Survey Says: Microsoft a BI Force to be Reckoned With

If both Gartner and IDC say a trend’s a trend, then it must be a trend, right?

If both Gartner Inc. and International Data Corp. (IDC) say a trend’s a trend, then it must be a trend, right?

If such is the case, Microsoft Corp.’s business intelligence (BI) stack has arrived. That’s the upshot of Gartner’s BI market research study, released last week, which—in substantive agreement with an IDC report issued this summer—found that Microsoft’s BI market share growth outpaced that of most rivals. More to the point, both Gartner and IDC now agree: Microsoft is now a BI force to be reckoned with, trailing established leaders such as Business Objects SA, SAS Institute Inc., and Cognos Inc. for overall BI market laurels.

For all of 2005, Gartner says, Microsoft grew its BI business at a 35.9 percent clip. That’s in spite of the fact that the software giant’s next-gen SQL Server 2005 database didn’t ship until December of last year.

Gartner’s results don’t tally precisely with those of IDC, of course. The latter researcher, for example, found that Microsoft grew its BI market revenues by 25.5 percent—more than double the average rate of growth (11.5 percent) for the industry as a whole. That was enough to make Microsoft the number four overall BI vendor in terms of market share, trailing only Business Objects SA (at number one), SAS Institute Inc. (at number two), and Cognos Inc., according to IDC. Gartner, for its part, placed Microsoft broadly athwart the “Challenger” and “Leader” segments of its gimmicky “Magic Quadrant” for Data Warehouse Database Management Systems. That’s an improvement from Microsoft’s “Challenger” positioning in Magic Quadrants past.

This doesn’t mean Microsoft’s BI market push is neither here nor there, however: In fact, with the 2007 Office System on tap—and with the assets of its acquisition earlier this year of the former ProClarity Corp. still to be effectively subsumed and productized—Microsoft might well be poised for a BI market grab. (

Speaking of data warehouse and database management systems—i.e., the segment in which Gartner positions Microsoft as a comer-cum-leader—market watcher IDC claims that the market for “database-embedded BI” might be a pretty good jump-off point for vendors with broader BI aspirations. Year-over-year growth in this market (at 19.9 percent) easily outpaced (and in fact was more than double) that of the bread-and-butter BI tools segment itself.

Microsoft officials, not surprisingly, were quick to flag the Gartner study as another validation of Redmond’s BI ascendancy. “Our ongoing BI investments are enabling a transformation of the way people interact with important business information,” said Jeff Raikes, president of Microsoft’s Business Division, in a statement. “We continue to evolve our solution set, recently rounding it out with an integrated performance management application, such that our offering will provide customers with a complete, flexible and cost-effective BI solution, one that enables truly pervasive BI across the enterprise.”

Microsoft users, in many cases, agree. (

“In the enterprise in general, organizations are just starting to see the value in Microsoft’s BI solution,” said Mark Hill, an independent BI consultant and a former BI architect with Reuters, in an email interview this summer. “I am seeing a lot of people moving from Oracle and other systems to the [Microsoft] stack. The reasons for doing this seem to be driven by the perceived maturity in [SQL Server] 2005 for enterprise solutions. Prior to this it was difficult to implement systems based on [SQL Server] 2000 that were highly scalable.”

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.

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