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March 26, 2019

Interana Delivers Customer Experience Analytics, with a Time-Series DB on the Side


Interana does develop a time-series database. But that doesn’t make Interana a time-series database company. The Silicon Valley firm says it’s gained market traction since it tweaked its approach and highlighted its fast ad-hoc query capabilities in the area of customer experience and customer journey analytics, rather than selling a time-series database.

At the heart of the Interana product, you’ll find a time-series database. It’s what makes the product so quickly able to answer time-related questions about what sequence users and customers did things in, which is especially critical when they traverse multiple systems, online and offline, over long stretches of time.

But on top of the time-series database is something that’s even more important: a visual interactive analytics layer that’s designed to work with the underlying database. Combined, the two components are designed to allow business analysts to quickly find answers to customer behavior questions, and discover trends about their customers’ journeys that would be tough to do in other big data environments.

“These days we’ve been calling it behavioral analysis and discovery. It’s a time-series database at the core, but it’s also a UI on the front of it,” says Interana co-founder and CTO Bobby Johnson. “That’s been a big difference in the go-to-market the last couple of years, which is trying to focus on the solutions and not the question about the database.”

Emphasizing the entire software suite, instead of just the time-series database, would appear to be a smart move on the part of Interana. For starters, there is an unmet need for solutions to describe and analyze user behavior, especially those that cross channels.

The Interana UI lets analysts track customer behavior at a detailed level over long periods of time

But Interana also doesn’t sell its time-series database separately. It’s not even listed in the time-series database comparison at If you’re looking for a time-series database to power a low-latency IoT application, Johnson says, you’re better off contacting a pure-play time-series database vendor.

At the same time that Interana sought to break the perception of its offering solely as a time-series database, Johnson and his wife/co-founder Ann made the tough decision to hire an outside executive to head the company. Greg Smirin, who previously led the The Climate Corp., replaced Ann as CEO in September 2017.

Johnson says the company is gaining fresh traction across Fortune 1000 businesses that have a mix of online and offline customer interactions, which is notoriously difficult to query in a unified manner. Customers like Comcast are using Interana to consolidate and track customer interactions stemming from a variety of touchpoints, including Web and mobile data, set-top boxes, call center interactions, and even dispatching trucks, Johnson tells Datanami.

“Across all the customer touch points, what does the experience look like for people?” he says. “Were people having good experiences? Were they getting stuck? And are the different channels effecting each other in non-obvious ways? Trying to get these sort of insights out of a data warehouse or out of a data lake, you end up doing a huge amount of development work because those tools really are not set up for doing this kind of behavior analysis.”

Even questions that sound pretty simple, like how many people did one thing before doing another, and then went on to do a third thing, end up being “really hairy” in legacy systems, Johnson says. “So I definitely see people wanting to take on a different system to do that,” he adds.

Last week Interana announced version 3 of its software, which the company says delivers enhancements in the areas of speed, scalability, and ease-of-use.

In the speed department, Interana says its product is anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 times faster than other data analytics solutions. In terms of scalability, the software can handle data sets that measure in the trillions of data points while still responding to queries in a few seconds, the company says. A new graphical query builder, meanwhile, will make it easier for non-technical users to write queries.

What’s so powerful about Interana version 3, Smirin says, is that it lets analysts understand not just what is happening in their businesses, but also why.

“You can, in real time, dig down into the data to explore anomalies or patterns of behavior until you really understand the dynamics at play, which means you can then take action to optimize or improve your business,” Smirin stated in a press release. “That’s a very different proposition than your typical BI dashboard that relies on canned queries to simply report the state of your business.”

Interana is also gaining traction with its new partner/investor/customer, Microsoft. The software giant is running Interana in the Azure cloud, where customers can access its behavioral analytics capabilities, as well as its time-series database.

A typical setup in Azure might involve running Azure data warehouse hooked up to a PowerBI user interface, Johnson says. “But some of the charts in PowerBI would actually be fueled by Interana,” he says. “And when you clicked in to say ‘Let me discover more,’ you’d go into the Interana experience to do the ad hoc analytics.”

Interana’s speedy time-series database is still there. But it’s happily living under the covers of a bigger behavior analytics and customer journey solution.

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