Birst Says We Are First with On Demand, Automated Business Intelligence

October 3, 2008

I am interested in companies with true innovations. The headline in this October 1, 2008, article here caught my attention. Birst (clever name, that) asserts that the service provides “complete, end-to-end BI solution that solves the two greatest challenges of BI: cost and complexity.” I agree that most of the business intelligence systems with which I have experimented are complicated. The reasons extend beyond the SAS, SPSS, Cognos or Business Objects software and interfaces. The problems I recall are:

  1. Obtaining valid data
  2. Forming statistically valid subsets or cubes
  3. Knowing what specific statistical methods are appropriate for the data
  4. Making intelligent decisions about the statistical operations themselves.

The easy part is looking at the graphs, charts, and tables. An error in the data means that the ease of use and eye candy are going to give the user information that may be misleading at best and completely incorrect at worst. Business intelligence, then, is more than indexing some unstructured content, performing entity extraction, migraine structured and unstructured data. These are quite challenging tasks. The real issue is the selection and management of the mathematical methods. With the black swam problem the grim reminder that the clever creators of Black Scholes partial differential equation were not really as informed as the lads convinced themselves they were, one would think that “automated” business intelligence vendors would be more conservative in their claims.

Success Metrics, the developer of Birst, uses this diagram to explain how the system ingests data and makes analyses and reports available as a cloud service:


The process involves three steps. You upload your data to Birst. Via the browser interface, you analyze and generate reports. The reports can be shared with colleagues via a “shared space” on the Birst servers. Prices for the service range from a no charge for an account processing 10 megabytes per month to $200 a month for 100 megabytes of data per month. Custom quotes are available for data transfers greater than 100 megabytes. If you bump into a limit, Birst offers a reasonable price for upgrading an account; for example, to move from 100 megabytes to 500 megabytes per month, the additional fee is $399 per month.

According to the report on Cardholders:

As a general BI solution, Birst handles any type of data, including finance, operations, marketing, customer service, and sales information. It also accepts columnar data held in csv, Access databases, or Excel files. Fully automated, it’s easy and quick to get started with Birst. Within a few minutes of signing up and uploading data, users can be creating their own reports and analysis. Birst even creates some dashboard reports for users automatically; these automatic dashboards are known as Quick Dashboards.

A Birst report showing sales data appears below:


Other screen shots are available at

My view is that Birst and similar services will become increasingly popular in the coming months. The ability to move data from one cloud service such as to is particularly interesting to me. On premises business intelligence systems are not likely to be displaced quickly, but for some applications, the Birst-type service makes sense and slashes costs because no dedicated SAS, SPSS, or Cognos expert has to be available to support a field office, a department, or other entity with a need to analyze data via the Web.

Stephen Arnold, October 4, 2008


4 Responses to “Birst Says We Are First with On Demand, Automated Business Intelligence”

  1. Zos on October 3rd, 2008 3:26 pm

    Birst is a nice web app and nothing more, try to upload 100K of data to it and do simple tasks, on the other hand Querying a real time data is essential in many cases and birst cant do it.

    anyhow 400$ for 1/2 GB of data is pricey


  2. Stephen E. Arnold on October 3rd, 2008 8:15 pm


    Thanks for taking the time to comment. Birst has contacted me to help me get a better understanding of their system. I appreciate your taking the time to comment.

    Stephen Arnold, October 3, 2008

  3. Dave Pugh on April 14th, 2010 2:53 pm

    Do you have any recent comments / experience regarding Birst?

    Thanks Dave

  4. Barbara Lewis on April 19th, 2010 11:25 am

    Just wanted to clarify a few points about Birst.

    – Birst scales to the terabyte level and is in use at some of the largest companies in the United States, so yes, you can load far more than 100k in data.

    – Birst won The Data Warehousing Institute’s Best Practices Award for Dashboards and Scorecards for its implementation at RBC Wealth Management. Winners have to be deployed for over a year and demonstrate real business value. This is a highly complex implementation that was done in just a couple of months and continues to deliver real value.

    – Birst won the 2010 Red Herring Global 100 award for being one of the top 100 private technology companies int he world.

    – In the Birst 4 upgrade of Fall 2009, Birst launched “Live Access” which allows you to leave your data on-premise in your data warehouse and query it in Birst on-demand. So it refreshes your Birst dashboards and reports as quickly as your data is refreshed in the underlying data warehouse.

    – Birst has updated its pricing model – Birst pricing gives significant discounts for large application data volumes.

    You can see which customers are using BIrst (like Citrix, Rackspace, Securian, etc.) at the Birst website:

    Barbara Lewis
    Director of Marketing, Birst

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