MicroStrategy Bucks a Trend

MicroStrategy continues to go its own way in the fast-changing BI suite-scape.

Earlier this month, MicroStrategy Inc. certified Sybase Inc.’s Avaki enterprise information integration (EII) software for use with its BI platform. The arrangement—one of three such accords MicroStrategy has notched with EII vendors—was interesting because it highlights the way in which MicroStrategy continues to go its own way in the fast-changing BI suite-scape.

Some of MicroStrategy’s competitors—such as Business Objects SA, Information Builders Inc. (IBI), and SAS Institute Inc., for example—have fleshed out their bread-and-butter BI offerings with full-fledged enterprise data integration technologies, too. SAS, in particular, actually markets a dominant ETL tool, while Business Objects markets both ETL and EII solutions, and IBI, for its part, has a hugely successful data integration practice in its iWay subsidiary. Other MicroStrategy competitors, such as Cognos Inc., for example, have in-house ETL technology of their own, even if they don’t promote it much.

MicroStrategy, on the other hand, remains defiantly BI-centric. Not surprisingly, its BI-centricity has now become a key feature of its marketing, with officials pooh-poohing (what they call, anyway) the scattershot approach of their competitors. “We do one thing, we believe we do it the best of anyone in the industry—we build a BI platform so that our customers can design and build their own analytical reporting applications. We are not an ETL business; we are not an EII business; we are not in the data warehousing business—we are a critical component of that stack,” says Tom Villani, vice-president of global alliances with MicroStrategy.

MicroStrategy’s efforts on the EII certification front are a case in point, Villani argues. “One of the things Sybase/Avaki brings to the table is what we believe to be a very strong offering with respect to EII. You might have a customer with a traditional data warehouse but they might want to incorporate data from other areas and make sure that data [which they’re feeding their analysts, for example] is time-critical and time-interactive, and that’s a situation where you would want to use EII,” he explains. “So for our customers who want to do that, we do not want them to use something that’s a weak link in the chain. This is a way to certify [an EII solution] so they know it will scale with MicroStrategy 8.”

MicroStrategy is often tapped as a complement to Teradata (a division of NCR Corp.), Sybase, and other platforms in the large data warehousing space. Villani stresses that the company’s EII certification efforts—which, in addition to Sybase/Avaki, recognize IBM Corp.’s Information Integrator and Attunity Inc.’s Federate EII technologies—does not amount to a rejection of its data warehousing-centric technology pedigree. “This is not MicroStrategy saying, ‘We’ve abandoned large data warehouses.’ We still are recognized as a leader [in the large data warehouse space]. This is about handling our customer’s needs with respect to incorporating data from virtually any source, even from different methods. If it’s not in the dw, they can get to it—they’ve got a scalable, certified approach to get to it,” he argues.

The use case Villani outlines smacks of what TDWI senior manager of research and services Phil Russom has called a potential killer app for EII—frequently refreshed reporting, especially of time-critical (right-time) information. Villani says there’s another use case by means of which companies often come-to-EII, too. And in this respect, he says, EII can actually be a boon to traditional data warehouse adoption and implementation.

“We’ve come across customers that are … either looking to build a data warehouse, or they want to see what one will look like, … [and] you can almost get a virtual data warehouse-like look of what something’s going to look like by combining data from various sources, well before you build the data warehouse,” he points out. “So whether it’s a true federated approach or a glimpse into something six to 12 months down the road, we now have a unique environment that lets them do that.”

It’s a potentially attractive selling point, Villani argues: “We can actually say to the customer, ‘How would you like to actually see what that [data warehouse] might look like ahead of time, six or twelve months ahead of time, actually get a better idea of what it’s going to be like?’” he concludes. “We now have the capability to actually shrink the time frame from when the customer has the conception to do something to actually show them something tangible.”

About the Author

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