Exasol in-memory appliance turns data into a decision-making tool

By Brian T. Horowitz

In-memory analytics is gaining steam in industries such as retail and finance, as people seek insight on how to stock product inventory and determine the right time to make a trade.

The technology allows companies to make informed decisions rather than simply rely on a gut feeling or inference, said Sean Jackson, chief marketing officer for Exasol, a Germany-based in-memory database developer.

“It’s about decentralizing analytics and putting it where the users can actually work out every day how to do their business better,” said Aaron Auld, CEO of Exasol, in a Dell video. “So it’s not just operational — this kind of analytics influences tactics and strategy.”

These tools are needed in a digital economy, according to Auld.

With the huge volume of data and numerous data sources — such as mobile, the Internet, social media and sensors — “it’s gone beyond the capability of human beings to make … smart business decisions every day, so that is becoming fully automated,” Auld said.

Managing the ‘data tsunami’

The challenge is to turn the flood of data into value.

“It’s the data tsunami that rages forevermore,” Jackson said.

Retailers can use big data to keep track of customers’ shopping preferences in real time. Grocery store owners analyze customer data from cash register receipts, loyalty cards and payment cards as well as demographic and stock data. This variety of information can provide a “full 360-degree picture of the customer, understanding when they shop, what they buy, what they favor, what they don’t buy and the effectiveness of targeted offers,” Jackson said.

An in-memory database from Exasol allows users to manage and analyze large quantities of data of more than 1,000 terabytes. Built into the Exasol Appliance, the relational high-performance database helps companies make data-driven decisions and form strategies. It can recognize patterns and provide insight on how to run a business, Auld said.

Through a relationship with Dell OEM Solutions, Exasol software runs on Dell PowerEdge servers to form the Exasol Appliance. The Dell PowerEdge R720xd featuring Exasol is a top performer on tests performed by the Transaction Performance Council, a nonprofit organization that sets database benchmarks.

Retailers use a Sensalytics software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform built on the Exasol Appliance to count visitors to a store or measure workloads. Meanwhile, fashion retailer Zalando uses the Exasol platform to analyze and optimize stock availability, and food and beverage store Coop eG analyzes customer data from the Exasol database to run targeted sales promotions.

Stock traders use the in-memory appliance to keep track of what’s going on in the market and to gauge risk. They load vast amounts of market data into the database and perform analysis to determine the right time. In-memory analytics also enables traders to ensure that transactions are carried out correctly, Jackson explained.

“It’s a very data-intensive industry where decisions have to be made in a split second based on market data and what’s going on,” Jackson said. “Obviously the ability to draw the data into an engine, that’s going to allow you to ask questions and figure out what’s going on in the market and about what’s going on with your trades and your risk.”

By analyzing the data, experts in fraud detection will also be able to spot anomalies in trading patterns in real time, as well as maintain compliance with regulations, Jackson said.

Affordability makes a difference

With the drop in the cost of RAM, more people will use in-memory analytics, Jackson noted.

“Now that it’s more affordable, the ability to benefit from in-memory analytics is being opened to a wider audience,” Jackson said.

The lower prices mean users can add more data into a database and more data into RAM, leading to better performance, he added.

With a plethora of data available, in-memory appliances can help companies make the right decisions at the right time to improve business outcomes, Jackson said.

“So that’s what I think is really meant by smart business decision-making,” he concluded.

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