Last week, Actuate, the company behind the open source Eclipse-based BIRT reporting project, acquired Quiterian, a Spanish-based software provider of advanced analytic technology. The acquisition provides Actuate with some sought-after advanced analytic capabilities that will help bolster its ActuateOne suite of products and deepen support for customer intelligence, social media analytics and visual data mining.
Quiterian isn’t particularly well known outside of its home market, but that’s not to say it hasn’t built up a successful customer base. Founded in 2003 and headquartered in Barcelona, Spain, the company has around 120 customers including Volkswagen, Deutsche Bank, and Station Casinos, as well as many government institutions. In addition to its customer base, Actuate also gets its hands on a large-scale data analysis engine and business-orientated analytical toolset. The infrastructure consists of an ETL engine for ingesting a wide range of data sources including social media, web, CRM, ERP and e-mails, an analytic data store designed for high-speed analysis and a set of business tools designed to help less analytically-orientated users make sense of the trends and patterns within their data, such as identifying profitable customers or customer segmentations for marketing campaigns, for example. Insights from the data are derived by implementing a range of analytic techniques such as set analysis, decision trees, segmentation, time series, and regression analysis.
The longer term view is that this acquisition will position Actuate more strongly in the growing advanced analytics space. Although the company has previously partnered in this area, for instance with KXEN, the company is better known as a provider of BI, reporting and performance management offerings. The plan here is to capitalise on Quiterian’s focus on enabling self-service discovery and analysis within business communities, rather than targeting traditional IT users or highly trained statisticians. In this sense Quiterian is not likely to pose a big threat to long-established and mature advanced analytic providers such as SAS and IBM SPSS that have a history of selling into these communities.
What it does provide, however, is an opportunity for Actuate to target a new line-of-business audience helping to lower the steep, complex and, more often than not, expensive learning curve that stops advanced analytics from reaching the hands of many mainstream users. This is a subtle but important change. Both as a commercial entity and as a member of the BIRT open source community Actuate has a loyal following amongst Java developers, many of whom build on or embed its technology within custom BI or operational business applications. That’s not to say it doesn’t already target other user constituencies, its acquisition of Performancesoft in 2006, for instance, saw the company move more prosaically towards providing business tools and analytic applications for performance management. But this is a small part of Actuate’s business, in this sense Quiterian will help boost its standing and give it more credibility outside IT and the development community, in sales and marketing organisations for example. It will also give the company a stronger story around its support for Big Data since Quiterian’s data analysis engine works across larger volumes and different types of data.
With this in mind it’s no surprise to see that Actuate plans to integrate Quiterian’s technology into the ActuateOne product stack to form BIRT Analytics. ActuateOne provides a suite of capabilities based on technologies from open source BIRT as well as commercial value-add products such as in-memory analysis and dashboarding that will—if the acquisition goes smoothly—be naturally complemented with advanced analytics. The challenge for Actuate is to manage the integration and transition successfully whilst also expanding Quiterian’s business outside Spain and Europe. This would seem like a logical next step, especially given the uncertain economic conditions currently prevailing in the region.