Cognos Offers a Sneak Peek at Version 8

September BI suite release tightens integration and unifies UI.

Cognos' impending September 2005 release of Cognos 8 provides tighter integration of Cognos ReportNet, PowerPlay, Metrics Manager and Decision Stream products. It also includes Cognos NoticeCast-like monitoring and alerting functionality. The individual products in the suite now share common metadata and a common security, scheduling and deployment infrastructure. Development and user interfaces now have a common look and feel and are all web-delivered thin clients. OLAP and relational data sources are now treated similarly, allowing reporting and analysis to be done against either data source type. Ventana Research believes that this upcoming release of Cognos' BI suite will strengthen its market position. The suite will be a strong option for organizations seeking to standardize their BI product portfolio.

At its annual user forum in Orlando, Florida on June 27, 2005, Cognos provided an overview of the next release of its BI suite. Cognos 8 is the next step in the development of an architecture first delivered as ReportNet.  The new suite incorporates ReportNet, PowerPlay, Metrics Manager and Decision Stream, along with functionality similar to NoticeCast, into an integrated package with shared services. Cognos 8 is now feature-complete and in beta testing; Ventana Research expects it to ship in September 2005.

A broad array of data access and manipulation capabilities is an essential element of any enterprise-ready BI suite. Cognos 8 addresses this requirement by offering static, parameterized and interactive reporting.  It also delivers OLAP analysis capabilities (PowerPlay Web, rebranded as Analysis Studio), embedded event notification (NoticeCast reborn as Event Studio) and data integration services (DecisionStream reborn as Data Manager). The user interface for each of the elements of the suite rests on metadata from a common repository and offers standard controls and a common look and feel. In some cases input can flow from one interface to another. Interactivity capabilities previously restricted to OLAP and formatting capabilities previously restricted to reports are now provided across both reporting and OLAP. Furthermore, reports and interactive analysis can be done using data from either OLAP or relational data sources.

As was the case with ReportNet, Cognos 8 is focused on the web delivery of business intelligence. The new version of the suite focuses on ease of use. Interfaces were field-tested during the suite's design phase. For power users, more analytic capabilities have been added, while for business users, simplified interfaces, such as Cognos Viewer, remain ready at hand. Interactivity controls that are common across multiple analytic interfaces share a similar look and feel. Even though all interfaces are web-delivered, users are provided controls such as drag and drop and tree expansions. Ventana Research believes that organizations that adopt Cognos 8 will obtain material improvements in productivity from the simplified interfaces.

The blending of OLAP and reporting in Cognos 8 likely will provide performance benefits. The user interface has been enhanced to minimize control response latency. Summary reports based on relational data that run slowly because of high join counts or sub-queries can be accelerated by caching data into PowerPlay or other OLAP cubes, off-loading the database and utilizing the OLAP cube’s pre-aggregation capabilities. Ventana Research believes that Cognos 8, much like other blends of OLAP and relational databases from Actuate, Business Objects, Microsoft, MicroStrategy, Oracle, SAP and others, will significantly improve query performance for business users.

Access to existing corporate infrastructure will also improve in Cognos 8 thanks to the suite’s ability to access multiple data types through a common front end. Support for industry standards including XML, SOAP and the Web Services Distribution Language will enable organizations to integrate Cognos 8 into enterprise IT infrastructures. ReportNet’s Web services SDK has also been expanded in Cognos 8 to support the other functional areas within the Cognos 8 suite such as Analysis Studio and event notification, enabling integration with other elements of the IT infrastructure.

The high degree of integration of the components of the Cognos 8 suite also simplifies administration by sharing tasks relating to users, security, schedules, metadata and deployment across reporting, OLAP, event and data integration functions. Ventana Research believes that organizations will find Cognos 8 significantly easier to integrate into existing IT infrastructure and to administer than past products from Cognos.

Market Impact
Overall, Cognos’ position in the BI market will be strengthened with this release. With its broad set of functions, tighter integration and new capabilities, Cognos 8 will be a strong competitor. The new version of the suite, a free upgrade for existing Cognos customers on maintenance, will provide a significant incentive for those customers to stay with Cognos. De-positioning of Cognos because of lack of integration by other BI vendors will be significantly more difficult. Nonetheless, as functionality differences become less clear, Ventana Research expects intensified competition among BI suites from Actuate, Business Objects, Cognos, Hyperion, Information Builders, Microsoft, and Oracle.

BI standardization agendas increasingly will drive enterprise-wide adoption for the larger BI players. For the moment, though, architecture, integration ease, cost of ownership and accessibility of administration will be significant buying decision factors. And of course customer satisfaction will play an ever larger role, shaped by perceptions of customer support, partnership relationships and other subjective factors.

Ventana Research believes that Cognos 8 will be able to meet broad enterprise requirements and that it will be competitive with other BI suite offerings from Actuate, Business Objects, Information Builders, Microsoft, MicroStrategy and Oracle. Any organization shopping for BI technology should consider Cognos because it has demonstrated success in providing BI technology and because it continues to advance its product lines. Organizations intending to standardize on a BI suite should consider Cognos 8 as a foundation for that effort when the suite becomes available.

Related Research:
Cognos Brings New Market and Product Strategy to Market
Cognos Version 8 and Cognos Office Connection Highlighted at Cognos Forum 2005

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