It's The End Of The Business Intelligence World As We Know It - InformationWeek

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It's The End Of The Business Intelligence World As We Know It

Oracle's deal to buy Hyperion Solutions is just the latest in a series of market-changing developments.

The once staid business intelligence market is about to explode into something very different. Oracle's deal to acquire Hyperion Solutions for $3.3 billion, disclosed March 1, is the latest in a series of developments since the beginning of the year that make such a market blowout inevitable. In January, NCR announced plans to spin off Teradata, its data warehousing division, as a standalone company. About the same time, Hewlett-Packard revealed that it has been quietly developing a data warehousing platform of its own.

Phillips: Oracle now has it all

Phillips: Oracle now has it all

Photo by Mark Lennihan/AP
In fact, business intelligence vendors--there are dozens of them--have been snapping up each other over the past few years in an attempt to round out their product lines and acquire customers. Why the frenzy? The BI market--including everything from data extraction middleware to desktop data analysis tools to data warehouse servers--is in the neighborhood of $50 billion a year and growing at a percentage rate in the low teens, says Ben Barnes, HP's newly hired general manager of business intelligence. BI ranks near the top of many companies' technology purchase plans. When InformationWeek asked 300 business technology managers about their project plans for 2007, 44% had data warehouses on their lists and 43% had data analysis tools.

In a market dominated by acquisitions of small, specialized companies, Oracle's deal to buy Hyperion is a blockbuster. Hyperion is the leading provider of financial planning and management software, including tools for monitoring and analyzing a company's key performance metrics. That's a niche, but a very attractive one because CFOs are the ones using Hyperion's apps. "This is the system of record for financial reporting and regulatory filings for most of the Fortune 500," Oracle president Charles Phillips said last week during a Webcast. In addition, Hyperion's online analytical processing server, used for "multidimensional" analysis, is a step up from Oracle's own OLAP engine. Oracle plans to keep the Hyperion sales force intact.

The acquisition, subject to regulatory approval, gives Oracle a stronger BI portfolio with which to pursue enterprise application rival SAP. Only a week earlier, SAP disclosed plans to acquire Pilot Software, a private company that also sells performance management software, though not on the same scale as Hyperion.

With Hyperion, Phillips says, Oracle will play in five areas of BI: foundation services such as data integration and access; BI dashboards and reporting tools; databases and other data stores; analytical applications such as those sold by Hyperion; and "transactional" applications, such as ERP and CRM, that generate business data. In other words, the whole BI software stack. No other vendor has all those pieces.

Three big independent BI vendors remain: SAS Institute, with revenue last year of $1.9 billion; Business Objects, with revenue of $1.25 billion; and Cognos, on pace to exceed $1 billion in fiscal 2007. Hyperion is comparable in size to Cognos. Smaller players include Informatica, Information Builders, and MicroStrategy. Cognos CEO Rob Ashe argues independent vendors excel in heterogeneous computing environments: "Customers share their data in many different places."

BI Market Leaders
Analysis Tools
Business Objects
18%
Cognos
13%
Microsoft
8%
Hyperion
6%
SAS
5%
Oracle
5%
MicroStrategy
5%
SAP
4%
Information Builders
4%
IBM
3%
Other
29%
Advanced Analytics
SAS
28%
SPSS
13%
Visual Numerics
3%
Oracle
2%
Teradata
2%
IBM
1%
Insightful
1%
Microsoft
1%
Hitachi
1%
Fair Isaac
1%
Other
47%
Worldwide market $4.5 billion, 2005 Worldwide market $1.2 billion, 2005
Data: IDC  
HP also is positioning itself as "the Switzerland of the BI world," says Barnes, whose new BI unit sells data warehouse software, servers, storage, and services but is partnering with Business Objects, Cognos, Hyperion, Informatica, MicroStrategy, and SAS to provide the pieces it lacks. But neutrality may be easier said than done, as HP increasingly bumps up against another of its partners: Oracle.

Microsoft looms large at the lower end of the market. For years, one of the great unfulfilled promises of BI--and there have been many, including the elusive "one source of the truth"--has been that it would become an everyday tool for everybody in the company. "Our strategy is to go after 10 times the footprint of a traditional performance management solution," says Chris Caren, general manager of Office business applications for Microsoft.

Microsoft's BI line includes analysis services in the SQL Server database, visualization technology acquired last year with ProClarity, Business Scorecard Manager, and, of course, the Excel spreadsheet. The ProClarity tools and Business Scorecard Manager will be replaced by Office PerformancePoint Server 2007, a business performance system due in the next few months that supports budgeting, forecasting, and scorecards. In the second week of May, Microsoft will host its first BI conference, in Seattle. "It's really our coming-out party," Caren says.

Microsoft argues that companies can push BI to more employees and partners because it makes the tools easier to use and more affordable. Instead of Ph.D. specialists running algorithms against data sets, average bookkeepers can point and click using an Excel add-on. "It's self-service data mining," says Caren. Microsoft will have to prove that; experience tells us it won't be that easy.

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At Xcel Energy, BI tools are indeed moving beyond senior-level number crunchers. Beginning next month, Business Objects dashboards will give call center personnel views of customer information, such as a person's geographic area, to help determine which bill-payment options are most likely to work for a customer.

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