The leitmotiv of data warehousing at the moment is the imminent arrival of Microsoft. Of course Redmond has had its sights on data warehousing for more than year, the Microsoft Alliance for Data Warehousing having been formed in September 1996. However, the appearance, later this year, of NT 5.0 and, in particular, of SQL Server […]
The leitmotiv of data warehousing at the moment is the imminent arrival of Microsoft. Of course Redmond has had its sights on data warehousing for more than year, the Microsoft Alliance for Data Warehousing having been formed in September 1996. However, the appearance, later this year, of NT 5.0 and, in particular, of SQL Server 7.0, complete with the bundled OLAP server, still codenamed Plato, will put all the pieces in place for its concerted assault on the market, as the competition, judging from their actions, are well aware. Some are scurrying out of Microsoft’s way, others aligning themselves closely with Redmond, and still others trying to start out of the battle, writing in Java so as to run on any virtual machine. So who are the potential victims? Data warehousing is not like the Internet, where Netscape clearly ruled the roost with its Navigator browser until Microsoft came along with Explorer. There are many players in the market, grouped in discrete segments, not all of which Redmond is entering. Or at least, not for the time being. Microsoft will be present, however, in the OLAP segment with Plato, which will compete, albeit very much at the low end, with the likes of Oracle and Arbor. Both say they have no plans to instigate legal action against Microsoft if, as looks likely, Plato is to be bundled with SQL Server 7.0 (CI No. 3,429). Oracle is, of course, part of the group of companies which lobbied Washington to implement the current FTC lawsuit against Redmond over browsers, but says it won’t be doing the same for OLAP. It was, in any case, Arbor which looked more vulnerable in this space, since its business has traditionally been entirely in technology. Thus it is not surprising that it plans to go into solutions, via the merger with Hyperion. That the merged entity will bear only the Hyperion name is, in this context, a revealing detail. A similar strategy has been adopted at OLAP tool vendor Information Advantage, which earlier this month announced an expansion of its DecisionPartners program, designed ‘to deliver comprehensive, innovative solutions for global clients’. French startup in the sector, Leonard’s Logic, also plans to go vertical with its Genio tool says its Northern Europe sales director Chris Hill, and is currently in talks with companies that provide front office/back office reconciliation solutions in sectors such as insurance and stockbrokerages. Some OLAP tools vendors have been adopted as favored partners of Microsoft itself. Plato will have the baseline functionality the market needs, the challenge for any vendor being to provide value on their platform, comments Perry Mizota, vice-president of marketing at one such company, Palo Alto, California-based Sagent Technology, Inc. In addition to its query tools, Sagent also offers extraction, transformation and loading (ETL) solutions, a segment in which Microsoft will be present with its DTS offering, but here again, argues Mizota, his company offers more sophisticated ETL. It is thus held up by Redmond as an example of the more upmarket alternative to its own technology for users working with SQL Server 7.0 and Plato. Canadian core terminal emulation and PC-to-host communications player Hummingbird Communications Ltd, has actually chosen to move into data warehousing of late, and its Fred Sorkin, its president and CEO, recently revealed that he is eyeing potential acquisitions in high-quality data movement software to get data off mainframes and into Plato, an area he believes Microsoft will not venture into, but will be grateful if someone else does. Some vendors seek neither to go head-to-head with Microsoft, nor shelter beneath its wing. In this context Java, Sun’s increasingly robust riposte to the Wintel paradigm, is of key importance. Thus Prism Solutions’ international product marketing manager, Sion Lewis, notes that his company is the first to use Java to extract and transform data for warehousing.