Oracle has unveiled its Data-as-a-Service solution (DaaS) which culls data from a variety of sources to allow customers to funnel it into other applications to boost business intelligence.
The tool will start with social media-derived data from the likes of Twitter and Facebook, plus marketing data to produce Oracle DaaS for Marketing and Oracle DaaS for Social.
MSMD advisors analyst Mike Davis said that Oracle might be able to "steal a march" on its rivals, by providing DaaS integration for competitors' enterprise platforms.
The likes of Experian, IBM's Watson Content Cloud and UKChanges already offer such DaaS solutions, and Quocirca's Clive Longbottom said it would become a core market in future, while it could level the playing field for SMBs previously outdone by enterprises' larger resources.
But as data becomes a more and more lucrative market, there's some issues as well as benefits when using DaaS. Here's five major ones.
Normally, if you want to use data to boost a service, you have to buy the data from a company, then apply your own BI tools to it - without knowing what you might find because little or no parameters have been set to that data.
With DaaS, providers let you pre-select the type of data you want. So, for instance, you could define what words you're looking for in tweets, and net 50,000 of them.
The advantage of the as-a-Service part means it's all in the cloud, so not only is that process quick, but also you can hook the resulting data into another cloud app, say your marketing tool automatically.
CIC analyst Ian Murphy warns that DaaS solutions pose a serious challenge to privacy when using social media data. That's because, if customers pre-select the type of data they want to find, as detailed above, then Oracle or Experian or whoever will then search databases for those tweets or Facebook posts - and they'll appear whether or not the social media user has deleted them.
"Social media isn't anonymised," he pointed out. "The problem is people think they've deleted the tweet or the post on Facebook. It's not deleted, it all happened and is sitting in the underlying database so it can be recovered. This stuff all comes back to haunt you."
Furthermore, IBM's Watson is using information derived from gov.uk, including census information. That becomes hairy when you consider this information could be used, in connection with other publically available details, such as land registry information, to discover more about an individual and where they live.
"I'm probably past the point of feeling uneasy. I was over Snowden before Snowden started," confesses Murphy.
Because of the way DaaS hooks into everything else, it's obviously an advantage if your other applications are provided by the same company providing your DaaS - hence Oracle's play in the field.
MSMD advisors analyst Mike Davis tells CBR: "Oracle DaaS goes up against IBM's Watson Content Cloud and services provided by the likes of Experian, I expect other providers to follow suit.
"The potential of DaaS in other areas where Oracle is a major player, such as sales and recruitment applications, to speed process and reduce risk, will be of significant benefit to those enterprises already on an Oracle infrastructure.
"However, here's a thought; Oracle could 'steal a march' on its rivals by giving DaaS integration into its rivals enterprise platforms. After all, organisations, which often have multiple enterprise systems will not want multiple 'trustworthy' and 'transparent' 'Data Clouds'."
With lots of competitors, it'll be vital to get pricing right. Oracle's, only announced this week, has yet to have costs revealed but the initial services for marketing and social media look likely to have subscription models.
But Quocirca's Clive Longbottom points out: "Will it be able to message itself to the prospects in the right way?
"More to the point, will it be able to come up with what it has signally failed to do in so many other areas and come up with a strong, attractive and compelling payment model that doesn't assume that you just happen to have a few million going spare down the back of the sofa?"
Because most DaaS providers run on service-oriented architectures (SOAs), they have a lot more flexibility when it comes to providing access to business-critical data via the cloud. That's down to the simplicity of the SOA architecture the data runs on. It also means any changes to the data - structural or geographic - can be implemented quickly and easily.