Analyst conference calls about merger announcements are generally pretty boring. Indeed, the companies involved tend to feel they are legally barred from saying anything interesting, by mandate of both the antitrust regulators and the SEC.
Still, such calls are joyful events, full of strategic happy talk. If one is really lucky, there may a virtuouso tap dancing exhibition as well. On today’s IBM/Cognos call, Cognos CEO Rob Ashe was asked whether he thought Cognos’ independence or lack thereof was as important today as he said it was after SAP announced its BOBJ takeover. Without missing a beat, he responded that there were two kinds of openness:
- Database openness (not important)
- ERP/business process openness (indeed important)
Hmm. I’m not so sure I agree. To begin with, there aren’t just two major points of potential integration. There’s also a whole lot of middleware: obviously data integration, but also app servers, portals, and query execution acceleration as well.
Let me spell out that last point a little bit. NetWeaver has been SAP’s integrated BI/app server. Oracle’s app server has data caching built in. Crystal Reports had a custom app server when Business Objects acquired it. BI is increasing integrated with portals, and portals are integrated with app servers and other middleware.
And that’s just today. Futures include a whole new technology stack to revolutionize dashboards, with better integration of “alerting” UIs (on- and off-screen alike) as part of the package.
Also, when query resolution goes memory-centric, the boundaries between BI/report servers and DBMS get really blurred. E.g., I’m not sure there’s a huge fundamental difference between what ParAccel sells today and what SAP has long described as a reasonable (albeit very hypothetical) path for the evolution of BI Accelerator.
And by the way: I really don’t think that BI/business process integration is far enough along for any kind of closedness in that regard to much matter — more’s the pity.
So on the whole, I think I don’t agree with Rob Ashe’s analysis on that particular issue.
In fact, I think one of the most exciting things about this merger is the potential technological integration among many different IBM product lines. In saying that, I’m looking a loooong way down the road — but eventually it could be very cool indeed.
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