Saturday, February 18, 2012

Review of Gartner Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence Platforms - Feb 2012

Gartner spends a lot of time reviewing the major Business Intelligence platform vendors and talking to the users of BI to come up with the updates in the Magic Quadrant. Here is the latest one released in Feb 2012. As you can see the notables in the Leaders Quadrant are Oracle taking the top stop in ability to execute with OBIEE and BI Applications (OBIA)  and IBM establishing itself as the visionary with Cognos and related offerings.

Look at my similar posting from Jan 2010 here )  The BI Platform leaders in Jan 2010 were Oracle, IBM, Microsoft, SAS, Microstrategy, SAP (Business Objects) and Information Builders. Compared to 2010, now QlikTech has entered the leaders quadrant. Gartner quotes "QlikTech is a marketing juggernaut; it has brand recognition many times more prominent than a firm with its current market share would expect." I have heard of QlikView when Oracle talks of visualization at the speed of thought. QlikView product has created a lot of industry expectations in that space by using in-memory data store for enhanced graphic capabilities.

Oracle of OBIEE and BI Applications (OBIA) are closet to my day job, so I cannot help critiquing the positing of Oracle. Gartner notes that OBIEE is popular in Oracle shops i.e those who mainly use Oracle Database and Oracle Applications. It has truly global deployment footprint. Gartner noted that a lower percentage of customers use diverse data with OBIEE - I am interpreting that as mainly relational or multidimensional (like OLAP or Essbase) as source of data rather than unstructured and semi-structured data. Oracle has acquired Endeca for building up capabilities in this space and also Oracle Big Data Appliance will compete in that space. Oracle Exalytics announced in Oracle Openworld 2011, is a major addition to the Oracle OBIEE and Essbase family from the visualization at speed of thought perspective. It is the marriage of BI with hardware. Historically, BI platforms were Hardware Vendor agnostic but it changed with SAP HANA and now with Exalytics. While Oracle provided feedback from a few early Exalytics providers, it is yet to hit the field as a generally available product and it is expected to come with OBIEE version. Anyways as SAP HANA and Exalytics become mainstream, it will interesting to see how industry adopts the BI software + H/W paradigm.

Gartner commented on the Oracle's pre-built BI applications (OBIA) that provides data warehouse, ETL connectors and the BI metadata for Oracle Applications like e-business Suite, JD Edwards, PeopleSoft, Siebel and going forward for Oracle Fusion Applications. In addition, some of the SAP applications (like Financials) are supported as well. Gartner mentioned about the industry data models that are available as additional options to Oracle Database Enterprise Edition and provide data model, 3rd normal data warehouse for specific industry (like retail, communication, travel etc) along with data marts and starter set of OBIEE metadata. Currently, the Oracle BI Applications are not integrated with the industry models that are more "vertical" in nature and applies more to a specific industry.

So what are the limitations of Oracle BI platform according to Gartner?  The complexity of OBIEE platform - OBIEE 11g is relatively new (less than 2 yrs) and remains a skill gap for those using OBIEE 10g.  It is interesting to note that 25% of the surveyed customers are using the current release. The Oracle BI Applications since May 2011, support/certify the OBIEE 11g release, making the adoption easier. However, those customers having OBIEE 10g based applications, still need to invest time and effort to move to OBIEE 11g.

What surprised me most that unlike in-spite of the growing interest around Mobile BI, there was not much comment on the Mobile BI capabilities of OBIEE. I remember in 2011, Gartner had commented on the lack of innovation for Oracle Mobile BI as most of the mobile related features started emerging in mid 2011 time frame.

Let me next look at IBM. It scored top points for the completeness of vision with Cognos, SPSS and Netezza under its arsenal. Besides, being a strong service provider via its Global Business Services - GBS, it has skills to implement any BI needs of the customers. On the lines of OBIEE 10g to 11g upgrade, customers had to deal with Cognos 8 to Cognos 10 migration in the last year or so. SPSS and the Watson platform has given IBM a big boost in the advanced analytics side. The latest addition on Cognos family is Cognos Insight a Desktop BI product.  It seems higher percentage of users are complaining about the performance of Cognos products. Interesting missing is the explicit mention of the Cognos Adaptive Analytics Framework (AAI) which is the pre-built applications for use against ERP sources like Oracle EBS, SAP or other custom OLTP applications.

General Comments:   Gartner uses a few dimensions to compare the BI platforms such as Integration, Information Delivery and Analysis.  It is very interesting to note that Information Delivery includes Microsoft Office Integration. In others words, display of information with Excel as the front end is here to stay. I think the important difference between the dreaded word "spreadmart" and the use of Excel as the front end is that authentic information and metadata should reside in an Enterprise grade system whether it is relational database with metadata such as in OBIEE (repository) or in Essbase. Also happy to see the importance of location awareness in Mobile BI platform. My first exposure to real location awareness was via FourSquare application, which is more like a Social Media tool.