Cognos BI 8 Suite

Cognos launched its BI 8 Suite on September 14th calling for Consolidation and Standardization in the BI industry. Cognos put the case forward that it was the 1 to consolidate 2 with the following arguments:
1)it was extending its successful browser based Reportnet framework across its product lines – OLAP, MetricMeasures, Scorecarding, and the new Events and Notification services would all be browser based;
2)Indeed there would be greatly improved Event and Notification Services and they would work across all Cognos products;
3)Metadata Services would also be improved and extend across the Cognos BI Suite;
4)Although Powerplay and Impromptu and other desktop products would be improved and continued for the next two to three years, the thrust of development would be on the Web-based Suite.
Cognos made the announcement very palatable for existing customers – the upgrade would be free. New customers would be paying Impromptu, Powerplay, MetricMeasure or equivalent prices but would find they had considerably enhanced capabilities in the Suite setting. It is an intriguing offer.

Front End For Enterprise Applications

In effect, Cognos and the other BI Vendors are saying to IT Shops – lets us be the Front End and Presentation layer for your operational Enterprise stack: ERP, SCM, CRM, HRM, FRS, etc. All of these tools need sophisticated analysis, reporting and presentation services – why quadruplicate the effort with proprietary reporting and analysis systems – use us across all your systems. And to make that easier and more palatable Cognos (and many other BI vendors) promise:
1)open access to all major databases, OLAP services, and Web Services;
2)cross platform availability of servers on Windows, Linux, and major Unix platforms;
3)cross platform availability of interaction through Web-browser interfaces;
4)cross platform availability of output through a number of media-HTML, PDF, Flash, Java Applet/Help, Excel Spreadsheet;
5)cross application metadata services;
6)cross platform notification and event services;
This is an impressive array of cross platform and consolidated services. What is is missing is standards for these services – there are some such as XMI in metadata; ODBC/JDBC in elational data access; MMX in OLAP processing, etc. But there remains a long way to go.

For example, in the area of multi-database joins only relational databases are close to operational let alone performance optimized status. In the meantime XML, object, and hierarchical databases associated with blogs, content mangement and other enterprise stack applications are showing a resurgence. And there are issues with cross platform administration/management routines plus cross platform batch scripting/coding of BI and presentation operations.

Also with the possible exception of SAS, no major BI vendor covers all three tiers of BI comprehensively – 1-Reporting/Scorecarding/Metrics, 2-Analysis coupled to Predictive Modeling and Estimation, plus 3-What If/Whats Best Decision Support with Optimization. So the call to consolidate and rationalize may be a bit premature in a number of BI sub-segments.

At a Crossroads with Redmond

Cognos is not the only vendor that is supporting a Web browser and server centric approach to BI Presentation and Analysis. But with their browser based Suite 8 with all its Studio interfaces for developers using a Web browser approach, Cognos is bringing a browser primarily approach to Enterprise Presentation and Analysis. This is at odds with Microsofts Smart Client framework. And probably helps to explain why Microsoft is currently giving away for free a complete BI stack (ETL, reporting, notification, OLAP and analysis). It also might help explain how Cognos support for Excel and new Office capabilities incurs religious wars within Cognos (and let me assure you a lot of other ISV shops that have to deal with Redmond). Use the following – Cognos support for Report Studio, Analysis Studio, and Event Studio are all IE-browser exclusively based unlike the rest of BI 8 Suite which use/support Netscape 7.x and Firefox 1.0x as well as IE. How quickly Cognos expands those tools while making them truly cross browser will measure their ability to move independently of Redmond.

In sum, Cognos Suite 8 is an impressive offering especially for existing and soon-to-commit customers. It signals what has been happening in the BI industry with their savvy for both back office data integration and cross platform presentation layer delivery – Cognos and BI vendors are making a case for being a primary Enterprise Presentation Framework/Service for the enterprise.

(c)JBSurveyer 2005