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Colin White

I like the various blogs associated with my many hobbies and even those to do with work. I find them very useful and I was excited when the Business Intelligence Network invited me to write my very own blog. At last I now have somewhere to park all the various tidbits that I know are useful, but I am not sure what to do with. I am interested in a wide range of information technologies and so you might find my thoughts will bounce around a bit. I hope these thoughts will provoke some interesting discussions.

About the author >

Colin White is the founder of BI Research and president of DataBase Associates Inc. As an analyst, educator and writer, he is well known for his in-depth knowledge of data management, information integration, and business intelligence technologies and how they can be used for building the smart and agile business. With many years of IT experience, he has consulted for dozens of companies throughout the world and is a frequent speaker at leading IT events. Colin has written numerous articles and papers on deploying new and evolving information technologies for business benefit and is a regular contributor to several leading print- and web-based industry journals. For ten years he was the conference chair of the Shared Insights Portals, Content Management, and Collaboration conference. He was also the conference director of the DB/EXPO trade show and conference.

Editor's Note: More articles and resources are available in Colin's BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel. Be sure to visit today!

April 2006 Archives

By the way the press reacted to the recent Oracle Business Intelligent Suite announcement you would think Oracle was new to the BI market. Oracle has been in the BI market for many years and has had several attempts at providing BI solutions, many of which have failed. The problem up until now has been that Larry Ellison has never taken BI seriously. Things appear to have now changed with the acquisition of Siebel. Siebel Analytics (which was based on technology acquired from nQuire) is a significant revenue earner for Siebel. It's good to see that Oracle has realized the importance of this product and has made it the centerpiece of its new BI strategy. At present Siebel analytics is DBMS agnostic. I hope it will stay that way. Oracle stated that it would remain so, but also said that it would exploit the features of its Oracle DBMS in future versions of Siebel Analytics. This seems to be a familiar refrain from vendors following an acquisition!

The biggest problem facing Oracle is the large morass of overlapping Oracle and PeopleSoft BI products it has. Will its salespeople understand what BI products to sell? Oracle also indicated that it would keep the Siebel relationships with Informatica and Acuate alive, but at the same time said it intends to develop its own solutions. As usual Oracle seems to want to own everything.

Although Siebel Analytics is a good product, the cost of $1,500 per user for the Oracle BI Enterprise Suite (in which it is embedded) could be a significant inhibitor for many corporations.

The bottom line is that Oracle at last has a decent BI solution to sell. The questions remain as to whether it can deliver on its BI technology integration plans and put together a coherent sales and marketing plan for its field force.

Posted April 20, 2006 3:09 PM
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I find there is increasing interest from organizations in open source solutions. These organizations are not only federal and state governments and universities as expected, but also vendors and global 2000 companies. The areas of interest range from application servers and business portals, to database systems and business intelligence tools.

Vendors having been using open source solutions for some time. These solutions often form the underlying application server and database system infrastructure of commercial products. Some vendors, IBM is a good example, contribute development code to the open source community. These donations may be motivated by the need to provide a reference platform for testing compliance to industry standards, or to provide a starter set with the hope that the user will migrate to commercial software when improved support and additional functionality is required.

Vendors have also been acquiring a wide range of open source solutions. Novell acquired SuSE Linux, IBM purchased GlueCode, Oracle bought Innobase and Sleepycat Software, and more recently, Red Hat acquired JBoss. Some of these acquisitions were quite competitive. Red Hat appears to have beaten Oracle to JBoss, and as a result, Oracle is now rumored to be looking at acquiring Novell.

Many of the open source companies acquired by the large software companies had previously allowed IT organizations to download their software for free. The companies made money by providing support, education, and additional functionality for a fee. Thee open source companies often also had large user communities contributing fixes, improvements, and so forth. In fact it is these user communities that often attract IT organizations to the use of open source software. Open source involves trading software costs for developing and support costs, but the user community can reduce some of the maintenance load.

The question arises as to why large companies like IBM and Oracle are acquiring open source organizations. Is it to remove potential competitors? Or is it to provide a basic product with the hope that the IT organization will upgrade when it requires better support and functionality? Acquiring the code, however, does not mean the user community comes with it. Novell found that when it acquired SuSE Linux. Open source communities are unlikely to help large software companies build their revenue and customer base when the whole reason for using open source software in the first place was to avoid vendor lock in. What do you think? Let me know.

Posted April 18, 2006 7:09 PM
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New announcements from Netezza and Celequest will increase the growing momentum in the blossoming data warehouse and business intelligence appliance marketplace.

Netezza has announced new data warehouse appliance product lines, enhanced scalability and performance, and an improved pricing model. The company now has three product lines: NP 8000, NP 10000 and NP 5000. The existing NP 8000 series supports data warehouses up to 33 terabytes in size. The new NP 10000 series employs high density hardware (up to 12.5 terabytes per rack) and supports very large data warehouses of up to 100 terabytes in size. The new NP 5000 is a 28 processor system that is designed for data warehouses in small and medium sized businesses and supports up to 3 terabytes of data. Enhanced performance features double query performance, increase data warehouse load/unload speed to about 500 gigabytes per hour, and improve the management of mixed workloads.

Netezza’s new pricing model enables customers to purchase and use the processing power of a complete system, but only pay for the data storage they use. As data storage requirements increase, the customer purchases additional modules of storage capacity. Expansion costs can be as low as $40K per terabyte. Additional storage racks can also be added to a system.

At present Netezza has about 50 customers, of which some 35 have deployed systems. The largest market sectors using Netezza’s products are retail/CPG and banking/finance and insurance. Typical application usage includes customer segmentation, campaign management, fraud and advertising analysis, load and credit analysis, and telecommunications network and pricing analysis.

The latest entrance into the appliance marketplace is Celequest who have just announced a unique and intriguing BI appliance that is targeted at companies that need an off-the-shelf appliance for managing BI-driven operational business performance. The LAVA appliance integrates Celequest’s operational BI software with a hardware and software appliance to create a packaged BI server solution.

There are many unique aspects to LAVA. The machine comes with integrated operating system (Linux), Web services, data integration, analytical, dashboard and collaborative software. Web Services is used to retrieve data changes and events from source systems and to populate Web-based business performance dashboards. JSR 168 compliant portlets are provided, which enable dashboards to be incorporated into BEA AquaLogic and IBM WebSphere portals. As data flows through the server it is analyzed in memory and the results used to populate the dashboards. Events and cached results can be made persistent in the server, but it would be more usual to store them on a network-attached storage device. LAVA can participate in and initiate application and collaborative workflows.

The standard LAVA server supports between 2,500 and 5,000 users. It has a fixed price of $125K and has no limits on the number of users, data sources and dashboards that can be supported. The enterprise version costs $175K, supports double the number of users, and has several fault tolerant features. The SMB configuration supports about half the number of users as the standard model and costs $75K. All servers support LDAP security and authentication.

The simplicity and low cost of LAVA will make it a very attractive solution for BI users who need to deploy operational BI to a large user audience. Some Celequest customers, e.g., Cendant Hospitality, moved LAVA even before the product was announced. Many of these are using Celequest and LAVA to supplement their traditional BI analytical processing environments. Typical applications include logistics and distribution analysis, call center analytics, and logistics.

Posted April 11, 2006 1:07 PM
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Microsoft's announcement that they have agreed to acquire ProClarity clearly demonstrates that Microsoft is getting very serious about Business Intelligence. ProClarity has been a Microsoft partner for many years and has a strong BI following on the Microsoft operating platform. The acquisition adds some powerful development and end-user capabilities to the Microsoft SQL Server 2005 and Office Business Scorecard Manager 2005 products announced last year. The Microsoft BI solution will get a further boost next January when Microsoft delivers additional BI capabilities with Office 2007. The drive by MIcrosoft into the BI market has significant implications for third-party vendors in this space, e.g., Business Objects and Cognos.

Posted April 3, 2006 10:53 AM
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