I get many inquiries on the differences and pros and cons of MOLAP versus ROLAP architectures for analytics and BI. In the old days, the differences between MOLAP, DOLAP, HOLAP, and ROLAP were pretty clear. Today, given the modern scalability requirements, DOLAP has all but disappeared, and the lines between MOLAP, ROLAP, and HOLAP are getting murkier and murkier. Here are some of the reasons:
Some RDBMSes (Oracle, DB2, Microsoft) offer built-in OLAP engines, often eliminating a need to have a separate OLAP engine in BI tools.
Some of the DW-optimized DBMSes like Teradata, SybaseIQ, and Netezza partially eliminate the need for an OLAP engine with aggregate indexes, columnar architecture, or brute force table scans.
MOLAP engines like Microsoft SSAS and Oracle Essbase can do drill-throughs to detailed transactions.
Semantic layers like SAP BusinessObjects Universe have some OLAP-like functionality.
I get lots of questions from clients on whether they should consider (or continue to rely on) SAP BW for their data warehousing (DW) and business intelligence (BI) platform, tools, and applications. It’s a multidimensional (forgive the pun) decision. Jim Kobielus and I authored our original point of view on the subject soon after the SAP/BusinessObjects merger, so this is an updated view. In addition to what I’ll describe here, please also refer to all of the DW research by my colleague, Jim Kobielus.
First of all, split the evaluation and the decision into two parts: front end (BI) and back end (DW).
Back end – DW
Best for SAP-centric environments.
Agile tool that lets you control multiple layers (typically handled by different tools) such as ETL, DDL, metadata, SQL/MDX from a single administrative interface.
Organizations that use BI show increased (+5.7% from 2009) levels of maturity. However, most of the respondents still rate themselves below average on Forrester's BI maturity scale: 2.75 (on a scale of 1-5) for overall maturity, with the following details:
. . . most aspects of BI such as processes, architectures, and measurements of BI efficiency and effectiveness lag behind.
And (drum roll, please) the most interesting, and, I am sure, controversial finding is that Forrester’s predicted trend that Agile BI and BI self-service will trump centralization and consolidation has been confirmed. Here's the proof:
In 2010, 59% of the respondents said that they do not have a centralized BI competency solutions center, versus . . .
Two months ago, we announced our upcoming Forrester Forrsights Software Survey, Q4 2010. Now the data is back from more than 2,400 respondents in North America and Europe and provides us with deep and sometimes surprising insights into the software market dynamics of today and the next 24 months.
We’d like to give you a sneak preview of interesting results around some of the most important trends in the software market: cloud computing integrated information technology, business intelligence, mobile strategy, and overall software budgets and buying preferences.
Companies Start To Invest More Into Innovation In 2011
After the recent recession, companies are starting to invest more in 2011, with 12% and 22% of companies planning to increase their software budgets by more than 10% or between 5% and 10%, respectively. At the same time, companies will invest a significant part of the additional budget into new solutions. While 50% of the total software budgets are still going into software operations and maintenance (Figure 1), this number has significantly dropped from 55% in 2010; spending on new software licenses will accordingly increase from 23% to 26% and custom-development budgets from 23% to 24% in 2011.
Cloud Computing Is Getting Serious
In this year’s survey, we have taken a much deeper look into companies’ strategies and plans around cloud computing besides simple adoption numbers. We have tested to what extent cloud computing makes its way from complementary services into business critical processes, replacing core applications and moving sensitive data into public clouds.
Are you interested in business intelligence, wonder about the future of the analytics market or have a question on advanced analytics technologies?
Then join the Forrester analysts Rob Karel, Boris Evelson, Clay Richardson, Gene Leganza, Noel Yuhanna, Leslie Owens, Suresh Vittal, William Frascarelli, David Frankland, Joe Stanhope, Zach Hofer-Shall, Henry Peyret and myself for an interactive TweetJam on Twitter about the state of advanced analytics on Wednesday, December 15th, 2010 from 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. EDT (18:00 – 19:00 CET) using the Twitter hashtag #dmjam. We’ll share the results of our recent research on the analytics market space and discuss how it will change with new technologies entering the scene and maturing over time.
Business intelligence is the fastest growing software market today as companies are driving business results based on deeper insights and better planning, and advanced analytics is the spearhead of BI technologies that can untap new dimensions of business performance. But what exactly is ‘advanced’ analytics, what technologies are available and how to efficiently use them?
Much more detailed information can be found in the blog of Forrester analyst James Kobielus who will lead us through the discussion during the TweetJam. Above you see an overview graphic listing the different elements of advanced analytics today, taken from his blog.
Here are some of the questions we want to debate during our TweetJam discussion:
What exactly is and isn’t advanced analytics?
What are the chief business applications of advanced analytics?
With about 41,000 attendees, 1,800 sessions, and a whooping 63,000-plus slides, Oracle OpenWorld 2010 (September 19-23) in San Francisco was certainly a mega event with more information than one could possibly digest or even collect in a week. While the main takeaway for every attendee depends, of course, on the individual’s area of interest, there was a strong focus this year on hardware due to the Sun Microsystems acquisition. I’m a strong believer in the integration story of “Hardware and Software. Engineered to Work Together.” and really liked the Iron Man 2 show-off all around the event; but, because I’m an application guy, the biggest part of the story, including the launch of Oracle Exalogic Elastic Cloud, was a bit lost on me. And the fact that Larry Ellison basically repeated the same story in his two keynotes didn’t really resonate with me — until he came to what I was most interested in: Oracle Fusion Applications!
I don’t know when, but at some point in the not too distant future, the world of enterprise software and applications will become simpler. We will only have four to six vendors and platforms to choose from, as compared to the hundreds of options we have today. I know many of you will argue with me on this point, but if you consider the speed at which IBM, SAP, Oracle, and Microsoft are acquiring software companies, that’s just inevitable. While this future state may not happen for another 10 years, when it does, IBM will most likely be best positioned (with Oracle a close runner-up) to provide that one-stop shopping for everything from hardware to desktop applications to consulting services (the only big missing piece is ERP, and therefore I am convinced IBM will sooner or later acquire an ERP vendor).
This is precisely my key takeaway from IBM's IOD event in Vegas (#iodgc) — a sheer breadth of IBM software and services offering. Front and center of the announcements made at the IOD was the launch of Cognos 10. Here are my key takeaways from this new major release. As always, there's some good news and some not-so-good news (but then our lives and BI jobs will become too boring, right?)
As I was doing research for our Forrester Wave™: Enterprise Business Intelligence Platforms, Q4 2010, I couldn’t help but remember a dear old friend of mine, who was/is one of the nicest and smartest people, but often a bit naïve and too idealistic. At one point when we were watching the Olympic Games on TV, she shed a tear and asked, “Why can’t they all win?” Unlike the Olympic Games, though, it’s good news all around for all of the vendors covered in our latest evaluation. Here’s it is in a nutshell.
In Forrester's 145-criteria evaluation of enterprise business intelligence (BI) platform vendors, we found that IBM Cognos, SAP BusinessObjects, Oracle, Information Builders, SAS, Microsoft, and MicroStrategy led the pack because of completeness of not just BI, but overall information management functionality. Actuate came out as a Strong Performer on the heels of the Leaders offering equal — or in some cases superior — BI functionality, but it mostly relies on partners for the rest of its information management capabilities. TIBCO Spotfire also came out as a Strong Performer offering top choices for analytics, even surpassing other Strong Performers in the overall information management arena based on its traditional strength in middleware and application integration. Last but not least, QlikTech and Panorama Software moved up from Contenders and into the Strong Performers category based on the continuous improvements in their analytical capabilities.
Our evaluation uncovered a market in which:
IBM Cognos, SAP BusinessObjects, Oracle, and SAS continue to lead the pack.
Information Builders, Microsoft, and MicroStrategy move into the Leaders category.
I get many questions from clients interested in evaluating different in-memory technologies. My first advice is not to mix apples and oranges and clearly understand the differences between in-memory indexes, in-memory OLAP, in-memory ROLAP, in-memory spreadsheets, and other approaches. See more details in my recent blog entry "I forget: what's in-memory?" to understand the differences. Then once you zero in on a particular segment, you can indeed do an apples-to-apples comparison. Let's say we pick the category of in-memory associative indexes, which would include Microsoft PowerPivot, QlikTech, and TIBCO Spotfire. We also sometimes run across Advizor Solutions, but typically in smaller clients (and we do not include them in The Forrester Wave™ process). I recommend a three-step approach to compare these four tools:
First, compare all of the commodity features of the vendors and tools like data integration and portal integration, operational features like administration, security, and others. You can leverage the detailed evaluation behind our slightly outdated 2008 BI Forrester Wave, if you are in a hurry, or you can wait for another month or so and the 2010 update will be published (it's in the last stages of editing at this point). Or if you are a Forrester IT client — not a vendor — client, send me a note and I'll share a draft preview with you.
Open source software (OSS) and business intelligence (BI) are two related market segments where Forrester sees continually increasing interest and adoption levels. BI specifically continues to be one of the top priorities on everyone's mind. The main reason? Enterprises that do not squeeze the last ounce of information out of their data stores and applications, and do not focus on getting strategic, tactical, and operational insight into their customers, products, and operations, risk falling behind competition. And when it comes to open source, 2009 could best be described as "the year IT professionals realized that open source runs their business." The reason is simple: Over the past few years, we've seen that developers adopt open source products tactically without the explicit approval of their managers. This has shown up in numerous surveys where the actual adoption of open source ranks higher than what IT managers report. Well no longer: Forrester's Enterprise And SMB Software Survey, North America And Europe, Q4 2009 shows that management has caught on to the fact that developers increasingly use open source to run key parts of their IT infrastructure. And management has grown increasingly comfortable with it. In fact, throughout 2009, most client inquiries Forrester received regarding open source were focused on how to move from tactical adoption to strategic exploitation.
Yet, when you put the 2 and 2 together (OSS and BI), you mostly get a mixed market, where one unfortunately has to compare apples to oranges. Why? Before plunging into a tool evaluation and selection process, ask yourself the following questions, and make sure you are doing a like-to-like comparison: