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Cognos ships BI update on eve of IBM buyout

Cognos ships BI update on eve of IBM buyout

Cognos updated its BI platform Tuesday, one day after shareholders approved the company's sale to IBM.

Cognos shipped the latest version of its business intelligence platform on Tuesday, in what could be the last update before the company's sale to IBM becomes final.

Cognos 8 v3 includes features meant to spur end-user adoption and ease deployment and management.

There is a new "express" authoring mode that financial and business analysts can use to quickly generate financial statement-like reports, Cognos said in a statement. Users can also create OLAP (online analytical processing) "cubes": scaled-down, faster sets of business data shaped to their particular needs. Also new is a personalized alert feature that lets end-users determine when they want reports, thereby easing the burden on IT departments; and upgraded dashboarding capabilities, Cognos said.

"There's lots and lots of self-service stuff," noted David O' Connell, senior analyst with Nucleus Research in Wellesley, Massachusetts. "Cognos is very good at finding ways to make it easier to have more people using BI in enterprises."

Features aimed at deployment and management include best-practice guidelines for developing data models; system health monitoring capabilities; and an upgrade manager.

Still to come, though, is the integration of OLAP technology that Cognos acquired through its purchase of Applix in September. The products are not yet integrated with Cognos 8. That work will be complete by mid-2008, Cognos has said.

In a research note published Tuesday, Ovum analyst Helena Schwenk said the release is more significant than its version number may suggest. "Cognos 8.3 is a major launch for the company -- and most likely to be its last as an independent BI vendor before the acquisition by IBM completes in Q1 2008," Schwenk wrote.

IBM offered to buy Cognos for US$5 billion in November. Cognos' shareholders approved the deal on Monday and it is expected to close in the first quarter.

Ambuj Goyal, general manager of information management in IBM's software group and a key player in the Cognos deal, said in a recent interview that its technology combined with IBM's back-end infrastructure will result in a formidable platform.

"What did [Oracle] get with Hyperion? They got Essbase and a great OLAP capability," he said. "But that's a 15-year-old, historic OLAP capability. When the Cognos acquisition completes, what is the latest, open standards-based, high-speed OLAP capability in the marketplace? Applix."

IBM to date has partnered with BI vendors, providing the back-end infrastructure components. But changing customer demands sparked its interest in Cognos, according to Goyal. "Now more and more clients are saying, 'We are not an integration technology business, we are in a business-outcome business. You do the integration.' More and more clients are not doing best-of-breed purchases."


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