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BI's integration trepidation

An analyst assesses several vendors' plans to make their technology puzzle pieces fit together.

In a recent research note, a Forrester Research analyst weighed in on the strategies of several business intelligence...

heavyweights, many of which have integration on their plates.

Keith Gile, a senior industry analyst for the Cambridge, Mass.-based firm, is skeptical of Business Objects SA's integration plans following its acquisition of reporting software specialist Crystal Decisions Inc.

The technologies have "radically different architectures," Gile said. "To think that Business Objects can fully combine the best of both -- and jettison the least attractive parts of each -- within a two-year timeframe seems to me overly aggressive."

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Yet the competitive landscape in the BI market necessitates that Business Objects move quickly, according to Gile. Cognos Inc. and MicroStrategy Inc. recently added reporting capabilities, Hyperion Solutions Corp. brought in technology from its acquisition of Brio Software Inc. and Microsoft is releasing a new reporting tool before it unveils Yukon, its next-generation SQL server database.

Hyperion seems to be furthest along in the integration process, largely because it is offering Brio applications as separate tools and not rearchitecting, Gile said. He said Cognos will likely face obstacles because its new reporting offering, ReportNet, is on a different architecture than its series 7 software.

"It's interesting to see that everybody's in a similar boat right now trying to architect or rearchitect into the most efficient, integrated component possible," Gile said.

Meanwhile, SAS Institute Inc. is committed to vertically focused analytics, as evidenced by its acquisition of Marketmax Inc., a maker of advanced retail planning and merchandise intelligence software. Gile said the move "makes a lot of sense" since Marketmax gives SAS the intellectual property it needs for future development.

"I would look for SAS to make additional moves in the future," Gile said. "I think retail is their big target for 2004."

SAS' Marketing Automation 4, scheduled for release at the end of the first quarter, will feature a new interface that leverages the SAS 9 architecture, Gile said. Along with Interaction Management and Marketing Optimization, it forms a suite that reflects where database marketers are moving, Gile said.

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