informa
Commentary

SAS Move Into Indirect Sales Is An Indication Of Accelerating Change In The BI Industry

SAS, which until now has almost exclusively sold its business intelligence and data analysis software directly to customers, will develop a VAR channel to reach small and midsized businesses--defined as those with sales of less than $
This week's SAS Institute announcement that it will begin selling business intelligence software through value-added resellers is a sure sign that commoditization within the BI technology industry is accelerating and another round of consolidation may be imminent.

SAS, which until now has almost exclusively sold its business intelligence and data analysis software directly to customers, will develop a VAR channel to reach small and midsized businesses--defined as those with sales of less than $1 billion. The vendor will offer six BI, analysis, and data integration products through the channel, with the goal of generating 15% to 20% of its sales through VARs by the end of 2008.Basic query and reporting tools, the most mainstream of BI technologies, are ubiquitous today. The trend toward their commoditization got its biggest boost in 2004 when Microsoft began building its Reporting Services query and reporting tools directly into its SQL Server database. Oracle and SAP now provide them with their ERP and CRM applications. Reporting tools are even free from open-source vendors such as JasperSoft and Pentaho.

All this puts more pressure on "traditional" BI vendors. While the BI market is still growing at a healthy clip--IDC says it grew 11.5% to $5.7 billion last year--industry leaders like Cognos and Business Objects have been expanding into such areas as performance management and more advanced data analysis. SAS's move is especially significant because it shows that even that company, which plays more at the high end of the BI market with its advanced data mining and data analysis technology, is searching for new ways to compete with its query and reporting products.

The BI industry is a crowded one with lots of vendors--most with market shares of 5% or less, according to IDC. The top three vendors, Business Objects, SAS, and Cognos, account for only one-third of the total market.

Rumors of acquisitions are rampant. The industry underwent some consolidation in 2003 when Business Objects bought Crystal Decisions and Hyperion acquired Brio. But indications are growing that another wave of consolidation may be just around the corner.

Editor's Choice
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer