Microsoft pushes data mining

Looking to promote access to data mining functions via a Web services computing paradigm, SAS Institute Inc. will take a co-chairmanship with Microsoft Corp. and Hyperion Solutions Corp. on the XML for Analysis Council, named for a protocol intended to provide an industry-standard messaging interface for accessing business intelligence functions.

But an Oracle Corp. official charged the effort is Microsoft-proprietary.

Hyperion, Microsoft and SAS plan to announce the new co-chairmanship on Monday in an effort to boost data mining in the XML for Analysis Protocol, which is being designed for access to business intelligence applications, such as OLAP, from databases and other applications such as ERP, message brokers and portals.

“What we’re doing now is ramping up the focus in an effort to extend the specification to data mining,” said Kevin Payne, director of the Microsoft Partner Program at SAS, which is based in Cary, N.C.

As customers move to a Web services environment, XML for Analysis would provide a way “to connect applications together in a much more seamless way,” Payne said.

XML for Analysis is a SOAP-based XML API for standardizing data access between clients and a data provider over the Web, according to Microsoft. Eventually, the protocol will be submitted as a potential industry standard to an organization such as the W3C, said Sheryl Tullis, product manager for Microsoft SQL Server, in Redmond, Wash. Version 1.0 of the specification was released a year ago. A draft update to the specification is anticipated shortly.

An Oracle official, however, charged that XML for Analysis is a Microsoft-proprietary effort and added that Oracle is supporting a rival effort, JOLAP, which is intended to provide Java-based access to OLAP services.

“It’s proprietary,” said Robert Shimp, Oracle vice-president of database marketing in Redwood Shores, Calif., of XML for Analysis. “There’s not much value in that. We haven’t been asked to support it and I don’t think there’d be much value to supporting it.”

A Microsoft spokesperson rejected Shimp’s claims, saying XML for Analysis is for access to diverse data sources, not just Microsoft sources. More than 20 companies have joined the council while Oracle declined an invitation to participate in the effort, the spokesperson said.

Hyperion and SAS actually are in both the XML for Analysis and JOLAP camps. A Hyperion official, John Poole, who holds the corporate title of distinguished software engineer, is even chairing the JOLAP committee formed to develop that specification, said Hyperion’s Ragnar Edholm, director of strategy and planning, in Sunnyvale, Calif.

JOLAP is for Java programmers while XML for Analysis is similar to SQL and can be used in multiple programming languages, Edholm said. “If you’re a Java programmer, you have a choice of both. If you’re not a Java programmer, JOLAP would not be of much interest to you,” said Edholm.

XML for Analysis, according to Microsoft, advances concepts of OLE DB by providing standardized data access to any data source residing over the Web without a need for a client component that exposes COM interfaces.