Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Tech: Business Intelligence: Hyperion and Microsoft seek shelter in each other’s arms

Unexpected news today that Hyperion and Microsoft are to integrate their Business Intelligence offerings.

Hmm. That report wasn’t greatly helpful: integration covers a multitude of sins. I had a closer look, via the respective companies’ websites. The press release is identical (except that Hyperion’s site was easier to navigate!); in fact, the announcement was made at Hyperion’s global Solutions 2006 conference.

The key word here is ‘interoperability’. They are planning to allow their respective products to work with each other. In particular, people will be able to access components of Microsoft’s SQL Server with Hyperion tools, and access Hyperion components from SQL Server Reporting Services.

Although the proof of the pudding etc, this is a significant initiative. In a number of ways, the two companies have become direct competitors. Like few others, Hyperion has built up a vertical solution package encompassing database, business intelligence, OLAP (online analytical processing), ETL (extract, transform, load) and a healthy range of tools relating to Business Performance Management. They’ve done this both by internal development and acquisition – with a particularly useful find in Brio for business intelligence [unfortunately, they’ve drowned the brand name, but you can find it as significant parts of Hyperion Intelligence v8, or Hyperion 9 BI+].

On the other hand, Microsoft is simply Microsoft. They mostly build their own (the SQL Server database technology was acquired from Sybase). As the elephant in the living room, they’ve diverged from other BI toolsets - as I’ve discussed before. Their delivery model tends to be “here’s the components in pieces on the floor. Oh, would you like one of our partners to do some consulting?”

However, by now they both have the full toolset and are going head to head.

Which is one of the reasons the news was unexpected – but good. Interoperability is good. It’s going to be essential for the survival of software companies, and it’s a boon for the information consumer. Hyperion and Microsoft each have something to gain from this initiative – although Hyperion more so, given the disparity in market presence. In fact, Hyperion has already integrated Microsoft's .NET development framework into a number of its products.

Hyperion seems to be doing what is needed to survive in its core areas. By comparison, a takeover of one BI company by another (as with Crystal Reports and Business Objects) is risible. Expect Hyperion and Microsoft to remain two of the main players in this space.

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