Information Builders builds on IBM System i niche

Business intelligence specialist Information Builders announced Tuesday some upcoming new features for IBM’s DB2 Web Query for System i that continue its participation in the “pervasive BI” trend, and stake its claim on what an analyst said was a small, relatively uncharted part of the busy BI market.

The product has been around since late last year, and has resulted in quite a lot of feedback, said Gary Goldberg, Information Builders’ vice-president of the System i product group. “We made the decision to put together a set of deliverables over the following months, and so we set out a roadmap with IBM,” he said.

With a once-crowded BI space now dominated by behemoths, it can be difficult for the little guy to get ahead, said Forrester Research principal analyst Boris Evelson. “They all need to find specific, different shares of the market now, and (in terms of Information Builders), not many are working on System i. It’s a niche,” he said.

One of DB2 Web Query for System i’s new features is now available—the Web Query Run Time User Licensing Option will give companies more licensing flexibility. Said Goldberg: “Previously you had to count and pay for “X” number of users, so, in larger deployments, that was not really cost-effective.” Customers can now separate users into groups: those who only need read-only, occasional use of the reports, and more active users who create and deliver reports. This ties in with the “pervasive BI” trend, said Goldberg, in that it trickles BI efficiency down to more casual users.

The Web Query Web Services API and SDK feature, said Goldberg, will benefit ISVs and in-house developers looking for a better user experience and more seamless integration with their vertical applications—and users looking for a more transparent BI experience. Goldberg said, “This one is driven by ISVs, as System i’s tend to be used in by vertical businesses who often need to integrate it as a service inside their applications, rather than as a separate product running beside their other applications.”

This offering could prove the fan favourite in Canada, said IDC Canada research analyst Kevin Restivo. “Especially in Canada, with its small and medium-sized businesses, that pre-packaged (aspect) would be appealing,” he said.

Users definitely want their business intelligence fed to them in the most palatable way possible, which is where the last two features come in. The Web Query Report Distributor, said Goldberg, will tap into mobile enterprise users by making the reports e-mailable . The feature will also be able to present reports in printer-friendly formats like PDF.

Another enterprise go-to is the Excel spreadsheet. Despite its limitations, it is an old favourite for fledgling business intelligence users, making Excel a popular plug-in for BI vendors . Here, the upcoming Web Query Excel Plug-In continues Information Builders’ own trend of Excel plug-ins as a user-friendly ploy to lure users. Said Goldberg: “There’s always people whose main entry to reporting and querying is Excel , and the plug-in will let them build and retrieve reports from within their Excel environment.” Excel plug-ins or no, it’s easy to wonder where allegiances lie in the wake of IBM’s recent acquisition of prime BI player Cognos .

Restivo said, “With Cognos such a big recent acquisition, you wonder what products the sales team are going to plug first?” Goldberg said that, when it comes to Information Builders and its WebFocus, the focus is on reporting and querying, while Cognos’ offerings are based on analytics and performance management.

Plus, said Goldberg, customers have many reasons to choose Information Builders over the larger competition: “IBM is a ponderous organization. It takes them a long time to make and impart important decisions, while we’ve always been agile.”

He also pointed out that companies might become leery of formerly pure-play BI vendors who have been assimilated into the fold, and, he said, “we hope that’s where we get invited to the party.” Said Goldberg: “With them, you’re always going to have (to deal with) a lot of ‘strategic planning’.”

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