Cognos Joins the 'BI Platform' Chorus - InformationWeek

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Cognos Joins the 'BI Platform' Chorus

Due in November, Cognos 8 consolidates formerly separate products, including PowerPlay, Visualizer, Metrics Manager and NoticeCast, into the services-oriented architecture underlying ReportNet, the Web-based reporting environment Cognos introduced two years ago.

The common refrains in every big business intelligence product debut this year have been "unified," "comprehensive" and "bringing BI to more users." The chorus began in January with the launch of both BusinessObjects XI and MicroStrategy 8. It continued in March with Information Builder's WebFocus 7 and in April with SAS's Enterprise BI Server. Last week it was Cognos' turn with Cognos 8 Business Intelligence, and in November, Hyperion will launch its next-generation platform.

The goal is to be selected as the enterprisewide BI standard, so comprehensive capabilities and consistent user interfaces, security and integration are key. The variation on the theme at Cognos' September launch was "single product, single architecture." Due in November, Cognos 8 consolidates formerly separate products, including PowerPlay, Visualizer, Metrics Manager and NoticeCast, into the services-oriented architecture underlying ReportNet, the Web-based reporting environment Cognos introduced two years ago.

[ THE Q.T. ]
"While it's likely that Siebel Analytics will survive as an embedded capability within the CRM suite, it's unlikely that Oracle will repackage the offering and sell it as a BI product [though] spinning it off isn't beyond the realm of possibility." — Neil Raden, Analyst/Principle, Hired Brains

"What they're doing is pretty profound," says Forrester analyst Keith Gile. "One, they're getting rid of all their separate brands in favor of one Cognos brand. That tells you they're serious about providing a single platform. Two, it's huge going from client/server for everything except ReportNet to an entirely services-oriented architecture."

Cognos says it has rearchitected its products rather than simply creating Web services calls on legacy code. Gile had yet to see the product, but he speculates that much is true given that Cognos could have delivered a more superficial approach "within a month of introducing ReportNet."

Cognos 8 will let users apply BI functionality including reporting, analysis, dashboarding, scorecarding and event management to be performed against any data, including both relational and OLAP sources. The platform also presents a single metadata layer and a single query engine.

"This blurs the lines between OLAP and reporting, which have long been separate in Cognos," says Cindi Howson, president of BI consultancy ASK. "That's somewhat in response to the success of Microsoft Analysis Services and a trend in the industry that OLAP data storage belongs more with the database vendors. Yet it's also customer-driven: Users shouldn't have to care where the data is or whether its relational or OLAP to be able to analyze or report off of it."

Does Cognos' claim to "the industry's first single product to deliver complete BI" ring true? Not quite, says Gile. "BusinessObjects is an integrated platform that has multiple services that can be turned on and off," he says. "You can argue that the services haven't been decoupled down to the same level as Cognos 8, but it represents the same thing."

As for spreading BI to more users, database vendors are also eying mainstream needs (see "Microsoft Ups the Price/Performance Ante"). The tools offered by the platform players may not be as mature or as deep as those of the pure-play BI vendors — and their ability to tap into diverse data sources will no doubt be limited — but cost per seat may loom larger than qualitative concerns.

Doug Henschen

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