“Open Source Allows Developers To Customise The BI Solution For Unique Business Needs”

Nikhilesh Tiwari
Nikhilesh Tiwari

Helical Insight, an open-source business intelligence solution, caters to diverse user needs. While answering OSFY’s Yashasvini Razdan’s queries, Co-founder Nikhilesh Tiwari explained how the company’s customisable platform provided cost savings through its engagement with the open-source community.

Q. How would you answer the question “What is Helical Insight if asked by a non-technical CEO of a prospective firm?

A. Helical Insight is an open source business intelligence solution that helps business organisations make informed decisions by transforming complex data into clear and meaningful visualizations. The platform gathers, analyses, and visualises company data and provides a user-friendly interface to understand your business metrics without the need for a deep technical background. It includes features such as self service drag drop interface, embedding, exporting, email scheduling, user role management, data security, flexible deployment options, HA LB support, containers support as well as huge cost benefits.

Q. How would you answer the same question if asked by a CIO or CTO (Sr Tech decision maker)?

A. From a technical standpoint, Helical Insight’s business intelligence platform provides an open-source architecture, developer friendliness and extensive API support which allows technical teams to customize and extend the platform to meet the unique requirements of their respective organizations, across changing data landscapes. It comes with a flexible deployment model and container support, for data processing and getting actionable insights promptly. It supports a variety of data sources and formats — structured or unstructured — and is compatible with existing infrastructure. It can be extended to support new data sources, support new visualisation options, create custom workflows, enabled additional plugins etc.

Q. What does open source mean for Helical Insight?

A. We have always had an inclination towards open source and our parent company (HelicalTech) also used to provide a lot of services in the data domain using open source tools. Keeping that in mind when we developed our own BI product we had also open sourced it. Our community edition source code is also present on github as well. This transparency provided by open source not only builds trust but also allows users to scrutinize the security aspects of the software, leading to faster identification and resolution of security vulnerabilities. Proprietary tools are very costly in the market. We are trying to provide cost benefits to organizations which are looking for cost effective but feature rich BI. Open source allows developers to customize the BI solution to their unique business requirements.

Q. How would you define your range of solutions & services?

A. We meet evolving business needs in the dynamic data stack domain by crafting efficient data lakes and lakehouses. Our services include scalable data warehousing solutions, optimizing data management. BI solutions, such as Helical Insight, integrate with proprietary tools, and generative AI automates complex tasks. In Modern Data Stack Services, tools like DBT, Airflow, and Airbyte enhance data processing. Our diverse tool stack spans open-source, proprietary, and cloud-specific tools, including Databricks, Snowflake, Hadoop, S3, and GCP for data lake implementations. Soon, we’ll launch Ask On Data, an innovative NLP-based data engineering tool powered by AI, revolutionizing the data engineering landscape with a user-friendly chat interface and sophisticated NLP and ML algorithms.

Q. How would you explain your basic business model?

A. We have different offerings for a diverse set of customers on top of our Open Source BI Helical Insight. For users seeking a higher level of support, we offer Enterprise Support as an additional support service for prompt issue resolution, updates, and a dedicated support channel, at a reasonable cost. We offer professional services such as report creation, dashboard development, white-labeling, embedding, or any other customization as a paid offering. For organizations seeking the advanced features and capabilities of our Enterprise Version, we provide a licensing model, with flexible options such as subscription plans, perpetual licenses and additional functionalities. We also offer customized training programs for our users to harness the full potential of Helical Insight.

Q. How do you convince customers to use your BI framework instead of the proprietary ones?

A. We highlight the unique value propositions and address specific technological gaps. Helical Insight has a feature set that is on par with proprietary tools. Whether it’s a self-service interface, embedding capabilities, Single Sign-On (SSO), row-level data security, exporting functionalities, email scheduling, Docker support, caching, HA & LB etc we ensure that Helical Insight provides all the features necessary for a comprehensive and modern BI experience. This eliminates the need for organisations to compromise on functionality when opting for an open-source solution.

Q. What role does India play in your operations?

A. India is our largest market, followed by the US. It plays a significant role in both customer and developer engagement. We collaborate with Indian customers, building long-term relationships and shaping our product roadmap based on their requirements. Our in-house team in India actively engages with the broader developer community and runs partnership programs with universities, helping design courses, providing licenses, and offering training to enhance employability.

Q. How has the response been from the Indian market for your services?

A. The response from the Indian market to our product Helical Insight has been quite positive and impactful. The Indian market contains our largest customer base, with strong resonance among businesses across different sectors, including IT, healthcare, finance, supply chain and more. Most of our customers in India have been SMEs, who’d want innovative, efficient, and data-driven decision-making but are also cost-conscious.

Q. What are the unique challenges faced by your team when dealing with the Indian market?

A. In the Indian market, we face intense competition in BI. Highlighting our product’s unique features and providing top-notch customer support are crucial. Balancing high-quality features with cost competitiveness is an ongoing challenge. Compliance with regulations like the Personal Data Protection Bill and building trust around data security require continuous attention. Our flexible deployment options, Docker & Kubernetes support, and cloud-agnostic nature address these concerns. Ensuring accessibility across diverse infrastructure scenarios, from urban to rural areas, is a continuous consideration. While open-source adoption is growing, there’s a need to educate users and dispel skepticism. Addressing the skill gap in emerging technologies is a priority, with active engagement in training programs and collaborations with educational institutions.

Q. How do you see ML and AI shaping the future of data engineering in this industry?

A. Our new product AskOnData, comes with a chat interface, to eliminate the traditional learning curve and technical barriers associated with data engineering. The tool will allow users to interact with their data in a conversational manner, to derive insights, create transformations, without the need for specialized technical knowledge. We believe that making data engineering as intuitive as a conversation in natural language will democratize the field. Now, anyone, regardless of technical proficiency, can engage in data engineering tasks using a chat interface.

Q. How does your Open Source BI framework integrate with or support AI/ML technologies? Any built-in features or connectors for integrating ML/AI models?

A. The BI industry, initially reliant on developers for complex queries, has evolved with self-service interfaces for independent data analysis. With advancing AI and ML, a conversational approach using chatbots and voice search is emerging. At Helical, we’re already incorporating these capabilities, enabling report and dashboard creation through natural language processing. Our product includes inbuilt statistical algorithms for analyses like correlation, time series, regression, outlier detection, enhancing the BI framework for a user-friendly experience.

Q. How does the BI framework handle large datasets wrt to AI/ML applications?

A. Within Helical Insight, we’ve optimized for large datasets. Our servers scale horizontally and vertically, ensuring the BI server has ample processing power for vast data and optimal performance. For mission-critical applications, we’ve implemented high availability and load balancing to eliminate downtime. A caching layer reduces processing time for repeated reports, enhancing overall efficiency. BI layer features like pagination and virtualization efficiently handle large result sets, improving performance with large datasets.

Q. Does your product handle streaming data and real-time analytics? If yes, how?

A. Helical Insight handles streaming data for real-time analytics, including IoT. It supports platforms like Kafka and Spark, offering insights across various data types. Inbuilt configurations, such as disabling caching, automated or triggered driver report refresh, and API-driven cache refresh options, enable real-time or near-real-time analytics. This ensures users can derive timely insights from their data streams.

Q. How does the BI framework scale when dealing with increased workloads related to AI/ML tasks?

A. In our BI framework, key features cater to growing demands in AI/ML tasks. Support for Docker and Kubernetes enables automated deployment and dynamic adjustment to varying workloads, ensuring responsiveness and scalability. Our product is fully compatible with major cloud environments like AWS, GCP, Azure, E2E, and Rackspace. Cloud platforms with auto scaling features allow seamless adaptation to increased workloads, providing users a reliable and scalable solution for AI/ML tasks.

Q. How does the framework handle compliance with data protection regulations in case of AI/ML?

A. Once the user acquires the Helical Insight software, they receive the installer file which they can use to install and deploy the framework on servers of their choice, be it a chosen cloud platform, private cloud, or on-premise servers. We ensure that not a single byte of user data is captured by us during the installation or usage of the framework, ensuring user privacy and data protection. Internally, within the product, all sensitive information, such as usernames, passwords, or saved data, is stored in an encrypted format. This ensures that users can confidently deploy Helical Insight in AI/ML applications while adhering to the highest standards of data protection and privacy.

Q. Could you explain your involvement and engagement with the OS community?

A. Our involvement and engagement with the open-source community is a core tenet of our philosophy. We’ve released our BI product to the community to encourage active participation and collaboration. The platform supports a multitude of open-source databases, including PostgreSQL, MariaDB, MySQL, MongoDB, Derby, and SQLite. Additionally, it can integrate with open-source middlewares like Presto, Trino, Apache Drill, and Apache Spark, providing users with a flexible and interoperable environment. We go a step further by supporting open-source charting engines such as C3 and D3, ensuring that our users can visualize their data using the tools they prefer within the open-source ecosystem.


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