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Hyperion Solutions has introduced new versions of key products in a campaign to expand the user base of the company's flagship performance-management offerings.
Hyperion Performance Suite 8.2, based on technology acquired as part of Hyperion's 2003 Brio takeover, provides query and reporting tools and dashboard displays that complement new analytic and performance features in version 7 of the Essbase analysis engine. Together dubbed the Hyperion BI Platform, the products are targeted to users of Hyperion's business performance management (BPM) tools, to third-party analytic tool users, and to developers.
According to Paul Turner, Hyperion's director of platform product marketing, "Businesses want to standardize and deploy BPM solutions beyond finance, across the enterprise, to extend BPM capabilities to every activity." Hyperion's approach emphasizes interface usability, deepened analytic capabilities, and integration with third-party infrastructure and applications software and tools. This approach shares much in common with analytic-platform strategies articulated in the past year by leading rivals such as SAS and MicroStrategy. These vendors and others have also responded to the observation implicit in Turner's remarks (that BPM adoption beyond finance has been slow) with enhanced interfaces, beefed-up reporting systems, and more extensive integration options.
The Hyperion Performance Suite's interface innovations center on dashboards with easier IT deployment management that end-users can customize. Coupled with new Essbase triggering and alerting capabilities, an area where Hyperion is only now catching up with BI rivals, the Hyperion BI Platform is designed to meet end-user demands for interface personalization and real-time performance monitoring, according to director of product marketing Rob Berry.
New Essbase predictive analysis and forecasting capabilities plug into a new data-mining framework integrated with the Essbase OLAP (multidimensional processing) engine. These capabilities target marketing and demand-planning needs.
Essbase now sports neural network, decision, tree, segmentation, and clustering algorithms. Berry explained that Hyperion's Essbase goal is to provide "more power to power users, improved deployment, and a flexible development environment." It is worth noting that Hyperion's rival Cognos had similarly introduced data mining tools into its BI suite in the late 1990s, only to let those tools languish, presumably because real demand was low. Furthermore, Microsoft has been slow to deliver on its promise to deliver data mining integrated into its market-leading Analysis Services.
Essbase 7 supports Microsoft's Multidimensional Expressions (MDX) query language and XML for Analysis (XMLA), a Web services wrapper for MDX that is being developed by an industry council led by Hyperion, Microsoft, and SAS. Hyperion's primary goal appears to be support for third-party analytic client tools from companies such as Panorama Software and ProClarity that have close relationships with Microsoft. Hyperion staff members note that MDX newly supports features such as custom groupings and set-based analytics that should appeal to a wider variety of users, such as marketers. MDX would likely preclude, however, use of the new Essbase data mining facilities, presumably the reason that Hyperion's own client tools continue to use native APIs to access Essbase. Additionally, Hyperion staffers were able to identify only one company that currently ships tools that interoperate with Essbase via XMLA, a fact leading to the conclusion that MDX and XMLA support are impelled more by market position motives than by technical advantages.
Microsoft isn't the only company with technology links to Hyperion. Turner emphasizes that this is "the first BI platform that runs end-to-end on Linux." He adds that Hyperion embraces evolving security and integration standards and supports J2EE "throughout the technology stack."
Not coincidentally, Linux and J2EE are central to IBM's technology strategy. The two companies appear to be maintaining the close business relationship they established several years ago. IBM continues to resell Essbase, rebranded as DB2 OLAP Server. The Hyperion BI platform includes facilities to synchronize meta-information with DB2 data warehouses, including those built with DB2 Cube Views, which layers a multidimensional model on DB2 relational tables.
Hyperion continues to support data and metadata integration with enterprise ERP, CRM, sales-force automation, and other applications and with leading message-oriented middleware products that manage business-process flow. Seth Grimes
Contributing editor Seth Grimes [[email protected]] writes and consults on database and analytic technologies.
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