I'm piling on the annual ritual of year-end-reviews. Here's my roundup of high points from 2019, with links to my deeper analyses.

  • Biggest deal of the year: Salesforce buys Tableau. At $15.7 billion, this one takes the size prize. The critics says it's just Salesforce buying revenue. I agree it's not as synergistic as it could be and they'll have to work out overlaps, but as I point out in this blog, Salesforce is the one acquiring company that tends to retain the leadership and culture of the companies it acquires. Tableau has a unique culture, as is always apparent at the annual Tableau Conference, and if the acquirer can't retain that vibe, they'll lose the value of the company. As witnessed at Dreamforce 2019, Salesforce is really good at keeping the vibe going, so I think Tableau is in good hands.
  • Best acquisition of the year: Google buys Looker. Up-and-comer Looker gives Google a serious foundation for next-generation BI and analytics. Yes, Looker will have to maintain its support for third-party cloud databases, like Snowflake, Redshift, and Azure SQL, but I really like the data-modeling, reusability and embedding potential of Looker. As I note in this blog, Google is a good position to help Looker with its augmented analytics capabilities, which are nascent. It's a good sign that the Looker team is staying focused on its pre-acquisition priorities and mission.
  • Analytics trend to watch: Embedding in Applications. The complaint used to be about too much data; now I'm hearing companies lament they're drowning in insights. Lots of business types are less interested in the what-happened analysis than the "what should I do about it" recommended actions. In this blog I write about how Oracle, SAP and Workday and ramping up their efforts to embed anlytics directly into their applications. Salesforce is doing the same thing with Einstein Analytics, though it puts an extra emphasis on recommended actions tied to desired outcomes. Watch this space. My first report of 2020 will be on embedded analytics, but not just in commercial, off-the-shelf apps. I'm seeing innovators and fast followers developing custom analytic applications and data- and insight-driven services that drive action, not just analysis.
  • Talking the Talk prize for 2019: Cloud planning vendors. I attended every cloud-based planning event in 2019 (Anaplan, Host Analytics, Workday/Adaptive Insights, among others) and they were all talking about adding human-augmenting "AI" capabilities -- but none of them actually had anything to show. They were all positioning and previewing over the spring and early summer shows. Finally, as they year was coming to a close, Anaplan made a concrete announcement about a predictive sales planning capability based on "AI-enriched insights." The capability is said to be available as of this December 18, 2019 announcement, but I won't get a briefing until 2020. In short, I'm expecting 2020 to be the "walking the walk" year for computer-augmented planning capabilities.
  • Big-picture tech trend: Open source adoption. Open source software is absolutely becoming the standard for enterprise and tech broadly. It started with Linux, which is the standard operating system of the cloud today. Open source is also winning in databases, with PostgreSQL, MongoDB and Cassandra all gaining ground in 2019. Open source dominates in data science, with Python (overtaking R) and frameworks such as TensorFlow, scikit Learn and other leading choices all being open source. In the streaming realm, Kafka is now ubiquitous. For 2020 and beyond I have my eye on the Alluxio virtual distributed file system and Presto SQL query engine as hot open source standards. It’s not so much the cost equation that's driving open source adoption, as you end up paying for support and, often, enterprise features available on top of the open source technology. The real value in open source is the pace and breadth of innovation. Healthy open source communities attract contributions that no single company could develop on its own.

I've reached an age where the years seem to go by in a flash, and I'm seeing patterns repeating, like the acquisitions in the analytics space. Consolidation was a big trend in analytics in 2019. The headline examples were Looker/Google and Tableau/Salesforce, but there were smaller examples, such as ZoomData/LogiAnalytics and Periscope Data/SiSense. That trend will continue as competition heats up, but as we’ve seen before, the cycle will repeat itself after a period of complacency leads to a fresh round of innovation. There was a wave of consolidation in 2007/2008 with BusinessObjects/SAP, Hyperion/Siebel/Oracle and Cognos/IBM deals. At the time, many thought that would leave the lion’s share of the market in the hands of the large vendors, but instead it led to the self-service revolution and wave of new competitors. I’m sure history will repeat itself.

Happy New Year to all!