Sunday, October 15, 2006

Tech: MicroStrategy - BI strengths and weaknesses

I attended a MicroStrategy presentation a few days ago. It was a good opportunity to position it against other players in the Business Intelligence market. There were some surprises, and some to-be-expecteds.

MicroStrategy is a relatively small player. It would seem to be playing into niches - they pretty much said as much - which is surprising giving its strengths.

They position their competitive advantage as being performance and scalability - which should make the product industrial strength, up against the biggest players (Cognos, Business Objects, Hyperion/Brio, Microsoft). In fact, the stats they give suggest as much, with average data volumes and seats being significantly ahead of the major players. In particular, customer loyalty is very strong, by their measures.

The architecture is good, also industrial strength. Object reuse is extensive, they do caching at multiple levels, connect to multiple (heterogeneous) data sources, and - something that impressed me - their use of SQL is multi-pass. For my money this would mean their generated SQL is less convoluted to achieve the same results, and MicroStrategy's also capable of more complex querying.

Of course, they have industry standard features such as web interfaces, zero-footprint clients, and extensive use of metadata - albeit their proprietary implementation.

They're also focused on ROLAP, which is a plus for people like me who want to get directly stuck into the database, rather than work through manufactured cubes.

Where's the rub? I was betting that implementation and use would be consequentially more difficult. And this was confirmed by another observer at the presentation.

Thus, they wouldn't be a casual investment. But then, is any BI?, you ask.

It all begs the question why they aren't bigger in the market place, despite any usability and implementation issues. But markets are not axiomatically logical.

I look forward to any further critical analysis I can lay my hands on.

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