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Data warehousing and business intelligence
Since the Internet first penetrated corporate IT shops for commercial application, the business intelligence market has been driving toward the ideal of "ubiquitous business intelligence." Web Services promises to increase the availability of information and analysis services. While very few vendors have embraced the marketing concept, the stated objectives of the initiative are very well aligned with the growth strategies of the leading business intelligence vendors, whose product roadmaps are pointing in the Web Services direction.
Since the Internet first penetrated corporate IT shops for commercial application, the business intelligence market has been driving toward the ideal of "ubiquitous business intelligence." Web services promises to increase the availability of information and analysis services. While very few vendors have embraced the marketing concept, the stated objectives of the initiative are very well aligned with the growth strategies of the leading business intelligence vendors, whose product roadmaps are pointing in the Web services direction.
In fact, in response to buyer requirements, most leading vendors in the business intelligence market have already paved the way to support Web services initiatives. First, several key vendors have already redesigned and componentized their core products to leverage the Web to provide a scalable, secure, and reliable business intelligence infrastructure. Many already deliver interactive capabilities to end users with very thin clients through browser and portal user interfaces. Finally, in anticipation of strong market demand, most have also unveiled early XML and wireless implementations.
Two industry initiatives address the need for Web services standards for business intelligence.
- JOLAP. The JOLAP initiative is by Hyperion Solutions and has industry support from Sun, Oracle, and others. Its purpose is described as, "By using JOLAP, implementers of OLAP systems can expose a single, standard API that will be understood by a wide variety of client applications and components running on the J2EE Platform. Similarly, OLAP clients can be coded against a single API that is independent of the underlying data resource (e.g., native multidimensional database vs. relational star schema). The ultimate goal of JOLAP is to provide for OLAP systems what JDBC did for relational databases."
- XML for Analysis. Microsoft and Hyperion Solutions announced the release of specifications for XML for Analysis. The summary of the specification reads "a SOAP-based XML communication API that supports the exchange of analytical data between clients and servers on any platform and with any language." The specification does enable software suppliers to leverage and extend their investments in OLE#DB. When the beta specification was first announced last year, 50 business intelligence vendors pledged their support for initiative.
THE HURWITZ TAKE: The concepts embodied by Web services (and described by JOLAP and XML for Analysis) mirror the driving forces in the business intelligence market today. Web services addresses the need for device and platform independence that could breakdown barriers to effective intercompany communication and increase the reach of information. It could obviate the need for business intelligence vendors to develop proprietary infrastructures to address the emerging wireless opportunity.
Finally, Web services addresses the need for application-to-application integration. Integration can enable business intelligence to inform decision makers as they execute transactions. By integrating business intelligence within core business processes, such as customer relationship management, supply chain automation, and enterprise resource planning, business intelligence could present relevant information and impact analysis as business users make decisions that affect the value chain. While a number of recent mergers and acquisitions suggest some convergence, there is still a fundamental disconnect between transactional and analytic systems. Web services could begin to resolve that disconnect.
Of course, the ability of Web services to drive increased adoption of business intelligence depends on its ability to attract broad industry support from both application and platform software providers. This will require strong technical leadership, resolution of reliability and security issues as well as some serious reexamination of pricing and distribution models. However, for the business intelligence market, this appears to be a low risk proposition with significant upside potential.
Copyright 2002 Hurwitz Group Inc. This article is excerpted from TrendWatch, a weekly publication of Hurwitz Group Inc. - an analyst, research, and consulting firm. To register for a free email subscription, click here.
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