Palantir’s Gotham software is a popular visual data analysis tool used by some of the largest organizations in the world. It’s used across a wide variety of domains, including cyber, national defense, financial compliance, law enforcement, and others.
We’re regularly asked by organizations of all kinds whether Visallo is an alternative to Palantir and the answer is unequivocally yes. The follow-up question is always “how do they differ?” This post will answer that follow-up question by highlighting some of the major differences between Palantir’s Gotham and Visallo.
Capability-wise, Visallo and Palantir Gotham are very similar. The primary features of link and geospatial analysis are comparable, with each product having a few capabilities the other doesn’t. Feature-by-feature comparisons are often fruitless however, as products change quickly and feature lists are soon outdated. The most important differences are where products diverge architecturally or philosophically and even more so where business models differ. Those aspects have the biggest impact on your use of the software and can’t easily be changed. This is where Visallo has some notable advantages over Palantir.
One of the most frequent concerns we’re questioned about focuses on how data is stored and controlled. Customers want assurance that they’ll be able to get their information and analysis back out if they ever decide to stop using Visallo. As the recent dispute between the NYPD and Palantir shows, it’s a legitimate concern.
With Visallo, you’ll always own your data and the analysis you create using our software. We’ve gone beyond just making a promise however, and have made our entire graph database and its data storage format documentation open source. You can read all about it in this blog post.
As a Palantir Gotham customer, the rights to your data and analysis should not be taken for granted. Just be sure to read the fine print.
Palantir deployments often require the services of Forward Deployed Engineers. These are people with computer science or related engineering degrees who sit on site to perform the software deployment, write data integration code, and generally help people use the software. While there’s no doubt they provide a useful service, their presence can quickly and dramatically drive up the cost of a Palantir deployment.
We take a different approach at Visallo. We’re building “off-the-shelf” software you can use effectively without the help of someone with an engineering degree. This doesn’t mean we won’t provide customers with appropriate services when needed, it just isn’t a primary component of our business model like it is with Palantir.
We’re living in an age of data abundance and it’s only going to continue growing. Buried in that data are the critical hidden connections and insights needed to uncover the crime, find the criminal, and crack the case.
Built on the Hadoop platform and other big data products like Accumulo and ElasticSearch, Visallo is built to scale to massive datasets. Palantir Gotham can scale relatively well too, but is limited to what can be achieved with relational database technology, which often struggles to handle the largest datasets.
Today’s teams are diverse, distributed, and always changing. Teams may be spread across countries, comprised of members from multiple domains, and leverage external consultants or part-time help for short periods or specialized needs. Visallo’s user interface is accessed entirely through a web browser. With nothing to install, adding and removing people as needed is easy.
Collaborating on a case with your team couldn’t be easier with Visallo either. Taking inspiration from Google Docs, Visallo immediately pushes changes to all collaborators of a shared case, so team members can work together in real-time and no one ever works with out-of-date information.
While Palantir Gotham is also a multi-user platform, it doesn’t prioritize collaboration and teamwork like Visallo. Investigations can be shared among users in a read-only state, where changes must be manually synchronized. This means that team members are often looking at out-of-date information and analysis. Everyone working on a Palantir investigation will also need to have the client application installed on their computer, making it cumbersome to incorporate ad hoc input from outside consultants or part-time contributors.
No enterprise software platform can address all the needs of every industry vertical it serves. Even if such a software product existed, it would be incredibly complex to use. The best platforms, however, will provide a means to extend their functionality to address your unique requirements. Visallo is no exception.
Visallo provides multiple extension points at the user interface and data processing levels, which we ourselves use throughout Visallo. For example, the link analysis and map tools are actually Visallo plugins. Our Visallo Developer’s Guide documents all the extension points and provides examples of each so you can build your own customizations. We previously wrote about this in detail in our blog post talking about how we love when customers replace our software. But we’re not the only people talking about our approach - a UK-based consulting company recently articulated the major benefits of our strategy and we think it’s worth a read.
While it’s rumored that Palantir Gotham supports plugin functionality, it’s primarily used by Palantir’s forward deployed engineers and not encouraged for direct customer use like it is with Visallo.
Palantir and Visallo are very similar when looked at on a feature-by-feature basis, but important differences emerge when you focus on architecture, philosophy, and business models. When comparing them, be sure to focus on the meaningful differentiation that’s not so easily changed.