Acquisitions in BI – End of the best of breed?

Last time I talked about the trends in the BI space. Let’s look into one of those trends – M&As and how it is shaping BI as we know it.
A recent BusinessWeek article claimed the end of the best-of-breed approach to BI with the demise of the major pure-play BI vendors like BOBJ now owned by SAP thanks to a friendly takeover or Hyperion acquired by Oracle or the latest – IBM‘s acquisition of Cognos. While it is true that some of the major players have been acquired by the bigger businesses, there is no reason as to why the mid-size companies should go out of business.
For one, with the recent convergence of BI into the SOA (service oriented architecture), most pure-play vendors have hastened to upgrade their offerings, which means that there isn’t any single vendor which goes the entire distance in the BI-SOA convergence. Business Objects which introduced its web services add-on QAAWS for its dashboarding product Crystal Xcelsius, has now added support for embedding Xcelsius in its latest release of reporting products – Crystal Reports 2008. Yet to be acquired pure-play BI vendors like Actuate and MicroStrategy are adding SOA interoperability in product upgrades.
As is common in the technology industry, something disruptive always keeps happening. The latest trend riding on this disruption is the use of data warehousing appliances and the use of in-memory databases and in-memory calculations. From Netezza to QlikTech to Tableau, there is plenty happening in the BI innovations scenario which run counter to the forces set in motion by the big four (IBM, SAP, Oracle and Microsoft).
The most convincing force against the consolidation spree is the fact that different vendors are better at different aspects of the entire BI space, so to build competency across the entire BI spectrum would require multiple acquisitions in a string-of-pearls approach along with subsequent costly integration and the resulting delays. It remains to be seen how IBM integrates Cognos’ offerings with its existing product lines, even as SAP has given BOBJ an independent run.

Best of breed works because there are investments with licensing of pure-play technologies which work with all the databases including IBM’s DB2 and Oracle’s eponymous database, as well as the middle-ware from both SAP and Oracle, both of which have Java as the underlying open standard. With Oracle itself licensing Informatica in its data warehouse offerings, it is easy to see that it is not the end of the road for the smaller players as long as they stick to innovation, the technology credo.
Add to this mix the open source products from JasperSoft, Pentaho and Talend, and, best of breed does start sounding like the best value for money.


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