Panorama Sez, What, Me Worry?
Panorama officials cite a healthy market for high-end SQL Server BI, and talk up the company’s SAP diversification strategy.
Over the years, a thriving partner ecosystem grew up around—or rather on top of—Microsoft Corp.’s SQL Server business intelligence (BI) stack.
Two Microsoft partners in particular, the former ProClarity Corp. and Panorama Software Inc., stood out from the rest. Both companies market SQL Server-based BI client tools and middleware, and both rose to prominence largely on the strength of their Microsoft-centric value propositions. Now that Microsoft has acquired ProClarity, Panorama is the last man standing, so to speak.
Panorama officials say that’s fine with them. Panorama didn’t directly compete with the former ProClarity in most cases, says VP of marketing and strategy Oudi Antebi, and he downplays the possibility of a David-versus-Goliath-type clash between his company’s NovaView platform and Microsoft’s ProClarity-based BI client tools practice.
More to the point, Antebi says, Panorama effectively ceded the small- and mid-market BI tools space to ProClarity some time ago; it’s in this mid-market segment that Microsoft is most focused, he says, which leaves a healthy—and potentially thriving—high-end segment for Panorama. “What we tell our sales guys, [is] if we’re in the same deal with ProClarity, someone is in the wrong deal. We gave up a great mid-market channel—we gave it up because we recognized [that] we couldn’t compete as well [in the mid-market as] ProClarity, so we focused two years ago entirely on the high-midmarket and the enterprise—the Fortune 2000 and 3000 customers,” Antebi explains.
Besides, he maintains, Panorama has much bigger fish to fry: the company recently announced plans to port its NovaView platform to SAP’s Business Information Warehouse (BW). Once that project ships—perhaps by late this year or early next year—Panorama will boast the same deep integration with SAP BW that it’s touted for years on SQL Server, Antebi claims. It seems as if just about every BI vendor and its parent company has pledged its fealty of some kind to SAP BW (http://www.tdwi.org/News/display.aspx?id=7887), but Antebi insists that Panorama is going these competitors one better.
“Why do so many [vendors] fail on BW? There is one answer: no one has really gone deep. No one has made an effort to go deep enough [into BW] to integrate with BW fully [on its own terms],” he argues. “BW exposes very ugly naming conventions. If you don’t develop a layer to translate those naming conventions, you’re not going to do it right. The way the other vendors work is they have one platform and what they say is we are going to connect to any data source you have, bring it all together, and give it the best enterprise BI you need. But the downside is you have to choose the lowest common denominator between all the platforms.”
Panorama, by contrast, is “going deep,” Antebi says. “We’re not taking NovaView 5 and adding capabilities so that the same platform can connect to BW. We’re actually writing a special layer to connect to BW and only BW, so we’re solving problems that are unique to BW. [Things such as] exception management—we’re writing our own exception management engine for BW, for example. It cannot work against [SQL Server] Analysis Services. It works only against BW. By going deep into BW, we will achieve a lot more than anyone else has.”
Panorama’s SAP diversification plans predate Microsoft’s ProClarity acquisition. In other words, Antebi argues, Panorama’s decision to embrace SAP was not a reactive response to Microsoft’s ProClarity coup. In fact, he insists, Panorama remains as committed as ever to Microsoft and its BI efforts. The company last year delivered a complement to Microsoft’s Business Scorecard Manager (BSM) tool, which was the software giant’s first-ever BPM client product. Likewise, Panorama plans to support the erstwhile ProClarity technologies once Microsoft incorporates them into its product groups and actually ships them as new (i.e., branded) Microsoft tools. That could take some time, however, Antebi argues.
“We’re already officially engaging to make sure we are on the beta program for the ProClarity visualization technology, and we will fully support that [product] once it’s available,” he says. “I’m analyzing the situation as I see it, and my analysis encompasses things that I’m bringing from my eight years at Microsoft. I expect the time it will take Microsoft to release ProClarity, based on all the past acquisitions that Microsoft has done, … [will be] 10-24 months, based on the size of the product, especially now that Microsoft is so conscious about security.”
At some point—if it hasn’t already—Microsoft will stop selling ProClarity directly to new customers, Antebi argues. It will then run very basic testing on the code, release a first beta within six to twelve months, and then do a line-by-line code review, which—depending on how things shake out—could take as little as 12 months or as long as two years.
Either way, Antebi says, that “leaves us a relatively long window of opportunity as the only partner on the Microsoft platform.”
Coming up, we’ll take a look at how the ProClarity acquisition affects Microsoft’s plans for its Office 12 release. Some vendors—and we’re not yet naming names—are already saying that buying ProClarity set the stage for Microsoft’s claim that Office 12 comprises an all-in-one BI tools suite. Stay tuned.
Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.