Cognos: Big Step In BI

To be introduced later this week, the next-generation server software replaces five separate Cognos products with a single product built on a services-based architecture. Cognos 8 Business Intelligence will be available in November.

That availability puts Cognos on the same schedule of other major business intelligence vendors, including Business Objects and Hyperion, which also are expected to unleash major upgrades in November. At issue, then, is which vendor can leapfrog the others in the highly lucrative BI market. One mark in Cognos& favor: combining its ReportNet reporting software, PowerPlay analytic product, NoticeCast event manager, Metrics Manager scorecard software and DecisionStream ETL software on one server.

By itself, enabling single server deployment would be a big deal from any BI vendor. Most observers agree that current complexity—requiring the integration of various server-based tools and warehouses— has kept BI largely out of the midmarket. But, say partners, the Ottawa-based company has pushed back boundaries with Cognos 8—providing a services-based architecture that drives all user interaction through portals, transparently works with any sort of data, uses a single query engine and one metadata source.

“I don&t throw the word ‘visionary& around a lot, but I&d apply it to Cognos,” said Anthony Politano, chief performance officer of Niteo Partners, the Edison, N.J., professional services arm of NEC. “Everything about Cognos 8 serves up the compelling message of a lower cost of ownership. Because we are moving to a single unified environment, especially with the unified metadata layer, it&s easier to put a price around the days and hours needed for conversion. And the zero footprint, which eliminates applications on the desktop, can really make a difference in maintenance.”

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Cognos 8 essentially builds on ground first broken two years ago when the company delivered its Web-based reporting tool, ReportNet. That services-oriented architecture foundation gives the server software new capabilities for tapping into data. “In the past, analysis tools could only go against an OLAP cube and reporting could only go against relational databases. Now users can do reporting against cubes and analysis against any data source,” said Leah MacMillan, Cognos& vice president of product marketing. “Users no longer have to think about the kind of data they need for the kind of analysis they want to perform.”

Other features include improved event management, expanded scorecards, and the ability for users to see the top and worst performers in a field and summarize everything in between.

“Cognos 8 simplifies the sales process, and it simplifies the entire integration process,” said Ed Wooden, managing partner of consulting firm JCB Partners, Denver. “I think this makes it easier to play in the midmarket.”