TIBCO Spotfire Review

A scalable and secure, enterprise-grade analytical platform

What is our primary use case?

At my previous company, I was both a developer and a software administrator. It was an upstream oil and gas company — exploration, drilling, and completion. Due to some financial issues (not being able to compete well in the market), they shut down their Houston office and laid off quite a few people. 

What is most valuable?

Spotfire started putting a lot of high-quality, online videos out there that are specifically geared toward things that clients are looking for. This is great because no one wants to sign up for a $2,000 training class or watch three hours of videos just to figure out something that can be explained in 10 minutes. I think that's a great thing.

What needs improvement?

When Spotfire released version 10.0, they came out with a brand new UI and made some pretty drastic changes to the user interface. With the first release of anything, there's always a lot of criticism and room for improvement. Still, the design of the UI could be improved. There are small issues like file name extensions that are hard to read, for example. They really improved their database connectivity. In version 10.0, they added a lot of great improvements that consumers have wanted for a long time. Regardless, some basic design changes in the UI would make it a little more intuitive for users.

In terms of the next release, from a data analytics standpoint, I think that it's a pretty strong product. I know they just made some recent improvements — now they have a Python programming interface in Spotfire. That was one of the things that I had wanted for a long time.

Some minor changes to the user interface to make navigation a little more intuitive would be nice. Other than that, the solution is really good. 

There's an online Spotfire community that is underused. I used to log into it a lot to try and have discussions with other users. I don't know if it's just that the users are working on so many different things that sometimes they're just not interested in talking with other users, but I think the user community should be promoted more. There's a lot of valuable information out there but it's up to the consumers to make use of it. I think that's something that they should promote more.

I also think they should limit the number of releases. I'm not a fan of their release schedule; sometimes they may have two types of releases at the same time. Basically, they have both short-term and long-term releases. They put out a long-term release every year to year-and-a-half. At the same time, they'll have five or six short-term releases in between. Sometimes, the short-term releases will have a critical upgrade that clients may want, but often, the short releases aren't supported as well as the long releases. So, if you're going to upgrade to a short-term release, you have to be willing to upgrade often.

My previous company had over 600 users. By the time I would get one version into production, we literally went right back into putting the next release into development — testing and getting it ready for production. I worked a lot with people in various business groups to help with testing and user acceptance — it got to the point where it was requiring a lot of them. Some of these people were engineers and they would say, "We can't be putting all this time into helping you test." So, we had to work around that. The release schedule is something I would change.

On a scale from one to ten, I would give this solution a rating of ten.

There are other really good products on the market, but I haven't seen anything that is light years ahead of Spotfire as far as capabilities go. It's been around for a long time; It has been a leading product years before many of these other products were even on the market. They have a great history.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have almost 10 years of experience with Spotfire.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

From a scalability standpoint, I would say it's pretty fantastic. Not that Spotfire itself is massively scalable. It's a pretty impressive analytical tool for developing visualizations and sharing them across the enterprise with your organization or business group.

TIBCO has built out an entire analytical platform. You can use Spotfire to connect to data sources, but let's say you wanted to stream data, in real-time; in this case, you may be working with almost a terabyte of data a day. Presently, there's really not any analytical application out there on the market that's going to do that very well, but you can scale with a data stream from TIBCO, which helps you access your data in real-time.

It really doesn't matter how much data you're working with, but they also have the business enterprise and TIBCO data analytics. TIBCO data analytics just opens up the door for any kind of truly advanced analytics that you're working with. You can insert real machine learning code right into your analysis.

How are customer service and technical support?

Technical support was always very responsive. They were probably more responsive than I was — there were a couple of times when I even had to open up an issue with them. If you don't get back to them within a certain number of days, they'll change the status of your service request. They'll put it on a temporary hold and then they'll close it out eventually. They're very responsive.

How was the initial setup?

I wasn't there when they set it up, but I did perform two upgrades myself while I was there, and it was fairly easy. It's changed a lot over the years and it's actually become quite easy to install and to get up and running. Roughly 10 years ago, when I did the first implementation, it was really difficult. There were five of us sitting around a table with a 300-page PDF that we had printed out — it took us an entire weekend to figure it out. Now, if you wanted to, you could actually install Spotfire in the cloud and actually have it up and running, connecting with data, in an hour or less. To me, that's pretty impressive.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

licensing-wise, I didn't really have any involvement.

In my role as a consultant, I would work with clients and, from a software evaluation standpoint, I would say, "Let's take a look at your business requirements. Let's see what's the right tool for you. Should you go with something that's easy-to-use, right out of the box? Or do you want something that's a little more advanced, based on your users and your business requirements?" Quite often, because it is very scalable and it suits many different company sizes and business requirements, Spotfire was the right choice.

What other advice do I have?

I would definitely recommend Spotfire. If you're considering using Spotfire, just be sure to implement and scale it properly. Too often, many companies will buy a fantastic product, but they have very immature users. If you're going to buy a strong product, you need to put a strong emphasis on training and developing your users. As a consultant, I've seen a lot of companies that say, "Spotfire can't do this."  Sure enough, after I'd look into it, the answer was always undertrained users.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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