Search DBMS Will Be King For BI

by Boris Evelson.

For years I've been predicting that relational DBMS will run out of steam when it comes to effectively managing and manipulating very large, heterogeneous (structured + unstructured) data sets for business intelligence. First, RDBMS were never designed and optimized for unstructured data (not just XML, which is structured data in my definition, but truly unstructured text pages). Second, there's just too much overhead and cost in RDBMS for handling OLTP functions. The result: search index DBMS will be king in BI and DSS in the future.

Today’s announcements that Microsoft may be buying Yahoo came several weeks early. On May 17th I would’ve gone on the record at Forrester IT Forum in Nashville by saying the following, and I quote from my presentation paper: “DBMS/BI vendor may buy a search company, to address the trend of increasing importance of unstructured data in BI and to obtain an early leading position in the space. I know it should be Oracle or IBM, but it probably won’t, since these guys will never admit that their relational DBMS cannot do something. Microsoft is a more likely contender since they know they won’t leapfrog IBM or Oracle in relational DBMS and they could use this opportunity to stick one to Google too.”

I thought Microsoft would buy somebody like Fast Search, but I guess that was too small for them.

BI Worlds Are Colliding!

by Boris Evelson.

Remember George Costanza from a Seinfeld episode where he was pulling his hair out about “the two worlds colliding”? He was agonizing over the world of his girlfriends and the world of his friends that should never mix. In my world, process and data, separate disciplines until recently, are now “colliding”. While some of the vendors have already been toying with the convergence of both disciplines (IBM, Oracle, SAP), today’s announcement by Tibco that it will acquire a Spotfire, is the first transaction that will merge a pureplay middleware vendor with a pureplay BI vendor (a convergence that Forrester’s been predicting for almost a year, please see our Business Intelligence Meets BPM In The Information Workplace research document. But by acquiring Spotfire, Tibco has actually achieved more than one goal.

 
  1. Being efficient is no longer enough. Enterprises can no longer stay competitive just by squeezing more efficiencies from operational applications, including workflow, business process management (BPM) and business rules engine (BRE) — business intelligence applications are needed to become more effective. For example, while workflow and rules are be used to efficiently process a customer credit application, Business Intelligence analytics are needed to effectively segment customer population and extend the credit offer to a much more targeted customer segment for a better response, cross-sell/up-sell ratios.
  2. The actual convergence of process and data. The other slant is the natural interdependency of process and data from two angles: a) one needs data to feed and enrich the business process and process rules, and b) an event (an alert, for example) triggered by a data condition has to go into a process so that it can be followed up and acted on.
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VLDB And BI

by Boris Evelson.

I’ve recently conducted research on the issues of VLDB (very large databases) and how it affects BI, since the challenges of reporting and analyzing Gb data sets are very different from reporting and analyzing multi Tb data sets. Among many other interesting findings and conclusions I uncovered the following approaches to handling VLDB challenges as they relate to BI:

Generic solutions by DBMS vendors:

  • Partitioning
  • Share everything vs. share nothing architecture
  • Caching, in-memory databases
  • Materialized views
  • Specialized file systems
  • Indexing (bit-map vs. B-tree)
  • Compression

BI-specific solutions by BI and other vendors:

  • DW appliances
  • ROLAP and reporting tool specific SQL optimization
  • Alternate DBMS (such as search indexes and vector DBMS)

I’d like to hear about other approaches that are used out there. Also, please join me for my upcoming teleconference on the subject: http://www.forrester.com/Teleconference/Overview/1,5158,1854,00.html

Spreadsheets And BI

by Boris Evelson.

I predict that for the foreseeable future, spreadsheets will remain the most widely used enterprise application. The widespread adoption isn't hard to understand — spreadsheets are powerful and flexible, yet intuitive and easy to use and learn. Plus, ad hoc applications and spreadsheet models isolate users from constant reliance on IT and incur low costs. Since the early days of BI, spreadsheets have played a natural and major role in the BI process/architecture, including:

  • Data sources
  • Transformation mechanisms
  • Operational applications
  • Reporting and analysis mechanisms

I recently published a report on spreadsheets and BI, http://www.forrester.com/Research/Document/0,7211,41687,00.html, and would love to solicit everyone’s comments on the future of spreadsheets in BI.

Reemergence Of BI

by Boris Evelson.

I've been in the BI business for over 25 years so I've seen many ups and downs in the BI cycle. We are definitely in the "up" cycle these days. I see two main reasons for it:

  1. Enterprises can no longer stay competitive just by squeezing more efficiencies from operational applications – business intelligence applications are needed to become more effective.

     
  2. Digital data (structured and unstructured) volumes are growing at 30% a year, and will be reaching zetabyte sizes by year 2010 – that’s a number with 21 zeros! Solid BI implementations will be critical to successfully turn that data into useful information.

     

Does anyone have any comments on where we are in the BI cycle and what are some of the more recent key drivers?

Which Pureplay BI Dominos Will Fall Next And Who'll Be The First To Push Them

by Boris Evelson.

Since Oracle really never competed toe to toe with IBM on applications and BI, the Hyperion acquisition is of a smaller significance for IBM than to other BI vendors. Watch for Oracle to acquire BEA, TIBCO or Informatica to leapfrog IBM in the EAI or middleware space.

It would be logical for IBM or SAP to pick up Cognos (not Business Objects, since it is still going through multiple product integration challenges) as the logical next large BI acquisition. SAP will probably make the first move, and once that happens, the IBM will look at Microstrategy or Information Builders as an alternative BI acquisition.

HP also clearly wants to be a BI player: they recently acquired a top boutique BI Systems Integrator, Knightsbridge, developed an integrated Data Warehousing platform – Neoview, and its NonStop database is used in some of the largest DW implementations. We would not be surprised if the next large BI acquisition comes from HP.

An orthogonal move could come from EMC or Sun, who have been Information Management players for years, with BI being a natural addition/extension. Notably absent from the rumors is Teradata, which in our opinion has to diversify into more layers of the BI “stack” beyond data warehousing to keep its competitive position.

Oracle/Hyperion Merger - Implications To Competitors

by Boris Evelson.

A clear implication of this acquisition is for Oracle’s pureplay BI competitors: Cognos, Business Objects, Microstrategy, SAS and Information Builders, since a combined Oracle/Hyperion BI offering with best of breed components in every layer of the BI “stack” will become increasingly difficult to beat. While many of these vendors were quick to issue statements that they view this transaction as an "opportunity they intend to take advantage of" and that they remain "clear leaders" in the space, it is very clear that they are, as they should be, very concerned of Oracle's new position.

The transaction also has potentially huge implication for Microsoft, which has been giving away its OLAP product, Analysis Services, as part of SQLServer. While Oracle is also packaging OLAP (Express) with its relational database, it was always considered a lower end product to Microsoft. If Oracle decides to bundle Essbase as part of its overall database license, it could make significant cuts into Microsoft’s OLAP market share.

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Oracle/Hyperion Integration Challanges

by Boris Evelson.

It is unclear whether Oracle will integrate, keep separate, or drop one of the clearly redundant products: multidimensional databases, Oracle Express (currently part of Oracle BI Server) and Essbase. However, if and when Oracle creates the same seamless integration they always had between its Express and relational databases with Essbase, it will truly become an awesome analytical database product hard to beat.

However, contrary to Oracle/Hyperion rosy statements of little if any product overlap, Oracle will face obvious and significant integration and product positioning challenges with multitude of overlapping and redundant products: Essbase vs. Express, Hyperion data integration and reporting tools (formerly Brio) vs. Oracle’s (including recently acquired Sunopsis), Hyperion Sales and Marketing Analytics vs. Siebel’s, plus some others.

Oracle's Double Whammy

by Boris Evelson.

For over a year we heard rumors that the dominos of the standalone, pureplay Business Intelligence vendors were about to start falling. We held our breath and took bets whether it was going to be Cognos, Business Objects or Hyperion. With the announcement of Hyperion acquisition Oracle did, again, what it does best — swiftly climed several notches higher on the BI food chain. It's important to note, though, that this acquisition goes a step further and actually repositions Oracle in two, not just one, market segments — performance management and business intelligence.