Data probes

In 2002, around 50% of all small and specialised business intelligence vendors will either be acquired, or go out of business — that is the disturbing message from analysts at IT market research company Gartner Group. The reason, they explain, is that organisations are taking a more conservative approach to business intelligence projects as they seek to reduce risk and costs. What is more, when it comes to business intelligence suppliers, they value financial and product stability and service excellence above technology innovation in their business intelligence suppliers. On the whole, this bodes well for companies such as Actuate, Business Objects, Brio, Cognos, Crystal Decisions, Informatica, Information Builders, Microsoft, NCR, Oracle and SAS Institute — although even these large, well-established cannot afford to be complacent. But the business intelligence market remains vast and diverse — what other suppliers are vying for a place on the shopping lists of IT decision-makers?

ETL tools

As long as organisations need to pool and analyse data from diverse operational systems, they will need tools capable of extracting data and transforming it into a source-independent format. Some of the key companies in this area include : Ascential, Acta Technologies, Avellino, Evolutionary Technologies International (ETI), Hummingbird, and Sagent.

Data warehouse and OLAP platforms

The major database vendors (Oracle, IBM, Microsoft and, to a lesser extent, Sybase) dominate this area, providing tools that enable users to interrogate data held in relational databases. For more sophisticated, multi-dimensional queries, users typically deploy specialist OLAP databases and tools, from companies such as Hyperion, Crystal Decisions, Microstrategy, Oracle, Cognos, Business Objects, Gentia, Microsoft and others. For analysing exceptionally large volumes of data, many organisations turn to vendors such as NCR and Sand Technology. Smaller, pre-packaged data warehousing products are available from DecisionPoint and Kalido, while IntelligentApps specifically targets Microsoft Windows environments.

Query, analysis and reporting tools

Hundreds of software companies aim to front-end the data warehouse with tools that enable users to analyse the data it holds — and thus gain meaningful answers to business questions. Aside from Brio, Business Objects, SAS Institute, Cognos, Crystal Decisions, and Oracle, other companies targeting this market with wide-ranging suites of tools include Hummingbird, Computer Associates, Microstrategy and Sagent. Smaller companies that aim to tackle more specific problems include Alphablox, which specialises in business intelligence components that are used to build highly customised, web-based analytics, Datawatch and Striva. In addition, vendors of enterprise resource planning software, such as PeopleSoft and SAP offer business intelligence tools geared specifically towards analysing data held in their back-office, transaction processing systems.

Analytic applications

Increasingly, BI vendors are seeking to offer applications – rather than tools – that provide non-technical users with immediate answers to business questions. These are frequently targeted at specific business areas. Corvu, Adaytum and Comshare offer applications for tracking financial performance. Customer data is the key focus for Kana, Norkom Technologies and E.piphany. Other suppliers such as Accrue Software, NetGenesis, Data Distilleries and Speed-trap focus on analysing web activity. Netherlands-based ProClarity supplies an analytics platform for building tailored analytic applications. In addition, many of the leading BI suppliers are also turning their focus to analytic applications.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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