IBM Seeks Broader BI Customer Base With Cognos 10 Debut

IBM Monday unveiled Cognos 10, the most significant release of the company's flagship business intelligence software since IBM acquired Cognos in January 2008 for $4.9 billion.

With its new social networking, collaboration and mobile computing capabilities, Cognos 10 marks a significant step toward the oft-stated goal of IBM and other business intelligence software developers to bring business analytics to a wider audience of users.

"This is the challenge we faced with Cognos 10, to get these capabilities out to more and more users," said Rob Ashe, IBM general manager of business analytics. Ashe, CEO of Cognos when IBM acquired it, was speaking at a press conference at the company's Information On Demand conference taking place this week in Las Vegas.

IBM also said that for the first time it is offering customers the option of deploying Cognos as a cloud-computing application. But executives made clear that there is no Software-as-a-Service version of Cognos 10.

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IBM has identified business intelligence as a strategic initiative: Revenue from business analytics products and services grew 14 percent in the company's third quarter ended Sept. 30 and the vendor forecasts that business analytics and optimization products and services will generate $16 billion in sales by 2015.

Next: New Collaboration, Predictive Analysis Capabilities

In the last four years IBM has spent more than $14 billion acquiring 24 companies with products in the analytics market.

"We believe we are at a very important inflection point relative to this whole idea of analyzing data and using data for strategic advantage," said Steve Mills, senior vice president and group executive, IBM Software & Systems, at the press conference. Businesses, he said, "need to become more predictive [and] more forward-looking, they need to get more insight into where the world around them is going, the markets they serve, [and] the customers they work with."

IBM also unveiled new releases of its InfoSphere Information Server (version 8.5) and its DB2 database for IBM System z mainframes. Mills said the new capabilities in those products and in Cognos 10 will help businesses manage huge volumes of structured and unstructured data, even in real time, and analyze information for advanced predictive analysis and risk management tasks. "The technologies have been progressing not only to make these things possible, but affordable," he said.

Cognos 10 gets its new collaboration capabilities through its integration with Lotus Connections, IBM's social collaboration application. IBM said the link is provided through a simplified, integrated user interface. The software also creates a more integrated view of historical data with real-time updates.

Cognos 10's expanded predictive analysis features come from technology from SPSS, a developer of advanced predictive analysis software IBM acquired for $1.2 billion in October 2009. (Ashe said Cognos and SPSS had already launched a joint development project with SPSS six months before the acquisition.)

Next: Cloud Computing Deployment Option

With Cognos 10 IBM, for the first time, will allow customers to run their licensed software through IBM's cloud hosting service. "It's just a deployment option, it's not a SaaS version," Ashe cautioned. He said business intelligence systems aren't as suitable for multi-tenant SaaS architectures, compared to CRM applications and other types of software, because business intelligence deployments tend to be customized for a company's needs and frequently involve sensitive data.

Ashe, nevertheless, said IBM is developing some SaaS-based business intelligence technology that could be available in about six months time.