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Mike Ferguson

Welcome to my blog on the UK Business Intelligence Network. I hope to help you stay in touch with hot topics and reality on the ground in the UK and European business intelligence markets and to provide content, opinion and expertise on business intelligence (BI) and its related technologies. I also would relish it if you too can share your own valuable experiences. Let's hear what's going on in BI in the UK.

About the author >

Mike Ferguson is Managing Director of Intelligent Business Strategies Limited, a leading information technology analyst and consulting company. As lead analyst and consultant, he specializes in enterprise business intelligence, enterprise business integration, and enterprise portals. He can be contacted at +44 1625 520700 or via e-mail at

November 2007 Archives

Last month both Informatica and IBM, both long regarded as among the leaders in the data integration market, made further announcements to their products in attempts to keep their noses in front of the others in this market. Informatica announced their 8.5 release of PowerCenter and PowerExchange while IBM announced further extensions to their Information Server suite of data management tools.

The Informatica 8.5 announcement includes the following:
• Power Exchange Real-time change data capture
• Integration of data quality services with SAP operational applications for on-demand data quality as you use the SAP applications (currently this is for name and address data only)
• An overhaul of the Power Center Metadata Manager to provide search, filtering and personalisation capabilities. This also includes the ability for users to annotate metadata
• A data masking option to keep secure data safe when generating test data
• Re-entrant data services and parallelised data quality for more scalability (this adds to the grid computing and the push down optimisation support added in release 8)
• A Data Quality Assistant to allow Data Stewards to participate in data integration workflows so as to review and edit poor quality data records
• Web based data quality reports and dashboards
• Pre-built Data Migration tool on top of the Informatica platform to address this kind of data integration problem

Involving data stewards in the data quality process through the new Data Quality Assistant and the Pre-built Data Migration tool certainly stand out as differentiators. The latter of these is certainly the beginning of a trend among data management vendors in that it introduces the first of potentially multiple patterns on top of the Informatica data management platform.

Not to be undone, IBM responded with the following enhancements to Information Server
• A new look WebSphere Business Glossary
• A new product WebSphere Busines Glossary Anywhere to access business metadata from your mobile device
• Integration of Information Server and WebSphere Customer Center Master Data Management
• A New Multi-Domain Master Data Management Server with pre-built integration with Information Server
• WebSphere QualityStage pre-built integrayion with SAP and Siebel
• Information Server Fast Track which automatically generation of DataStage ETL jobs (this adds to IBM’s ability to automatically generate EII virtual views and mappings for their WebSphere Federation Server)
• Metadata “Asset Interchange” to move metadata between different instances of Information Server (e.g. Development, Test and Production)
• Data Masking for data security
• Column level impact analysis
• Real-time Change Data Capture and Replication (from the acquisition of DataMirror)
• Pre-built integration of Information Server with WebSphere Integration Developer (WID) and WebSphere Portlet Factory
• Enhancements to Information Services Director so as to invoke information services via multiple interfaces including web services, EJB, JMS, REST (XML/JSON) and RSS
• More connectivity
• The Introduction of the Information Server Blade i.e. Information Server pre-installed with Tivoli Workload Schedule LoadLeveler on an IBM HS21 BladeCenter hardware blade.

It seems the two vendors in particular are fighting it out at the head of the pack. Oracle, SAP and Microsoft will have to move fast if they are to keep pace

Posted November 19, 2007 4:02 PM
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At TDWI in the US recently, ParAccel became the latest vendor to announce its arrival into the Data Warehouse Appliance market. This market already has players like DatAllegro, Dataupia, GreenPlum , HP , Netezza, and Teradata to name a few.

ParAccel's new Massively Parallel Analytic Database runs on commonity hardware (first available release is Sun but other releases will follow on Dell, HP and IBM hardware) and comes in two flavours. These are:

ParAccel MAVERICK™ - a stand alone analytic platform using ANSI SQL
ParAccel AMIGO™ - a drop-in acceleration platform with query routing, synch, and syntax coverage for existing Mcrosoft SQL Server and Oracle instances

Interestingly this product works on columns during its parallel query processing rather than rows which raises some observations. For a start, in many of the DW reviews that I have conducted over the years I have seen thewell known practice of "Mini Dimensions" introduced to isolate popular columns in a large dimension (e.g. Customer) into their own separate Mini-dimension table. This is a performance 'trick' that can often speed up joins between large dimensions and large fact tables whereby if popular columns in the large dimension are selected in a query to qualify metrics in the fact table, then the join occurs between the mini dimension and the fact table instead of the much larger 'real' dimension and the fact table. As a result, join processing is faster.

The only problem with mini dimensions is that they complicate the key structures of fact tables, all BI tool business views (E.g. SAS Information Maps, MS Report Models, Business Objects Universes etc.) need to know about them in order to generate the right join SQL and tracking history across changes to columns in the main dimension and mini dimensions can be complex. The column approach to parallel query processing taken by ParAccel may well negate the need for mini dimensions as a performance tuning mechanism in many star schemas thereby simplifying design. If you are in the process of selecting a DW Appliance product it would certainly be worth investigating this point and worth a benchmark test.

In addition SQL advanced analytic aggregate functions are all column based. Once again therefore it would be worth benchmarking this in ParAccel Vs other DW Appliance products as there may well be a boost in performance here too for parallel processing at the column level. I might add that I have NOT personally benchmarked this but simply looking at the way this product is architected it would certainly warrant a look for specific analytic applications. Benchmarking is recommended however.

The ParAccel Analytic Database software is available now. ParAccel offers two licensing options
$1,000 per gigabyte for all-in-memory systems beginning at 100GB,
or $40,000 per node plus $10,000 per terabyte for disk-based systems beginning at 5 nodes.
Subscription licensing is also available starting as low as $5,000 per month.

Posted November 13, 2007 12:32 PM
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Today IBM finally moved to plug the hole in its software product portfolio by announcing the acquisition of Cognos for $5bn USD This acquisition has been on the cards for a long time with several analysts including myself wondering how long it would be before we saw Big Blue move on Cognos (see my previous blog . This is almost a perfect fit for IBM given that it needed a BI vendor to provide tooling for reporing and analysis that had not much in the way of market share in the data integration space. The reason is that IBM is already the market leader in the data integration space with Information Server and does not want the 'baggage' of dealing with another product in that area. Cognos has never been a major player in data integration with its Data Manager product.

So you can expect IBM to immediately want to integrate Information Server with the Cognos product line. I also would expect that the WebSphere Metadata Server (bundled with Information Server) will be integrated with Cognos Framework Manager so that Cognos metadata ends up in the Metadata Server itself at some future release point. IBM also has had several joint development initiatives with Cognos and so there is a lot of integration already.

The only question mark will be in the area of performance management where Cognos has had a strong position for some time. IBM's own Performance Management product IBM ActiveInsight will now have to come together with the Cognos Performance Management products. If this does not happen then the future of ActiveInsight as a product may well be in jeapordy. Time will tell.

So, the independent BI vendors are falling like nine pins as the software giants finally move in on the market. With Hyperion already falling to Oracle and Business Objects to SAP, it leaves only one large independent BI vendor left in the market - SAS. Of course SAS is privately owned and so will continue on that way until such time as its CEO (Dr Jim Goodnight) decides otherwise. MicroStrategy also remains independent also along with other smaller BI vendors. Expect further mergers and acquisitions to follow as the rest of the market consolidates to compete with the giants.

Posted November 12, 2007 2:53 PM
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