Leading Lights vs. 'Four Bright Bulbs' - InformationWeek

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4/16/2008
05:32 PM
Doug Henschen
Doug Henschen
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Leading Lights vs. 'Four Bright Bulbs'

The "Bright Lights" article offers a solid analysis of the mega vendor paths forward, but these four companies don't control the destiny of the market or the limits of what you'll be able to do with BI technology in the years ahead.

This week's in-depth story on "How to Choose Among the Four Bright Lights of BI" offers a good example of provocative story packaging meant to get people to click and read. This also happens to be the cover story of this week's issue of InformationWeek magazine. The cover line read "And Then There Were Four," and the cover image (also used on our home page) shows four brightly burning lights among a bunch of burned-out, broken and missing bulbs. That combo has succeeded in getting people to turn the page, but, ouch, it has to hurt if you're one of the leading lights among the remaining independent BI vendors.

I've been in publishing for a couple of decades, so I defend the right of writers and editors to stir emotions to get people reading, clicking and talking. Through acquisition, SAP, IBM, Oracle and Microsoft now claim roughly half the existing BI installs out there, but there are plenty of other leading lights out there that will help define a bigger market that has yet to emerge.As Gartner analyst Bill Hostmann put it at the recent Gartner Business Intelligence Summit 2008, "it's not 'Game Over' by any means." He pointed to potential market-changing forces such as SaaS-based BI and "clusters of partner ecosystems." Think of Teradata, Informatica and Microstrategy, which have forged closer ties of late, or Teradata and SAS, which are offering breakthrough advantage for their customers by bringing SAS analytics into the Teradata database for much faster analysis. I'd say analytics vendor SPSS is another leading light for having deftly exploited the desire of IBM/Cognos and SAP/Business Objects to try to match SAS on analytics. Both of these "bright bulbs" have partnered with SPSS so they can serve the needs of companies interested in "competing on analytics."

Gartner also touts in-memory technology as a rising star in the BI realm because it cuts IT data prep and thereby speeds analysis, but SAP, Oracle, IBM and Microsoft have a mixed record in this area. SAP has been the most successful of the big four, having promoted its BI Accelerator for several years. Oracle acquired TimesTen in early 2005, but the product seems to have fallen off the radar screen. Late last year IBM acquired Solid Information Technology and Applix (the latter by way of Cognos), so it's a Johnny come lately in in-memory while Microsoft is a total no show thus far. That leaves QlikTech, an independent vendor that has been growing rapidly on the strength of its in-memory technology and data visualization, as another leading light in BI.

There are other leading lights, like Jaspersoft and Actuate in the open-source BI market, Oco in SaaS-based BI, Tableau Software in visualization and others (like TIBCO/Spotfire, Information Builders and so on), but my main point is that this is just the beginning of the journey for the mega vendors in BI, and it's just the beginning for a market that could easily be redefined by developments we can scarcely imagine. The "Bright Lights" article offers a solid analysis of the mega vendor paths forward, but these four companies don't control the destiny of the market or the limits of what you'll be able to do with BI technology in the years ahead.The "Bright Lights" article offers a solid analysis of the mega vendor paths forward, but these four companies don't control the destiny of the market or the limits of what you'll be able to do with BI technology in the years ahead.

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