Datawarehouse Vendors Moving Towards Application Suites

  • Written By: M. Reed
  • Published: September 29 1999

Event Summary

During September, two more data warehousing vendors announced product suites that they claim offer broader integration between business intelligence, data movement, data cleansing and metadata management. BI vendor Cognos (NASDAQ: COGN) announced "Cognos platform", a tool to build complete "BI-ready data infrastructures". Data Movement vendor Ardent Software (NASDAQ: ARDT) announced "DataStage XE", which is designed to "simplify integration of multiple data sources and business intelligence tools".

"Cognos platform"

Cognos claims their new product is an "end-to-end platform, the first solution for building, managing and deploying BI solutions for enterprise and e-business needs" which "includes enterprise infrastructure layers that cover data mart building, integrated meta data modeling, and integrated security" as well as content management and distribution.

The product is a suite that contains:

  • Extract/Transform/Load capabilities for populating data marts. This technology was acquired with the purchase of U.K. based Relational Matters, which created the DecisionStream product, "the first OLAP-aware data integration product". DecisionStream is an ETL tool capable of populating OLAP hypercubes, such as the one used by Cognos PowerPlay.

  • Metadata management capabilities to provide centralized metadata and business rules. All applications in the suite share a common meta model.

  • Business intelligence tools in the form of Cognos PowerPlay and Impromptu. These products have made Cognos one of the top three business intelligence vendors.

  • Additional services such as data mart modeling and common security functions.

Ardent "DataStage XE"

Ardent has acquired a number of other software vendors in the last year, and is attempting to integrate the purchased technologies into their existing DataStage 3.6 product. Like Cognos, they are offering a suite that, in addition to providing data movement capabilities, offers metadata management and data quality management to "simplify integration of multiple data sources and business intelligence tools".

The product is a suite that contains:

  • Extract/Transform/Load capabilities in the form of DataStage 3.6. This product has made Ardent one of the top three ETL vendors.

  • Metadata management technology acquired with the purchase of Dovetail Software. This is a proprietary meta model, Ardent promises an XML-compliant repository in a future release. (For further details on metadata repository standards, see News Analysis "Is There Finally a Metadata Exchange Standard on the Horizon?" September 28, 1999).

  • Data quality technologies acquired with the purchase of Prism Solutions. Prism had previously purchased QDB Solutions, which created QDB/Analyze, a tool for complex data cleansing.

  • Improved mainframe functionality, also acquired with the purchase of Prism Solutions. Prism's mainframe based ETL tool provides Ardent with mainframe job scheduling and improved access to legacy data sources.

Market Impact

Data warehouse vendors are flocking to the suite concept. Ardent and Cognos have joined the ranks of larger vendors, such as Microsoft (with SQL Server 7.0) and Computer Associates (with DecisionBase 1.9), in attempting to provide end-to-end data warehousing solutions. Customers and prospects have been complaining for years about how hard it is to integrate ETL and BI tools into a functional whole that includes integrated metadata management. We believe that a truly integrated product would be a better solution than a suite, but suites are a step in the right direction. Users want "one stop shopping" with the ability to procure from a single vendor.

The current market direction indicates that more vendors will merge or be acquired as the larger players in the data warehousing space attempt to buy technology and fill in holes in their product offerings.

  • Ardent is the only ETL vendor that possesses a data cleansing tool, so we expect that data cleansing vendors such as Vality and Trillium will be targets for other ETL vendors. We believe the company most at risk is Carleton, which acquired data cleansing vendor Apertus in October of 1997. Carleton's (NASDAQ:CARL) stock price was recently at $1.75, and they recently had to secure a working capital line of credit with Silicon Valley Bank.

  • Cognos includes a complete BI solution with their product. Ardent has no business intelligence offering in the DataStage suite. However, Ardent has partnered with Business Objects in the U.K to provide a more complete solution in Europe. We expect to see this partnership extended to North America.

  • Neither vendor has adhered to the XML standard in their metadata repository. Both Ardent and Cognos will have to address this issue.

  • Ardent now has stronger mainframe capabilities because of the Prism acquisition, and already had a market-leading ETL tool. Cognos will have to prove the strength of its ETL solution and ensure that the tool can extract legacy data.

User Recommendations

Suites are typically a vendor's attempt to integrate existing technologies, either their own or acquired ones. We recommend that users ensure that the vendor's integration effort has been successful and is not simply packaging. Seamless integration of software products takes time.

Potential integration issues:

  • Ardent acquired Prism less than one year ago. Prism had already been in the process of attempting to integrate its QDB acquisition.

  • Cognos acquired Relational Matters less than one year ago.

Each suite is missing components, therefore, users should determine which components they need for their particular application.

  • If data cleansing is not an issue for the customer, then Cognos' lack of this capability should not be an issue.

  • The fact that Ardent does not supply a business intelligence tool can be rectified by the purchase of one from another vendor. However, users must be aware that Ardent's metadata repository is proprietary, and any BI tool purchased will not be able to access it without customization.

As a complete end-to-end solution, Cognos has the better offering of these two, but all of the available suites on the market should be evaluated in their entirety before a purchase decision is made. Depending on the particular needs of the company, the different strengths of the vendors will influence the decision.

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