified view configurations, and an automatic prompt if a report is taking longer than expected to run so that developers can elect whether to continue running the report or cancel it.

None of the features represent cutting-edge advancements, but they are nevertheless useful, Menninger said.

As Yellowfin integrates into the Idera ecosystem, it's likely that updates with more analytics tools will follow the release of version 9.8.

The vendor has long been associated with emerging technologies in analytics, such as data storytelling and embedded BI, that attempt to enable more users within organizations to work with data. Yellowfin's data storytelling peers include specialists such as Narrative Science, now part of Tableau, and Toucan Toco, while its embedded BI peers include Logi Analytics and Sisense.

And the vendor was among the first to introduce an effective mobile app for analytics.

Nevertheless, Yellowfin is small in size compared with many of its competitors, including Qlik and Tableau, as well as platforms managed by tech giants such as Microsoft Power BI. As a result, Yellowfin is not as full-featured as some other analytics platforms.

Areas it could improve include the addition of in-memory analysis capabilities and more support for big data, Menninger said.

Dig Deeper on Business intelligence technology

Data Management
Content Management