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Cognos readies SAP analytics

Cognos is locking down the marketing messages it will use to deliver the next wave of its e-applications analytics software.

Cognos is locking down the marketing messages it will use to deliver the next wave of its e-applications analytics software next month, when at the very least there will be a new implementation for SAP, in addition to the JD Edwards support it already offers.

The company is canning its original equipment manufacturer deal with Acta for the ETL (extract, transform and load) Extractor software it had been using until now to support SAP, and has instead evolved the DecisionStream ETL software it acquired from a UK-based company.

Cognos e-Applications are a set of six prepackaged key performance indicators that cost $75,000 per module. They are a six-to-nine month sale. Version 7 of its core business intelligence tools, PowerPlay and Impromptu, are due in January.

Cognos is going head-to-head with the rest of the business intelligence market in using analytics sizzle to capture more users for its particular flavor of data model, and drag through sales of server software. Cognos and Business Objects look best placed to clean up, but the business intelligence independent software vendors (ISVs) have an unfailing tradition of screwing up royally, and the leader's baton has passed through the hands of most of them.

Financial analysts don't expect analytics to become a strategic revenue stream for some time (Merrill Lynch forecasts that Business Objects' analytics revenue may amount to 20% of overall license revenue in 2002), but all the vendors see analytics as strategic for the next wave of growth in their industry. So where is it today? Analytics isn't a key budget item, but it is strategic to have a path or plan to get there. Cognos compares it to Windows and the Web. Windows was always the platform that wasn't going to go away, but every company also needed a Web plan (when Windows didn't have one).

The business intelligence vendors are also looking over their shoulders at IBM and Microsoft, which have yet to make their strategic plays in the market. Where there's enterprise resource planning, there's money. But until then, we're looking at an oligarchy of midsized companies slugging it out. The sector is nascent and fragmented.

"Everyone's talking to everyone," Cognos says.

Extract, transform, load vendors like Informatica are singing the benefits of buying analytics from them, claiming that getting data out of the stores ready for the packaging is key. Others will argue that analytics is a variation of operational data and that independent software vendors in this space hold the key. Business intelligence ISVs claim to know about presentation and consumption and say that analytics is just a new packaging of content.

Lighting out with packaged analytics, heavy-lifting vendors like WhiteLight argue that the current crop of applications are superficial and can't access legacy data or work on the kind of volume a company may have. That might be true, Cognos argues, but "you can't drink out of a fire hose.

" Its view is if that data is mission-critical, then it wouldn't still be stuck in legacy applications.

Companies with expensive data stores and ERP software are going to want to use holistic business performance metrics. The business intelligence market is offering up analytics as the panacea (whether it will deliver the promise is another question entirely). Intellectually, they know analytics offers competitive value. Over whether or not the products are strategic -- where there are products available at all -- opinion, opportunity and research is diametrically opposed, which is a sure sign the market is hot.

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