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:

January 22, 2009

Gartner’s 2009 Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence

A few days ago I tore into the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Data Warehouse DBMS.  Well, the 2009 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence Platforms is out too.  Unlike the data warehouse MQ, Gartner’s BI MQ clusters its “Leaders” together tightly. But while less bold, the Business Intelligence Magic Quadrant’s claims are just as questionable as those in data warehousing.

February, 2011 edit: Here’s a partial link that works right now.

Of course, some parts do make sense.  E.g.: Read more

July 31, 2008

The Boston Globe keeps hammering at the Cognos scandals

Highlight of the latest article:

Also working on Cognos’s behalf during this period was lobbyist Richard McDonough, another close friend of DiMasi’s, who was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to help the company secure state work. He failed to report more than $300,000 in lobbying fees until a Globe story earlier this month detailed his extent of his relationship with Cognos.

Related links

July 7, 2008

Another Cognos scandal in Massachusetts

I already posted about the Boston Globe’s reporting on a deal to supply the whole Massachusetts state government with Cognos software that since has been investigated and rescinded.

The Globe now reports that a multimillion dollar deal the prior year with the Massachusetts Department of Education was equally dubious. Lowlights include: Read more

July 1, 2008

Cognos/State of Massachusetts scandal

I assumed this had been reported widely outside of Massachusetts, but a web search suggests otherwise.

The story is this: Cognos sold 20,000 seats of software to Massachusetts for $13 million. There were technical violations of purchase procedures, and other aspects of the deal that didn’t pass the smell test. After IBM bought Cognos, the deal was rescinded, and is being rebid. Read more

December 21, 2007

IBM acquires SolidDB to compete with Oracle TimesTen

IBM is acquiring Solid Information Technology, makers of solidDB. Some quick comments:

Read more

December 14, 2007

A quick survey of data warehouse management technology

There are at least 16 different vendors offering appliances and/or software that do database management primarily for analytic purposes.* That’s a lot to keep up with,. So I’ve thrown together a little overview of the analytic data management landscape, liberally salted with links to information about specific vendors, products, or technical issues. In some ways, this is a companion piece to my prior post about data warehouse appliance myths and realities.

*And that’s just the tabular/alphanumeric guys. Add in text search and you run the total a lot higher.

Numerous data warehouse specialists offer traditional row-based relational DBMS architectures, but optimize them for analytic workloads. These include Teradata, Netezza, DATAllegro, Greenplum, Dataupia, and SAS. All of those except SAS are wholly or primarily vendors of MPP/shared-nothing data warehouse appliances. EDIT: See the comment thread for a correction re Kognitio.

Numerous data warehouse specialists offer column-based relational DBMS architectures. These include Sybase (with the Sybase IQ product, originally from Expressway), Vertica, ParAccel, Infobright, Kognitio (formerly White Cross), and Sand. Read more

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.


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.

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.

September 6, 2007

Applix – Three huge opportunities Cognos will probably ignore

If I weren’t on a snorkeling vacation,* this might be a good time to write about why I once called Cognos “The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight,” how Ron Zambonini used that label to help him gain the company’s top spot, why he’s such a big fan of mine, why I got my highest ever per-minute speaking fee to attend a Cognos sales kickoff event, why I went for a midnight touristing stroll in downtown Ottawa in zero degree Fahrenheit weather, or how I managed, while attending the aforementioned Cognos sales kickoff, to get snowed in for three days in, of all places, Dallas, Texas. But the wrasses and jacks await, so I’ll get straight to the point.

*Albeit fairly snorkel-free so far, thanks to Hurricane Felix. 🙁

As I discussed at considerable length in a white paper, Applix’s core technology is fully-featured, memory-centric MOLAP. This is certainly cool technology, and I think it is actually unique. That it’s historically been positioned as the engine for a mid-range set of performance management tools is a travesty, a shame, the result of a prior merger – and also the quite understandable consequence of RAM limitations. However, RAM is ever cheaper and Applix’s technology is now 64-bit, so the RAM barriers have been relaxed. Cognos can take Applix’s TM1 engine high-end if it wants to. And boy, should Cognos ever want to. Indeed, there are three different great ways Cognos could package and position TM1:

  1. As a no-data-warehouse-design quick-start analytics engine analogous to QlikView (the fastest-growing and most important newish BI suite, open source perhaps excepted);
  2. As the most sophisticated and versatile planning tool this side of SAP’s APO (and while APO’s sophistication is not in dispute, its versatility is questionable anyway);
  3. As the processing hub for dashboards-done-right.

Read more

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