Analysis of business intelligence pioneer Cognos. Also covered is Applix, vendor of the memory-centric MOLAP tool TM1, which was acquired by Cognos. Related subjects include:
- IBM, which has acquired Cognos
- Business intelligence
- Memory-centric data management
- MOLAP (Multidimensional OnLine Analytic Processing)
I’m on two overlapping posting kicks, namely “lessons from the past” and “stuff I keep saying so might as well also write down”. My recent piece on Oracle as the new IBM is an example of both themes. In this post, another example, I’d like to memorialize some points I keep making about business intelligence and other analytics. In particular:
- BI relies on strong data access capabilities. This is always true. Duh.
- Therefore, BI and other analytics vendors commonly reinvent the data management wheel. This trend ebbs and flows with technology cycles.
Similarly, BI has often been tied to data integration/ETL (Extract/Transform/Load) functionality.* But I won’t address that subject further at this time.
*In the Hadoop/Spark era, that’s even truer of other analytics than it is of BI.
My top historical examples include:
- The 1970s analytic fourth-generation languages (RAMIS, NOMAD, FOCUS, et al.) commonly combined reporting and data management.
- The best BI visualization technology of the 1980s, Executive Information Systems (EIS), was generally unsuccessful. The core reason was a lack of what we’d now call drilldown. Not coincidentally, EIS vendors — notably leader Comshare — didn’t do well at DBMS-like technology.
- Business Objects, one of the pioneers of the modern BI product category, rose in large part on the strength of its “semantic layer” technology. (If you don’t know what that is, you can imagine it as a kind of virtual data warehouse modest enough in its ambitions to actually be workable.)
- Cognos, the other pioneer of modern BI, depending on capabilities for which it needed a bundled MOLAP (Multidimensional OnLine Analytic Processing) engine.
- But Cognos later stopped needing that engine, which underscores my point about technology ebbing and flowing.
|Categories: Business intelligence, Business Objects, Cognos, Databricks, Spark and BDAS, EAI, EII, ETL, ELT, ETLT, Hadoop, Information Builders, MicroStrategy, Software as a Service (SaaS), Teradata||5 Comments|
Relational DBMS used to be fairly straightforward product suites, which boiled down to:
- A big SQL interpreter.
- A bunch of administrative and operational tools.
- Some very optional add-ons, often including an application development tool.
Now, however, most RDBMS are sold as part of something bigger.
- Oracle has hugely thickened its stack, as part of an Innovator’s Solution strategy — hardware, middleware, applications, business intelligence, and more.
- IBM has moved aggressively to a bundled “appliance” strategy. Even before that, IBM DB2 long sold much better to committed IBM accounts than as a software-only offering.
- Microsoft SQL Server is part of a stack, starting with the Windows operating system.
- Sybase was an exception to this rule, with thin(ner) stacks for both Adaptive Server Enterprise and Sybase IQ. But Sybase is now owned by SAP, and increasingly integrated as a business with …
- … SAP HANA, which is closely associated with SAP’s applications.
- Teradata has always been a hardware/software vendor. The most successful of its analytic DBMS rivals, in some order, are:
- Netezza, a pure appliance vendor, now part of IBM.
- Greenplum, an appliance-mainly vendor for most (not all) of its existence, and in particular now as a part of EMC Pivotal.
- Vertica, more of a software-only vendor than the others, but now owned by and increasingly mainstreamed into hardware vendor HP.
- MySQL’s glory years were as part of the “LAMP” stack.
- Various thin-stack RDBMS that once were or could have been important market players … aren’t. Examples include Progress OpenEdge, IBM Informix, and the various strays adopted by Actian.
As is the case for most important categories of technology, discussions of BI can get confused. I’ve remarked in the past that there are numerous kinds of BI, and that the very origin of the term “business intelligence” can’t even be pinned down to the nearest century. But the most fundamental confusion of all is that business intelligence technology really is two different things, which in simplest terms may be categorized as user interface (UI) and platform* technology. And so:
- The UI aspect is why BI tends to be sold to business departments; the platform aspect is why it also makes sense to sell BI to IT shops attempting to establish enterprise standards.
- The UI aspect is why it makes sense to sell and market BI much as one would applications; the platform aspect is why it makes sense to sell and market BI much as one would database technology.
- The UI aspect is why vendors want to integrate BI with transaction-processing applications; the platform aspect is, I suppose, why they have so much trouble making the integration work.
- The UI aspect is why BI is judged on … well, on snazzy UIs and demos. The platform aspect is a big reason why the snazziest UI doesn’t always win.
*I wanted to say “server” or “server-side” instead of “platform”, as I dislike the latter word. But it’s too inaccurate, for example in the case of the original Cognos PowerPlay, and also in various thin-client scenarios.
Key aspects of BI platform technology can include:
- Query and data management. That’s the area I most commonly write about, for example in the cases of Platfora, QlikView, or Metamarkets. It goes back to the 1990s — notably the Business Objects semantic layer and Cognos PowerPlay MOLAP (MultiDimensional OnLine Analytic Processing) engine — and indeed before that to the report writers and fourth-generation languages of the 1970s. This overlaps somewhat with …
- … data integration and metadata management. Business Objects, Qlik, and other BI vendors have bought data integration vendors. Arguably, there was a period when Information Builders’ main business was data connectivity and integration. And sometimes the main value proposition for a BI deal is “We need some way to get at all that data and bring it together.”
- Security and access control – authentication, authorization, and all the additional As.
- Scheduling and delivery. When 10s of 1000s of desktops are being served, these aren’t entirely trivial. Ditto when dealing with occasionally-connected mobile devices.
|Categories: Business intelligence, Business Objects, ClearStory Data, Cognos, Data warehousing, Endeca, Information Builders, Metamarkets and Druid, MOLAP, Platfora, Predictive modeling and advanced analytics, QlikTech and QlikView||11 Comments|
I’m frequently asked to generalize in some way about in-memory or memory-centric data management. I can start:
- The desire for human real-time interactive response naturally leads to keeping data in RAM.
- Many databases will be ever cheaper to put into RAM over time, thanks to Moore’s Law. (Most) traditional databases will eventually wind up in RAM.
- However, there will be exceptions, mainly on the machine-generated side. Where data creation and RAM data storage are getting cheaper at similar rates … well, the overall cost of RAM storage may not significantly decline.
Getting more specific than that is hard, however, because:
- The possibilities for in-memory data storage are as numerous and varied as those for disk.
- The individual technologies and products for in-memory storage are much less mature than those for disk.
- Solid-state options such as flash just confuse things further.
Consider, for example, some of the in-memory data management ideas kicking around. Read more
The 2011/2012 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence Platforms — company-by-company comments
This is one of a series of posts on business intelligence and related analytic technology subjects, keying off the 2011/2012 version of the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence Platforms. The four posts in the series cover:
- Overview comments about the 2011/2012 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence Platforms, as well as a link to the actual document.
- Business intelligence industry trends — some of Gartner’s thoughts but mainly my own.
- (This post) Company-by-company comments based on the 2011/2012 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence Platforms.
- Third-party analytics, pulling together and expanding on some points I made in the first three posts.
The heart of Gartner Group’s 2011/2012 Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence Platforms was the company comments. I shall expound upon some, roughly in declining order of Gartner’s “Completeness of Vision” scores, dubious though those rankings may be. Read more
|Categories: Business intelligence, Business Objects, Cognos, IBM and DB2, Information Builders, Jaspersoft, MicroStrategy, Open source, Oracle, Pentaho, QlikTech and QlikView, SAP AG, SAS Institute, Tableau Software||5 Comments|
When I drafted a list of key analytics-sector issues in honor of look-ahead season, the first item was “execution of various big vendors’ ambitious initiatives”. By “execute” I mean mainly:
- “Deliver products that really meet customers’ desires and needs.”
- “Successfully convince them that you’re doing so …”
- “… at an attractive overall cost.”
Vendors mentioned here are Oracle, SAP, HP, and IBM. Anybody smaller got left out due to the length of this post. Among the bigger omissions were:
I seem to be in the mode of sharing some of my frameworks for thinking about analytic technology. Here’s another one.
Ultimately, there are six useful things you can do with analytic technology:
- You can make an immediate decision.
- You can plan in support of future decisions.
- You can research, investigate, and analyze in support of future decisions.
- You can monitor what’s going on, to see when it necessary to decide, plan, or investigate.
- You can communicate, to help other people and organizations do these same things.
- You can provide support, in technology or data gathering, for one of the other functions.
Technology vendors often cite similar taxonomies, claiming to have all the categories (as they conceive them) nicely represented, in slickly integrated fashion. They exaggerate. Most of these categories are in rapid flux, and the rest should be. Analytic technology still has a long way to go.
In more detail: Read more
|Categories: Analytic technologies, Business intelligence, Cognos, Data warehousing, RDF and graphs, Text||12 Comments|
As you’ve probably read, IBM and Netezza announced a deal today for IBM to buy Netezza. I didn’t sit in on the conference call, but I’ve seen the reporting. Naturally, I have some quick thoughts, which I’ve broken up into several sections below:
- Clearing some underbrush.
- Speculation about what IBM/Netezza will do.
- Speculation about alternative acquirers for Netezza.
- Speculation about what IBM/Netezza competitors will do.
|Categories: Analytic technologies, Cognos, Data integration and middleware, Data warehousing, EAI, EII, ETL, ELT, ETLT, IBM and DB2, Netezza, Oracle, SAS Institute, Solid-state memory, Vertica Systems||20 Comments|
IBM is acquiring SPSS. My initial thoughts (questions by Eric Lai of Computerworld) include:
1) good buy for IBM? why or why not?
Yes. The integration of predictive analytics with other analytic or operational technologies is still ahead of us, so there was a lot of value to be gained from SPSS beyond what it had standalone. (That said, I haven’t actually looked at the numbers, so I have no comment on the price.)
By the way, SPSS coined the phrase “predictive analytics”, with the rest of the industry then coming around to use it. As with all successful marketing phrases, it’s somewhat misleading, in that it’s not wholly focused on prediction.
2) how does it position IBM vs. competitors?
IBM’s ownership immediately makes SPSS a stronger competitor to SAS. Any advantage to the rest of IBM depends on the integration roadmap and execution.
3) How does this particularly affect SAP and SAS and Oracle, IBM’s closest competitors by revenue according to IDC’s figures?
If one of Oracle or SAP had bought SPSS, it would have given them a competitive advantage against the other, in the integration of predictive analytics with packaged operational apps. That’s a missed opportunity for each.
One notable point is that SPSS is more SQL-oriented than SAS. Thus, SPSS has gotten performance benefits from Oracle’s in-database data mining technology that SAS apparently hasn’t.
IBM’s done a good job of keeping its acquired products working well with Oracle and other competitive DBMS in the past, and SPSS will surely be no exception.
Obviously, if IBM does a good job of Cognos/SPSS integration, that’s bad for competitors, starting with Oracle and SAP/Business Objects. So far business intelligence/predictive analytics integration has been pretty minor, because nobody’s figured out how to do it right, but some day that will change. Hmm — I feel another “Future of … ” post coming on.
4) Do you predict further M&A?
- Official word from SPSS and IBM
- Blog posts from Larry Dignan and James Taylor
- James Kobelius‘s post, which includes the obvious point that Oracle — unlike SAP — has pretty decent data mining of its own
- Eric Lai‘s actual article
I chatted yesterday with the general business side (as opposed to the trading operation) of a household-name brokerage firm, one that’s in no immediate financial peril. It seems their #1 analytic-technology priority right now is changing planning from an annual to a monthly cycle.* That’s a smart idea. While it’s especially important in their business, larger enterprises of all kinds should consider following suit. Read more
|Categories: Analytic technologies, Application areas, Business intelligence, Cognos, Data warehousing, IBM and DB2, MOLAP||Leave a Comment|