Actian Review 2014
Actian is a viable enterprise solution to big data - most existing big data technologies are not. It also provides a Visual Analytics platform on a par with many other offerings, and Action Server enables production implementation and monitoring of predictive models. Every organization struggling with big data should take a look at Actian.
Actian provides a complete big data and analytics environment for enterprise analytics needs. What is more the technology is advanced, facilitating analytics tasks that simply are not possible with many other technologies. These are big claims, but Actian has been working quietly in the background to develop and acquire technology that is certainly way ahead of many big data analytics offerings. Today its technology is used in many large organisations to achieve what could otherwise not be achieved.
Big data, as many of us understand it right now, means patching together various parts of the Hadoop ecosystem to achieve the capability we need. This is technically complex, labour intensive, and quite frankly prone to errors. It also relies on a huge programming effort to achieve even modest results, and while Google and Facebook may have the skills and resources, many of us do not – and it is questionable whether we should want them. So for all practical purposes Actian has effectively solved the plumbing problem – connections to data sources, process flows and the infrastructure puzzle that currently accompanies big data efforts. They call it Big Data 2.0. Personally I don’t like these labels, but it does at least indicate that maybe things are moving on. The puzzle has been solved in the main through the acquisition of Pervasive – a data integration business with connectors for almost everything. Without a capability of this nature many businesses will stumble at this, the first real hurdle in analytically enabling business processes.
The next problem Actian has solved is that of speed. There is a database pedigree running through this firm that goes way back to the Ingres database. To solve the unique problems associated with big data Actian has developed its Vector database management system – designed from the ground up to take advantage of contemporary hardware architectures and the data structures used in analytics processes. Various benchmarks show it beating all the competition at a fraction of the price (sometimes an order of magnitude lower price).
With all this infrastructure in place it then becomes very easy to develop analytical processes, and with Actian this is achieved using the Visual Analytics Platform, a graphical environment supporting hundreds of functions. The speed of the technology means models can be developed very quickly, and Actian has customers who re-optimize their analytical models every ten minutes – overkill for many of us, but vital for some and not easily achieved any other way.
The only piece in this jigsaw that is missing is a management and monitoring environment to ensure models used in production are doing what is expected of them. Even here however Actian is developing its Action Server to provide a full production implementation and monitoring environment.
There are a lot of positives here – so what is the down side? Well as with any proprietary architecture there is some level of lock-in (although Actian does use Hadoop). But this is not more or less than any other solution, and the cost, performance, productivity and capability offered by Actian will prove irresistible to organisations who want to spend less time on the plumbing, and more time deriving business benefits from analytically enabled business processes. It’s all very different to the current run-of-the-mill big data hype, and definitely worth close inspection.