MicroStrategy Unveils Report Services; Starting Price $150?

How low can they go? Report Services packages start at $150 per named user...

Next-gen dashboards might be the wave of the future, but most business intelligence (BI) buyers would probably be plenty satisfied with affordable reporting technology in the here and now.

Ask and you might just receive. Spurred in part by pricing pressure from Microsoft Corp.’s fast maturing SQL Server Reporting Services technology, some BI players are at least paying lip service to the idea of doing reporting on-the-cheap. Business Objects SA last year announced an SMB version of its flagship Crystal Reports solution, for example.

And MicroStrategy Inc. last week introduced four new “low-cost” variants of its flagship Report Services product. Officials describe MicroStrategy’s low cost Report Services as a more or less faithful repackaging of the full-featured Report Services product, complete with associated infrastructure technologies.

“We’ve taken our standard product—no diminishing any of its features or strength—and bundled them together into a series of [four] different bundles, each one having variant features,” says Mark LaRow, vice-president of products with MicroStrategy. “This [still has] the full strength of MicroStrategy’s product set—we’ve just reduced the price pretty dramatically on those bundles to compete head to head with Crystal [Reports] and [Cognos Inc.’s] ReportNet.”

How cheap? That all depends on how much “infrastructure” technology you want or need: the new low-cost Report Services starts at $150 per named user (for the base-level Report Services product itself) and scales to a maximum of $700 per named user—which includes supporting technologies such as MicroStrategy Report Services Web Server and MicroStrategy Narrowcast Server.

LaRow says low-cost Report Services addresses a competitive gap vis-à-vis Crystal Reports, and, to a lesser extent, ReportNet. Most customers purchase MicroStrategy for its analytical capabilities, he says, and frequently can’t afford to expose its reporting capabilities to consumers (or developers) of operational or production reports. So they opt instead for third-party solutions from, most frequently, Business Objects. “We have customers who have MicroStrategy for their large-scale analytical reporting needs, and a lot of them have Crystal for their small-scale reporting needs, and we want to make it necessary for them not to have Crystal,” he comments. “We feel this [low-cost Report Services] gives them better [reporting] technology at an affordable price point.”

The four low-cost Report Services variants target a very different—perhaps even non-traditional—audience for MicroStrategy, LaRow acknowledges. “[This] user population is content with just reporting, whereas MicroStrategy does reporting and scorecarding, plus analytics. This is targeted at report consumers and dashboard consumers, [users who are] running a report, answering prompts, doing a tiny bit of analysis, pivoting, drilling up, drilling down.”

It’s tempting to think of MicroStrategy’s new low-cost reporting packages as SMB- or small-to-medium enterprise-oriented offerings. But LaRow says Report Services-on-the-cheap—like the full-featured version of Report Services that ships with MicroStrategy’s eponymous BI suite—can scale to support terabytes of data. Nor is low-cost Report Services aimed solely at existing customers. In fact, LaRow stresses, its metadata is fully compatible with MicroStrategy 8, so organizations can tap their existing report definitions, security definitions, and user roles and privileges—should they decide to migrate to MicroStrategy’s all-in-one offering, that is. “This helps take pricing off the table as a factor—to eliminate a perception that MicroStrategy is a kind of technology that is prohibitively expensive for [production or operational reporting],” LaRow argues.

About the Author

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