Business Objects

Analysis of business intelligence pioneer Business Objects, now a division of SAP AG. Related subjects include:

November 12, 2007

An interesting claim regarding BI openness

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:

  1. Database openness (not important)
  2. 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. Read more

November 12, 2007

IBM is buying Cognos – quick reactions

Some quick thoughts in connection with IBM’s just-announced plans to acquire Cognos.

1. Ironically, IBM just put out a press release describing a strong-sounding reseller partnership with Business Objects. The deal specified that

Business Objects will begin distributing and reselling IBM DB2 Warehouse with Business Objects XI and CFO Performance Management solutions. In addition, IBM will include a starter edition of Business Objects XI with DB2 and DB2 Warehouse.

Jeff Jones of IBM told me that they also had a partnership with Cognos, but with different details. I guess Cognos will eventually take over that deal, which is an obvious negative for Business Objects.

2. More generally, I can see where Cognos will now likely gain share at DB2 sites, and IBM/Ascential at Cognos sites. I can’t as easily see why Cognos would now lose share at Oracle or Teradata or Netezza sites, or why Ascential would lose share at SAP/BOBJ sites. So there seem to be some genuine synergies here, albeit perhaps modest ones.

3. Thus, I think the negatives in this deal for the remaining independents (Microstrategy, Information Builders, Informatica, etc.) will somewhat outweigh the positives.

4. I’m not a big fan of Cognos’ management, former CEO Ron Zambonini and a few other freethinkers excepted. So from that standpoint I don’t think they have a lot to lose being taken over by Big Blue.

5. Obviously, with most of the dominoes now fallen, the big question is about the future of BI as it – potentially – gets integrated into much larger enterprise technology suites. And I think the answer to that depends a lot more on technology than most people seem to realize. More on that subject later, but here’s one hint:

I think fixing the disappointment that is dashboards will involve taking query volumes up by at least 2 to 3 orders of magnitude. So as great as recent innovations in analytic query performance have been, I hope and trust that so far we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg.

Links:

1. eWeek on the IBM/Business Objects deal.
2. Press release on the IBM/Business Objects deal.
3. Press release on the IBM/Cognos deal.

November 7, 2007

Vertica update – HP appliance deal, customer information, and more

Vertica quietly announced an appliance bundling deal with HP and Red Hat today. That got me quickly onto the phone with Vertica’s Andy Ellicott, to discuss a few different subjects. Most interesting was the part about Vertica’s customer base, highlights of which included:

Read more

October 20, 2007

Wrinkles in the Informatica versus Business Objects patent litigation

Business Objects recently lost a patent lawsuit to Informatica in the area of data integration. While I was at the Business Objects conference, I asked about it, and was told in effect “It’s no big deal. In fact, the monetary award was reduced. Anyhow, we shipped a non-infringing version within 12 days after the decision, and sales are rolling along.” I then reflected that answer back to Informatica’s stellar analyst relations guy Chas Kielt. He checked with corporate counsel, and sent back the detailed clarification below. Since I got my Business Objects answers from a couple of caught-off-guard non-lawyer French guys, while Chas got a careful explanation of an American court’s judgment from an American lawyer, I’m inclined to think that in any details where they might conflict, Chas’ version is more likely to be accurate.

There’s a more substantive disagreement as to whether the features deleted from BOBJ’s product due to the injunction are actually important in the marketplace. I’m looking into that subject, and hope to post about it in the near future. Read more

October 19, 2007

One Greenplum customer — 35 terabytes and growing fast

I was at the Business Objects conference this week, and as usual went to very few sessions. But one I did stroll into was on “Managing Rapid Growth With the Right BI Strategy.” This was by Reliance Telecommunications, an outfit in India that is adding telecom subscribers very quickly, and consequently banging 100-150 gigs of data per day into a 35 terabyte warehouse.

The beginning of the talk astonished me, as the presenter seemed to be saying they were doing all this on Oracle. Hah. Oracle is what they moved away from; instead, they got Greenplum. I couldn’t get details; indeed, as a BI guy he was far enough away from DBMS to misspeak and say that Greenplum was brought in by ‘HP’, before quickly correcting himself when prompted. Read more

October 12, 2007

SAP is losing crucial managerial talent

In the past month or so, both Dennis Moore and Nimish Mehta have left SAP. Their reasons are well-known among Oracle alumni to be — at least in large part — discomfort with SAP’s direction. (My unnamed sources on that are highly reliable.) And of course Shai Agassi left earlier this year. It now looks as if my contrarian viewpoint pooh-poohing the importance of Shai’s departure was probably wrong.

Based on all that, I don’t think there’s much reason for optimism about SAP’s system software futures, except perhaps for those that are placed wholly under the control of the Business Objects division. NetWeaver? Already a creaking omnibus. MaxDB? They didn’t get it right the first time around; what will be different now? BI Accelerator? That one actually could do well under Business Objects. The dream of other kinds of appliances? Not likely to achieve take-off. TREX? They weren’t really enhancing that much anyway. The rest of the search-related vision Dennis outlined for me? That’s another one that actually could thrive under Business Objects, but I expect a considerable number of false starts at best before they work out a coherent new strategy.

The high-end app business, the new SaaS business, the new Business Objects subsidiary — any and all of those could do well. But the attempts to become a broad-based system software player rivaling Oracle, Microsoft, and/or IBM are looking a lot less healthy than they used to.

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October 8, 2007

The era of memory-centric BI may have finally started

SAP is acquiring Business Objects. There’s nothing inherent in BI Accelerator’s design that ties it to NetWeaver, SAP star schema InfoCubes, or any other particular current implementation detail. So BI Accelerator could become a lot more than an afterthought.

Combine that with Cognos’s acquisition of Applix and the continued success of upstart QlikView, and we could finally see a general memory-centric BI boom.

Maybe. There have been a lot of false alarms before.

March 16, 2007

Netezza under fire

I talk to a lot of data warehouse software and/or appliance start-ups. Naturally, they’re all gunning for Netezza, and regale me with stories about competitive replacements, competitive wins, benchmark wins, and the like. And there have been a couple of personnel departures too, notably development chief Bill Blake. Netezza insists this is because he got a CEO offer he couldn’t refuse, he’s still friendly with the company, development plans are entirely on track, and news of some sort is coming out in a few weeks. Also, Greenplum brags that its Asia/Pacific manager was snagged from Netezza.

On the other hand, Netezza claims lots of sales momentum, and that’s certainly consistent with what I hear from its competitors. Read more

August 17, 2006

Business Objects on EIM, ETL, etc.

I chatted with some Business Objects ETL/EIM (Enterprise Information Management) folks today, in a call that was a direct response to what I heard from and posted about Informatica. The core of the Business Objects story can be summarized (albeit brutally!) like this:

Read more

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