To call it dumb luck overstates the point, but Robert Morris, vp of cloud computing research at IBM, says serendipitous timing has resulted in IBM's analytics cloud being readied for customer rollout at the same time that financials are eager to harness the massive computing power available to do business intelligence in the cloud, along with the economic advantages of pay-as-you-go computing.

"One of the advantages you'll find in the cloud that's very difficult and expensive to replicate in an internal data center, is the scaleability of servers and parallel processing," says Jeff Goldberg, senior analyst with Celent.

David Linthicum, a cloud computing researcher and consultant for Booze Allen Hamilton, says the movement of enterprise IT, including analytics, to the cloud follows the progression of applications as they migrate outside banks' firewalls.

IBM announced in early June the availability of cloud facilities that will let enterprises run their desktops and developer applications, and, soon business intelligence and analytics applications in an IBM cloud. Big Blue's not alone; SAS intends to open its own cloud facility in Carey, NC in 2010, other BI rivals including SAP and Oracle have either announced or are rumored to be readying cloud-based BI capabilities. Their timing is perfect - cloud computing was named as the most disruptive technology in the industry by 46 percent of respondents to a recent survey by the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association and IBM. Last year, only 21 percent of responders said cloud was the technology with the potential to force the greatest business and operating model changes.

The obvious advantages of running business intelligence applications off site in a scaleable, vendor-managed environment are several: op-ex versus cap-ex spending and the ability to apply greater central processing unit (CPU) power to the task at hand. More subtle is the potential of marrying shared infrastructure with the next generation of business intelligence: the ability to share anonymized data among organizations, or for individual companies to combine unstructured or publicly available data with their own business intelligence analysis. "The number one attribute of the cloud is it's shared; most people interpret that in terms of cost," Morris says. "When you get into analytics you find another magnificent attribute of now begin to get a hint of this analytical revolution."

The biggest fear surrounding cloud computing - data security and worries about data residing outside institutional perimeters is mitigated by the expertise of those involved in cloud computing. "This is what they do for a living, compared to most FIs, whose core competency is not IT and data centers," Goldberg says. Another fear - that changes require vendor intervention - is fading as BI applications become more configurable.

Since not every BI vendor has the resources to vertically integrate their analytics software with their own proprietary cloud, Goldberg predicts smaller vendors will partner with cloud providers or rent cloud capacity from rivals.

He also says vendors are starting to tie BI analysis back into core systems to help (enterprises) see immediate effects.

"One of the emerging trends in business intelligence and analytics is the desire to have more actionable intelligence," Goldberg says.

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