Cognos Adds Integrated BI Marts

Cognos Corp. (www.cognos.com) extended its definition of what end-to-end means in business intelligence.

Many business intelligence vendors have grouped their products into suites over the past year to provide what they call end-to-end business intelligence. Most of these suites -- from Cognos, Business Objects, Brio Technology Inc., Seagate Software and others -- sat on top of existing data marts or data warehouses.

Cognos, however, is now reaching down into the territory of extraction, transformation and loading (ETL) vendors. These vendors provide tools for taking data from operational sources and converting it into a data warehouse or a data mart. Cognos is expected to ship its new Cognos DecisionStream 6.0 -- numbered to conform to Cognos’ current BI product line -- this month.

"Cognos itself has not been in the data preparation side and the data movement side, but DecisionStream introduces that element into the Cognos product family," says Steve Judges, Cognos DecisionStream product manager. "Cognos is no longer just a BI tools vendor, but rather a vendor of complete solutions from end to end."

DecisionStream is the first product to emerge from Cognos’ December acquisition of Relational Matters, a U.K.-based firm that helped large customers build data warehouses.

Cognos’ new product relies on the concepts of dimensional data marts that have been put forward by data warehousing guru Ralph Kimball. The concepts also form the heart of the data mart/warehousing products of Sagent Technology Inc. (www.sagent.com), a company with which Kimball is closely associated.

Kimball’s concepts describe a middle path between the time and expense of building a data warehouse from scratch and the data isolation resulting from building a quick, functional data mart that doesn’t integrate with other data marts around the enterprise. Kimball’s model includes common definitions for such objects as customers and sales and then rolling out those exact same definitions with each data mart. When done correctly, the data marts can be created at different times but still work together.

By building the data mart itself, Cognos can optimize the data mart for Cognos BI tools. The company calls the resultant marts BI Marts.

"It delivers not just one BI Mart at a time, but rather is a framework to deliver a series using a common dimensional framework," Judges explains. "One of the dimensions that would be common to sales and marketing would be product. We can do revenue roll-up by product line in the sales data mart, and we can do cost roll-up by product line in the manufacturing data mart and make a consistent reliable report on what the profitability is by product line."

To be precise, many vendors’ BI suites are capable of creating multidimensional data marts, also known as OLAP cubes. What Cognos adds with DecisionStream is more workaday relational data stores that users hit for basic queries.

Analyst Bob Moran of the Aberdeen Group (www.aberdeen.com) says Relational Matters was a smart buy for Cognos. "Cognos has a lot of experience and a lot of strong technology. End-user organizations, current and future, will be able to use Relational Matters as a mediating device to help them set up the best data mart structure they can to solve business problems," Moran says.

The design component of Cognos DecisionStream runs on Win32 platforms, and the server engine runs on Windows NT and several versions of Unix.