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Best of breed BI for SOA lives despite consolidation

SOA-based BI includes a wide variety of technologies and approaches, making it impossible at the moment for anyone one vendor to lead all the sub-categories, says analyst James Kobielus.

Even with the IBM acquisition of Cognos and SAP AG's purchase of Business Objects, best of breed is still a good option for architects and developers integrating business intelligence (BI) tools into service-oriented architecture environments.

To date there is no single BI vendor that is best of breed in all categories of BI.
James Kobielus
AnalystCurrent Analysis Inc

That is the conclusion of James Kobielus, who researches the BI marketplace for SOA as principal analyst for data management at Current Analysis Inc. Even thought the big vendors including IBM and SAP are gobbling up pure play BI vendors, there is a simple reason why best of breed is a better option than picking one monolithic vendor stack, he said.

"To date there is no single BI vendor that is best of breed in all categories of BI," Kobielus asserts.

BI is a two-letter acronym that covers a lot of technologies and tools, and so far not even the big vendors in the SOA space have been able to get them all under one roof.

"When we talk about BI, BI is many things," the analyst explained. "It's reporting. It's scorecarding. It's OLAP [Online analytical processing]. It's the dashboard. It's data mining. It's text mining. It's complex event processing (CEP). Governance risk compliance (GRC) in the front-end dashboarding is very much a part of BI. Corporate Performance Management (CPM) is very much a catch-all for applications that leverage all of the core BI features and then add vertical and horizontal business content."

There are also a variety of approaches to doing BI, a technology area currently characterized by innovation, Kobielus said. First, there are the standard package licensed BI products, but the analyst points out that there also are open source products from organizations including JasperSoft Corp. There are also the hardware-based products such as Celequest's LAVA BI appliance.

"It blows your mind how much differentiation and innovation is going on in the BI space," Kobielus said.

It also makes it hard for any one vendor, no matter how big, to get all of BI into one box, but the good news for SOA architects and developers is that all the vendors in all the niches are moving to standards-based interoperability so they can all play well with each other.

"Everybody is committed to open standards because they realize that no one BI tool can or will be implemented in isolation from the other BI tools," Kobielus said. "They all need to play well together. More and more of them have become focused on SOA, open standards and WS-* for heterogeneous integration."

The pure play BI vendors, including Actuate Corp. and MicroStrategy Inc., are adding standards-based interoperability in recent product upgrades, Kobielus said. This makes it easier to integrate best of breed BI technology into an SOA implementation, he said.

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Offering an example of how that can work, Kobielus said, "You can go out and license Actuate's BI and then integrate it into your IBM data warehouse. You can also integrate Cognos into an IBM data warehouse in an environment where there might also be some Actuate applications. You can build connectors for diverse CPM BI environments through IBM or directly between BI vendors using open standards."

Standards-based interoperability is a two-way street and the major vendors also understand that they need to provide for integration with the BI pure plays, Kobielus said. While he anticipates that there will be further merger and acquisition activity in BI for SOA, he said the current market provides options for developers and architects.

"There's lots of flexibility out there," he said, and that is a good thing. "You don't necessarily want to source every single component of your BI environment through a single vendor."

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