MicroStrategy 2004 User Conference - InformationWeek

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MicroStrategy 2004 User Conference

Product strategy and customer success highlight event

A large part of the executive presentations at the conference concerned MicroStrategy plans and expectations for 2004, especially product plans. Delivery of version 7.5.1 of the MicroStrategy product suite will occur in the first quarter of 2004 and will include various feature upgrades. Notably, Report Services will be able to present data within various gauge types. Gauge thresholds will be data driven. These features clearly show that MicroStrategy believes dashboards to be an important segment of its business. At the same time, MicroStrategy has stated that dashboards should be viewed as a report variation and not a separate product. This differs from products and positions taken by Business Objects, Cognos, Hyperion, and other vendors that have delivered separate dashboard-specific products. Ventana Research views the approach taken by MicroStrategy (as well as Actuate and Information Builders) as conservative. While likely in keeping with how many organizations currently view their dashboard platform requirements, opportunities to assist organizations seeking more sophisticated dashboard functionality, such as collaboration, may be missed.

MicroStrategy presented future product releases beyond version 7.5.1. One project, code-named Pollux, will focus on making the MicroStrategy suite available on UNIX. Support for 64-bit versions of UNIX will also be included in this release. MicroStrategy stated that it felt the 64-bit version would provide significant performance improvement. Ventana Research agrees that 64-bit operating system support will significantly benefit all BI products. Dramatically enlarged memory capacity will significantly diminish the need for disk-based caching of reports and data, and will reduce the query latency where disk accesses were previously required.

Complementing Pollux is another project code-named Pegasus. Pegasus will provide incremental functionality in several key areas. Of these, expanded data access is a key new feature area. Code-named XDA, for Extended Data Access, this feature area will enable direct access via Microsoft’s multidimensional query language, MDX, to SAP BW (via BAPI) and to Microsoft Analysis Services. It will also support developer-defined custom SQL, stored procedure invocation and integration of data from multiple sources. Ventana Research views each of these new data access capabilities as significant for MicroStrategy customers. While other BI vendors already offer some or all of these capabilities, MicroStrategy will gain differentiation by providing this functionality as part of its tightly integrated product suite.

Other future features revealed but not tied to a particular project were integrated data mining support in the Intelligence Server and HTML/DHTML visualization of Report Services reports. With the planned data mining integration, organizations will be able to define metrics based upon dependent variables calculated by various data mining processes. Integration with external data-mining products such as SAS via PMML will also be possible. For Report Services, the planned HTML and DHTML visualization capabilities will complete the planned set of alternative visualization modes. Reports may be delivered in HTML-only format with limited interaction or in DHTML format with extended interaction.

The Pollux and Pegasus projects round out the MicroStrategy suite, extending its feature set to respond to customer requests and competitor differentiators.

Market Impact

MicroStrategy is executing well in the market. Revenue growth is industry-leading. Its product suite is more tightly integrated than other leading BI suites. Company viability issues have receded into the background. If its recent past predicts its future, MicroStrategy is poised to continue its course of growth for the next year, if not further. The most significant challenge they face is capturing new customers from other leading BI vendors. While MicroStrategy’s technology is robust, motivating organizations to throw out existing investments in competitors may prove difficult. In the longer term, Business Objects and Cognos will become tougher competitors with their larger salesforces and with completed BI platform integrations.

Recommendation

MicroStrategy provides a well-integrated, scalable, broad set of business intelligence products. Organizations evaluating enterprise business intelligence platforms should consider MicroStrategy’s BI suite. MicroStrategy Office should be considered where PowerPoint, Excel or Word documents are the final format for enterprise information. MicroStrategy Report Services has robust support from the rest of the platform and will be a solid reporting product when remaining features such as HTML reports are added.

MicroStrategy’s emphasis on business intelligence limits its ability to completely fulfill performance management initiative requirements. Organizations seeking to implement performance management applications should consider MicroStrategy because much of its suite can be applied to performance management initiatives. Organizations seeking performance management-specific products should also examine other vendors.

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