Cognos 8 BI joins the standardization move

Keeping in line with its competitors, Ottawa’s Cognos Inc. has released Cognos 8 Business Intelligence, standardizing all of its BI tools on one architecture.

All the major BI vendors have been working to consolidate their offerings, and the results are all hitting the market around the same time. Hyperion Solutions released its latest offering, Hyperion System 9, in October.

Leah MacMillan, vice-president of product marketing for Cognos, said their new offering includes all the BI capabilities users need for decision-making and performance management. It combines a number of the company’s tools, including ReportNet, Metrics Manager, PowerPlay, DecisionStream and NoticeCast.

ReportNet was the last major release, in 2003, and MacMillan said that was the first time Cognos put one of its BI tools on a pure Web-based service oriented architecture (SOA). Cognos 8 BI uses that Web-based architecture, which MacMillan said allows the company to easily scale the product for departmental or enterprise-wide deployments.

Also new is open data access, the ability to use any of the suite’s BI tools against any of the organization’s data sources, something MacMillan calls a major enhancement. “Whether it be your more traditional OLAP for analysis or your relational (data sources) that were traditionally tied to reporting, we’ve now removed the barrier,” said MacMillan.

Other improvements are around the report-generating tools, including more self-service functionality to let users generate reports without the IT departments, and notification and alerting tools that can be integrated into business processes. She said a common BI platform is important because within an enterprise there is a wide range of users that all need a different piece of BI.

“I think a lot of vendors have realized it’s important to deliver customers a common set of BI capabilities,” said MacMillan.

John Haggerty, a vice-president following BI for Boston’s AMR Research, said enterprises want BI components that interoperate easily without the headaches of integration. “All the competitors are coming up to the next level of standardization,” said Haggerty. “For Cognos it was important they do it as well.”

Haggerty said while some competitors took a “big-bang” approach to standardization, rearchitecting their entire suite at one time, Cognos took a gradual approach, hoping for a more stable product.

“One of the things Cognos has going for it is that the base of its product has been on the market for two years, so it’s not…brand new software hitting the market for the first time,” said Haggerty.

What Cognos is known for, Haggerty said, is the range of its reporting architecture, and he said Cognos has dome a good job integrating the concept of multidimensional analysis into its base reporting architecture. When it comes to buying decisions, he said Cognos stacks up well, but every company is looking for something different.

“When we see folks looking at BI products, there’s a lot of subjective response. People can tell very quickly what they like,” said Haggerty.

In addition to BI players like Cognos, Business Objects and Hyperion, Haggerty said companies such as SAS Institute and MicroStrategy also do component pieces of BI.

More competition is coming from enterprise vendors like SAP and Oracle, with Microsoft and IBM expecting to join soon, he added. Haggerty said the pure-play BI vendors could make tempting acquisition targets for the new players looking to get a foothold in BI.

“Because this market is so hot and there’s a lot of spending going on here…you have to speculate whether there’s going to be some market consolidation,” said Haggerty. “There’s a good chance someone like an Oracle or an IBM might be an acquirer.”

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