IBM, Information Builders, Microsoft, MicroSystems, Oracle, SAP, and SAS -- essentially household names, except for perhaps Information Builders -- represent the seven most intelligently placed dots in the 2009 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence Platforms. The report, authored by James Richardson, Kurt Schlegel, Rita Sallam, and Bill Hostmann, states that 2008 established the business intelligence playing field as one dominated by megavendors. The big players in the BI landscape gobbled up smaller ones, essentially consolidating the BI customer base. Merger-and-acquisition activity, however, often leads to a major commitment of time -- time that vendors dedicate toward ironing out the kinks of a unified product line, essentially stunting any efforts at true innovation, according to the report. That leaves only the remaining independent vendors as a source of innovation, Gartner says, and helps define them as belonging to the Niche Player or Visionary quadrant.
The report calls 2008 "a year of transition" following "the vendor merger and acquisition turbulence of 2007" -- a reference to the major acquisitions of Business Objects by SAP, Cognos by IBM, and Hyperion Solutions by Oracle. The report suggests that "2009 is likely to be a critical year in which the total cost of ownership of BI comes under increased scrutiny, and its value as a decision-making tool in the toughest economic conditions is put to the test." The analysts write that the BI platform market should emerge nicely from the recession because of the increasing need among organizations for better decisions based more on facts.
Gartner defines a BI platform as a software offering that delivers the following 12 capabilities:
- BI infrastructure
- Metadata management
- Workflow and collaboration
- Ad-hoc querying
- Microsoft Office integration
- OLAP (online analytical processing)
- Advanced visualization
- Predictive modeling and data mining
To a large degree, this year's Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence Platforms is very similar to last year's. No vendors have dropped off the list -- aside from the consolidations of Business Objects into SAP and Cognos into IBM -- and no vendors are listed in the Challengers quadrant. The other placements are as follows:
- IBM (Cognos): This solution has a broad functional footprint, and has been deployed among many large-scale enterprises. Gartner, however, notes that these deployments are primarily reporting-centric and have more of an "information versus an applications agenda."
- Information Builders: The company's WebFOCUS product has a very consumer-centric approach and is noted as one of the industry's easiest-to-use solutions, and its iWAY integration platform allows for reporting across siloes and multiple data sources. Gartner calls the company a BI innovator -- taking early bets on integrated search, mobile, use of rich Internet applications and mashups, predictive analytics, data discovery, and visualization. However, Information Builders was behind with self-service, ad-hoc analysis, and OLAP capabilities. Due to this weakness, customers often have to build multivendor BI strategies.
- Microsoft: Gartner states that the Redmond giant "joined the BI market relatively late with a broadly capable product set at a low price point. Since then it has consistently developed its offering." Despite growing market share, the company's weakness is in delivering a clear roadmap for its BI acquisitions, Gartner says. The analysts also note that the company's product vision is somewhat limited and less operational than that of its peers, such as Oracle.
- MicroStrategy: The vendor specializes in running deployments on top of large enterprise data warehouses. MicroStrategy's customers, in fact, reported higher mean data volume than the customers of any other vendor included in Gartner's report. The vendor's development environment is robust and flexible, the analysts say, but includes a steep learning curve.
- Oracle: The megavendor understands how to offer domain-specific and prepackaged solutions, Gartner says -- no fewer than 70 functional and industry-specific packaged BI applications, in fact, built on the Oracle BI Enterprise Edition Platform. Gartner also underscores the noticeable effort Oracle has put into product integration with the company's other products and technologies, which will prove beneficial for current Oracle customers. Despite all that, however, the report suggests that Oracle lags behind in terms of innovation and emerging technologies.
- SAP: SAP Business Objects supports one of the largest data and deployment volumes, according to the analysts. The reporting and ad-hoc query capabilities are of note, as is the vendor's large ecosystem. Other leading attributes are in the areas of text analytics, on-demand BI, search coupled with BI, metadata, data lineage and impact analysis, and data quality. Gartner cautions, however, that "SAP's acquisition of Business Objects forces its SAP NetWeaver BI customers, who have implemented the BEx BI tools, to re-examine their BI strategy."
- SAS: Gartner highlights the company's focus on forecasting, predictive modeling, and optimization, as well as its investments in data discovery and visualization. The company's products, however, still have a reputation for being more difficult to use than those of other vendors, and the Gartner analysts further blame SAS for an absence of true Web reporting.
- QlikTech: "QlikTech's culture of penetrating accounts with low-cost deployments will be a particular strength in the current economic environment as organizations look to deliver on analytical requirements without significant IT investment," the analysts write. The company's QlikView offering lacks statistical- and predictive-modeling capabilities, according to Gartner, leaving it less capable of handling enterprisewide deployment than some of its competitors might be.
- Tibco: Having acquired Spotfire in 2007 (another of the consolidations that year), Tibco's offering has a unique architecture, combining analytics and interactive visualization. The analysts say that metadata management is the vendor's main weakness, and note that Spotfire is rarely seen as an enterprise-standard BI platform. Instead, they write, Spotfire appears more often as an add-on that provides discovery-based analysis with heightened flexibility.
- Actuate: Actuate's platform, e.Reports, often serves the financial and public sectors. Gartner praises the company's investments in open-source products as well as in sales and marketing activities -- investments that the analysts say are beginning to take off, thanks to traction in the development community and new relationships with original equipment manufacturers. Actuate, however, is limited in support for OLAP and ad-hoc analysis, according to the report.
- arcplan: With strengths in workflow/collaboration, dashboarding, and scorecarding, the offering is often used to integrate other BI investments. The research declares that arcplan "has exploited a niche in the BI platform market by serving a subset of specific, complex BI needs for its customers." The analysts predict, however, that this niche will be increasingly squeezed by the larger BI platform vendors as they expand their capabilities to address the gaps that arcplan currently fills.
- Board International: A relatively mature company, Board has a well-integrated BI platform that focuses on custom analytic applications, with a "toolkit" approach to BI application development. Analysts suggest, though, that the company may be too geographically constrained and that the size of its average customer is on the small side.
- Panorama Software: The solution runs natively and simultaneously on SAP NetWeaver BI, Microsoft Analysis Services, and Oracle Hyperion Essbase. The vendor is strong in adopting new channels and vertical-specific BI applications, the report says. "While Panorama offers good functionality, its overall growth may be limited as the megavendors improve their own front-end capabilities by applying the BI technology they have acquired," the analysts write. "As a small vendor, Panorama must capitalize on its impressive innovation in the channel." Panorama's relationship with Google is of note, but the analysts say the vendor shouldn't risk everything based on the hope of that developing into a big revenue source.
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