Without AWS and Slalom, there was a lower likelihood of us getting a cloud-based SaaS offering for Qlik Sense developed.
Joe Parker Director of Cloud Operations

Qlik is a worldwide leader in visual analytics and business intelligence. The company takes a platform-based approach to providing insights and clarity at the point of decision via a unique associative model and data engine. The company’s offerings include QlikView®, Qlik Sense®, and Qlik Data Market. Qlik Sense is a visual analytics platform supporting self-service visualization, guided analytics apps and dashboards, embedded analytics, and reporting–each leveraging a built-in governance model. Qlik Sense Cloud is a free, hosted software-as-a-service (SaaS) version of the Qlik Sense platform. Qlik has helped more than 36,000 customers grow their business by getting more out of their data.

With customers in more than 100 countries, Qlik’s mission is help those customers see the whole story that lives within their data. The company has been doing that for more than20 years with its QlikView product, and Qlik recently released Qlik Sense, which builds on the success of QlikView. “We want to make it as simple as possible for customers to get insights into their data,” says Joe Parker, director of cloud operations at Qlik. “One of the goals of Qlik Sense is to allow people to quickly import data and to start getting insight into that data almost immediately.”

As the company built Qlik Sense and considered different delivery models for customers, a cloud-based iteration of the product became a priority. “The impending release of Qlik Sense was a key driver for building Qlik Sense Cloud,” explains Parker. “The way that Qlik Sense is architected makes it very amenable to the web and to distributed implementations, and that gave us an opportunity to consider cloud as a strong option. We’ve long had QlikView in the cloud, but there wasn’t a way to make it a SaaS-based model like we’re doing with Qlik Sense Cloud today.”

In addition to the inherent flexibility of the cloud, the company also wanted to be able to provide customers with pricing and term flexibility for Qlik Sense Cloud. Customers using QlikView in the cloud had provided valuable feedback on their experiences, which was a factor in Qlik deciding to develop Qlik Sense Cloud. ”We’ve had customers request our products on a term basis, and had been investigating subscription models,” Parker said. “The customers of QlikView in the cloud also liked the flexibility of not having to own their hardware. Internally, we looked at the popularity of QlikView in the cloud and said, ‘This is something that we need to build on with Qlik Sense Cloud,’ So, it was all of these factors that played into our decision to develop Qlik Sense Cloud as a SaaS model for customer consumption.”

Prior to building Qlik Sense Cloud, the Qlik team had worked with Amazon Web Services (AWS) internally within IT; as a platform for Qlik Market, their online solution exchange; and in QlikView in the cloud deployments. “We wanted to focus building our cloud expertise on one provider,” explains Parker. “We had been talking, even before Qlik Sense Cloud came to the fore, about how to build AWS into the company’s infrastructure more. The fact that we had some experience with AWS made it easier to make the decision to build Qlik Sense Cloud on AWS.”

The Qlik team also engaged with Premier AWS Partner Network (APN) Consulting Partner Slalom to help with the architecture and implementation of Qlik Sense on AWS. “In the discussions with Slalom, their team also felt that AWS was a great fit for us to develop Qlik Sense Cloud as a SaaS solution, given the wide breadth of tools available for automation, such as AWS CloudFormation, the huge number of services that AWS offers, and the massive global reach of AWS,” said Parker. “The robust set of tools and services available in AWS, along with the flexibility to work outside that set as well, is very important for what Qlik wants to accomplish. AWS gave us the ability to build the right solution with the features, capabilities, and support to ensure that Qlik could not only achieve their short term goals, but also create the foundation for a long-term cloud strategy,” says Jeff Yeakley, solution principal at Slalom.

The Slalom team spent three weeks working closely with Qlik to design the initial architecture for Qlik Sense Cloud on AWS. “The Slalom team was incredibly responsive and communicative throughout the project design and implementation process. Engaging with Slalom allowed us to focus on other aspects of the business without having to worry about elements of the development process,” says Parker. “We were confident throughout the process that Slalom was taking care of our needs, particularly with some of the insights and guidance provided to us by the Slalom team regarding best practices for architecting and developing the solution on AWS.” Qlik Sense Cloud is deployed within an Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC) and is architected for high availability and elasticity to ensure a great user experience for end users across the globe, while maintaining an efficient and cost effective cloud infrastructure. The product is available in four different AWS regions across four availability zones (AZs).

Qlik uses Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) for compute capacity and to house a number of services used by the company, including node.js, consul, puppet, logstash, LDAP, MongoDB, and the Qlik Sense servers. The team uses Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) for application and file storage, and as an artifact repository for deployment. Qlik Sense Cloud also leverages a number of additional AWS Services, including Amazon Route 53, Amazon Simple Notification Service (Amazon SNS), Amazon Simple Email Service (Amazon SES), Amazon Simple Workflow Service (Amazon SWF), Amazon CloudWatch, Amazon CloudFormation, and Amazon CloudFront to provide a robust infrastructure to support the complex multitenant use cases. As Qlik continues to add features to Qlik Sense Cloud, the company plans to use Amazon CloudFront more heavily to distribute artifacts on a global scale.

The following diagram describes the Qlik Sense Cloud architecture on AWS:

qlik-arch-diag

With AWS as the foundation, the Qlik Market marketplace application enables data integration with salesforce.com and interoperability with Jive’s Social Business Platform and Magento’s e-commerce platform technology. Jive’s Social Business Platform provides the existing customer community with instant access to products. Qlik can use the Salesforce CRM and Qonnect Partner Portal to track, monitor and assist partners with sales and marketing opportunities driven by the marketplace.

One of the largest benefits Qlik experienced in building Qlik Sense Cloud on AWS was the reduced time to market. In working with Slalom and deploying on AWS, Qlik was able to release a beta product to the public in 18 weeks, which met an aggressive timeframe the company had set. “Certainly getting up and running as quickly as we did was a huge benefit of building on AWS and working with Slalom. Without AWS and Slalom, there was a lower likelihood of us getting a cloud-based SaaS offering for Qlik Sense developed,” says Parker.

The product was in beta for around six months, and during that time, Qlik experienced consistent traffic growth, having gained approximately 8,000 users globally. The Qlik team announced general availability of the product in April. “Right now, we’re really focused on growing the user base for Qlik Sense Cloud. We’re on track to have 30,000 to 40,000 users by the end of the year, given the very steady growth we’ve been seeing,” explains Parker. “We built the solution to be very scalable and automatically grow as our user base grows, and to also be flexible with the infrastructure in place. Being able to scale up and scale down is something that is important, and having that ability is a large benefit of building and deploying Qlik Sense Cloud on AWS.”

The global reach of AWS has been a big benefit for Qlik as the team continues to grow the Qlik Sense Cloud customer base and reach customers around the globe. “Based on our current statistics, most of the users are from the US, and the second largest user base is located in Brazil; we also have a huge user base in Europe. Without AWS, just the logistics of getting the right people out to these regions and doing deployments would be very limiting for us to continue to reach these users,” explains Parker.

The Qlik team plans to continue to engage with Slalom on additional projects on AWS, and moving forward is developing solutions with an AWS-first mentality—Qlik recently announced it is “all-in” with AWS, meaning AWS is its priority platform for cloud-based development. “It’s been extremely easy to work with AWS,” says Parker. “The breadth of services, the reliability of the platform, and the easy startup time allows us to focus on what’s core to our business.”

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