Monday, July 19, 2010

Business Intelligence Software as-a-Platform

The latest trend in software is "Platform as a Service". This is a software package delivered as-a-Service (SaaS), on which third parties can also develop their solutions. is the best example of PaaS, because hundreds of companies have posted their solutions on the AppExchange. The base software package is very useful by itself, but you can easily add functionality through 3rd party extensions.

To make PaaS successful it should be easy for partners to extend your software. You need to have a good API and an active developer community (and often also a support desk).

The last company that announced a PaaS strategy is GoodData, a company that provides business intelligence software. They have a cloud-based analytics solution based on Amazon Web Services. The last release of their software has made it really easy for developers to tie their software into the GoodData platform. Because the pricing is affordable, many more companies can now use advanced analytics (it's not a 6-figure project anymore!).

Considering that many companies have reporting challenges, and considering that many SaaS vendors have a very basic reporting system built in, I'd say there is room in the market for GoodData's solution. The trick is to get enough developers excited to build on top of GoodData rather than building it on their own.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Getting "Jep" on Page 1

I have a fairly unique first name: "Jep". I think I know 2 people in the entire world with the same first name, one in Denmark and one in the US. So it would be cool if my site popped up if you search for "Jep": a little bit of personal branding :-)

I was interested in the Internet pretty early on, so I tried to register domain names with my name in it, which is a good start for personal branding. Unfortunately I was too late to register, but I could claim and

In the past years I learned a fair bit about Search Engine Optimization. If you Google "Jep Castelein", you find pretty-much all my sites, and even if you Google "Castelein" I show up in 4 out of 10 spots.

However, if you Google "Jep", my sites on are page 2. I find it a personal challenge to get on the first page of the Google search results. I recently registered the domain, which uses one of the new top-level domains. It may not be as good as, but it should definitely help.

On I've created a personal profile page using a service called Retaggr. I've added all my social networking sites, and several options to get in touch with me.

On all my other websites I have created links to this new profile page, using "Jep" as the link text. This tells Google that the site is about Jep (see also the miserable failure story). Hopefully we'll see some results in a couple of weeks!

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009 VoIP Call Quality Problem - Solved

For my company I was looking for a small business phone system with a virtual PBX, an efax and a VoIP handset, all for a reasonable price. I've looked at Grasshopper, Ringcentral and 8x8, but was the only provider that could offer the full functionality for a pretty low price. But unfortunately I ran into some call quality issues, which were actually not so hard to solve.

The complete small business phone system

I've set the phone system up as follows:

  • toll-free number as the central phone line
  • local alternative number
  • local fax number (efax, send and receive)
  • a Polycom VoIP handset
  • Forward to my cell phone if I'm not at my desk
  • 600 minutes per month, shared among all above
  • Monthly cost of $35 plus taxes and fees

VoIP Quality Problems

I was pretty excited when the handset arrived, but I was only a minute into my first call when the person at the other end said: "do you have a VoIP phone, you're cutting out all the time". I called support, but they couldn't really help me.

I have cable Internet, and a wireless router hooked up to the cable modem. The router is a Linksys WRT54G2, which has reasonably good reviews at However, with the VoIP test tool I could see that the line quality wasn't good enough: too much jitter and packet loss.

Router with Quality of Service (QoS) support

Through research on the Internet I found out that some of the more professional routers have Quality of Service support, which allows you to give higher priority to VoIP calls compared to other internet traffic (like watching a movie on your computer). I ordered the D-Link GamerLounge router (DGL-4100) for an amazingly low price of $74 (after mail-in rebate). It was pretty easy to set up and - while I haven't made a ton of calls yet - it seems that the quality problems have been solved!

My Setup

I have Time Warner cable Internet, with 10+Mbps download speed and 500kbs upload speed. In the old setup I had only a cable modem and my Linksys wireless router: my computers were connected via wifi, and the VoIP phone was plugged into one of the router's Ethernet ports.

The old situation

In the new setup, the D-Link router is put in between the cable modem and the wireless router: the phone is now plugged into the D-Link, just like the wireless router, but the phone gets higher priority.

The new situation

Technical Details

The D-Link router worked out of the box: there were some minor setup tasks, but the only main configuration work was to add the QoS rule for VoIP (see screenshot).

The D-Link was now taking care of Network Address Translation (NAT) and DHCP, which was previously done by the Linksys wireless router. Therefore I had to reconfigure the Linksys router to function as 'Router' rather than 'Gateway' (in Setup > Advanced Routing, set Operating Mode to "Router").

In the D-Link configuration I had to assign a static IP address to the router, otherwise it would be really hard to access the Linksys configuration page (the IP address would change when the DHCP lease expires). This is done in Basic > Network Settings. In the Linksys Basic Setup I had to enter this IP address.


Even though I'm cheap and want to get a great phone system for a low price, it's good to invest in call quality. A $74 investment paid off really well. should almost offer this router as part of the package.

Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Disruptive Change in Business Intelligence

In the past weeks I've worked with Good Data as a marketing consultant. I've spent a lot of time studying their value proposition, and their technology. The market they are in – Collaborative Business Intelligence – is very interesting.

The BI market has several strong established players, and most of them have been acquired by the industry giants: Business Objects by SAP, Cognos by IBM and Hyperion by Oracle. For now, they will still rule the Fortune 500, but there are new competitors coming up from the bottom. That is one of the characteristics of disruptive change, according to Clayton Christensen's book 'The Innovators Dilemma'.

What is new about vendors like Good Data? I'd say there are a couple of aspects:

  • SaaS Business Intelligence model (rather than on-site software)
  • Focus on user experience and collaboration
  • Pre-built vertical applications

These aspects improve the ROI of cloud business intelligence projects: it is less costly to roll out because of the on-demand model and the pre-built applications, and user adoption is higher because of the user friendliness and collaborative features.

Actually the best case for online business intelligence is made by Evangelos Simoudis on the blog. He indicates that online systems are better at aggregating data from various locations, from inside and outside the company. Only this will create true new insights.

Also, a cloud-based analytics system is a natural for social features. Collaboration is taking place all over the web. Whether it's a generic social network like Facebook or MySpace, a white-label social network on Ning, or a micro-blogging service like Twitter. This has the potential to transform BI from a solitary activity to a collaborative process.

An additional benefit is more operational in nature. True cloud-based systems are multi-tenant: in other words, only one instance of the application is used by multiple customers. This is done in such a way that the data for each customer is totally isolated, but application maintenance is much easier. Even better, the actual end-customer never has to to application maintenance: the new features simply appear in the product.

Evangelos mentions a total of 12 points in favor of on-demand business intelligence. So if this is of interest to you, please be sure to read his full article.

Another recent article about the pros and cons of hosted BI was published on They are quoting a Forrester report by Boris Evelson. As the benefits he mentions: “less reliance on internal IT, anywhere access to the application, pay-as-you go pricing with no up-front cost and vendor management of the application and infrastructure.” But as a drawback he mentions “lack of built-in integration with the rest of an organization's data and processes”. The original report can be accessed on the Forrester website (subscribers only).


In this post I've tried to summarize some benefits of cloud-based business intelligence software, with links to other relevant articles. Please let me know if you have additional suggestions.

Other links:

Monday, May 11, 2009

How Bank of America Steals from the Poor

Normally I don't write about politics, I prefer writing about topics related to my job. I vaguely heard about a Credit Card bill that Obama has proposed to end abusive lending practices. I'm not familiar with that bill, but I do have an experience that I would like to share. 

When I moved to the US almost 4 years ago, I did not have a credit history. Therefore I applied for a secured credit card at Bank of America. They provided excellent service, and I was happy that I could start building a credit history, even though I had to deposit $1000 to get a $1000 spending limit. 

Being privileged with a stable middle-class job and healthy spending habits, I was able to get better credit card offers fairly quickly. However, every 2 weeks I still get a letter from Bank of America that tries to lure me into an unsavory deal. 

The envelope says "Account Information Enclosed" and it contains 3 checks that you can use with a 1.99% promotional APR that is good until January 2010 (8 months). That sounds like a great deal: you could pay the rent or the mortgage, for only 2% interest. 

What is does not say that a transaction fee of 4% applies (recently raised from 3%), and that after January 2010 the APR goes up to 20.99% (5% higher than the APR for credit purchases). Before BofA corrects me: it is listed in the small print, but it took me 5 minutes to find it. 

So is this abusive or not? I tend to say 'Yes'. This offer is clearly designed for people who need cash most, and those are not financially priviliged, to say the least. The BofA letter only emphasizes the benefits, while hiding the downsides: people in urgent need for cash will be lured into this deal for sure. Therefore my strong statement: "BofA is stealing from the poor". 

What do you think? Is this indeed unsavory, or is this just the American way of doing business: buyer beware?

PS. I called in to stop receiving these checks, but that didn't help, they just increased the frequency.
PPS. Also, I still pay a $39 annual fee just to have this BofA credit card (it's my oldest card, so I keep it for my credit history). BofA claims this fee is needed to ensure global acceptance, customer satisfaction, to provide online account access, to maintain security, and to give you balance transfers and cash access. Then why does my other credit card pay me approximately $1000 per year in cash back? 

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