Panorama Positions Itself As PerformancePoint Alternative

business intelligence

But Panorama's place in the Microsoft universe is undergoing a major evolution following Microsoft's January announcement that it will cease developing PerformancePoint as a separate product and build the software's dashboard, scorecard and data analysis capabilities into the SharePoint Server platform.

The result has been a wave of calls to Panorama from solution providers and customers who had committed to PerformancePoint and are now seeking alternatives, said Oudi Antebi, vice president of strategy and marketing. "This caught us by surprise," admits Antebi. "I would say this is the biggest news for Panorama in the last several years."

Panorama develops NovaView, a set of data analysis, reporting, scoreboard, dashboard and data modeling tools that run on Microsoft SQL Server. NovaView, in fact, taps into the online analytical processing (OLAP) technology Panorama developed and then sold to Microsoft in 1996. Microsoft incorporated the technology into the database as SQL Server Analysis Services.

(NovaView also works with SAP's NetWeaver application platform, and a version for Oracle is in the works. In addition, Panorama offers Software-as-a-Service reporting and analysis tools that work with Google Docs.)

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Panorama recently previewed a release candidate of NovaView 6.0, the next major version of the business intelligence software that's slated to ship in June. The updated software offers new analysis tools, including an executive dashboard, a SharedViews tool for sharing interactive reports outside of a company's firewall and Flash Analytics based on Panorama's Google-related products. NovaView 6.0 also sports a new user interface with Web 2.0 features, the ability to support several thousand concurrent users, and new wizards for easier installation and deployment.

Despite the close development relationship with Microsoft, Panorama found itself competing more directly with the giant software vendor when it released PerformancePoint in late 2007, more than a year after the new product was officially launched.

Now, with the discontinuation of PerformancePoint, the Microsoft-Panorama dynamic is changing yet again. In late January, Microsoft said it will release a third and final service pack for PerformancePoint around mid-year.

Microsoft portrayed the move to add more BI capabilities into SharePoint and the upcoming Office 14 as an effort to make business intelligence more accessible to a wider range of users. But analyst reports have said the product failed because it was too complex for many people to use and was released before it was fully functional.

Antebi, who managed product marketing for Microsoft's business intelligence products before joining Panorama in 2005, sees Microsoft's decision as a move away from trying to develop a complete line of business intelligence tools and applications to focus on its core software platforms.

Panorama's channel partners agree.

"I think [the discontinuation of PerformancePoint] will move Microsoft out of the serious BI space -- but it will put them back in a sector they know how to lead and dominate. They have no peers at building platforms that are used by developers and that sell through the traditional licensing partners," said Keith Jones, managing director of Harvey Jones Systems, a South Africa-based solution provider that partners with Microsoft and Panorama and resells software from both.

Jones said Microsoft's PerformancePoint decision would have a "massive" impact on the BI market. He added that most PerformancePoint customers weren't deep into their deployments and so "will experience little or no pain." But Antebi said he's been getting calls from both solution providers and customers who made significant investments in PerformancePoint.

Panorama, which generates about 80 percent of its sales through some 300 channel partners worldwide, according to Antebi, has moved quickly to position itself as a safe haven for PerformancePoint owners and resellers, providing a PerformancePoint-to-NovaView migration path and offering special promotions.

Harvey Jones has been working with customers who bought PerformancePoint or ProClarity, the latter being a front-end BI product Microsoft acquired in 2006 and offered in conjunction with PerformancePoint.

"We are transitioning a number of customers from both [PerformancePoint] and ProClarity," Jones said in an e-mail interview.

In addition to PerformancePoint resellers, Panorama is recruiting channel partners with expertise in vertical industries, Microsoft Dynamics ERP applications, software and SAP software, Antebi said. "We're open to adding partners so long as they bring value to the table."