Midmarket Business Intelligence Buying Guide

by Drew Robb

Open source and easy-to-use business intelligence tools dominate the midmarket.

Our last business intelligence (BI) buyer's guide featured SAP, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, SAS, Information Builders and MicroStrategy. It was loosely labeled an enterprise guide, though many of these products also play well in the midmarket. All of them should be considered a midmarket BI contender along with those covered herein: QlikTech, Actuate BIRT, Panorama Software, Tibco Spotfire, Tableau, Jaspersoft and Pentaho. And don't rule out small business BI vendors in your business intelligence product search.

QlikTech Business Intelligence

QlikTech offers QlikView, an in-memory business discovery engine platform that assembles and analyzes data from multiple sources. A feature known as QlikView Associative Experience automatically highlights related information based on every selection to uncover further insights.

"Rather than being constrained by static reports or predefined drill paths, users can navigate data using any combination of selection and search actions, and QlikView recalculates all the metrics and visualizations in the app," said Jeff Boehm, vice president of global product marketing at QlikTech. "The pricing model is a combination of server and per-user pricing, with pricing models and tiers for small companies to global enterprises."

He said the product has been designed to deal with several key trends in the business intelligence market, such as the consumerization of BI due to more users accessing the systems, increased mobility, and the rise of social media. BI tools, therefore, need to be simpler and easier to use to increase the percentage of those harnessing them.

"With ease of use now surpassing functionality for the first time as the dominant BI platform buying criterion, business users are increasingly driving BI purchasing decisions, most often choosing easier to use data discovery tools over traditional BI platforms — with or without IT's consent," said Gartner analyst Rita Sallam.

Gartner calls QlikTech the poster child for this end-user-driven approach to business intelligence. The company is scoring high on user friendliness and speed of deployment. Though strongest in the midmarket, it is making inroads into the enterprise end of the market. It is positioned among the leaders in Garner's Magic Quadrant (MQ) for BI.

On the downside, Gartner questions QlikTech's capabilities in high-volume enterprise reporting, planning/financially-oriented online analytical processing (OLAP), Microsoft Office integration, scorecarding and predictive modeling. It also isn't the cheapest product out there.

"By concentrating solely on in-memory analytics, QlikTech should not be considered as a replacement option but rather just as an add-on to broad BI suites," said Boris Evelson, an analyst with Forrester Research.

Tableau Software

Other companies are already offering in-memory products, said Gartner. Microsoft SQL Server PowerPivot, IBM Cognos Express, SAP BusinessObjects Explorer and Tableau Software are examples. The latter company is particularly fast-growing.

Elissa Fink, vice president of marketing at Tableau Software, boasts that the BI market grew by 13.4% last year, according to Gartner, while Tableau grew by 113.5%.

Tableau offers interactive visualization for analysis, dashboards, information delivery and managed analytic applications. Users are also deploying Tableau to perform complex analyses.

"Tableau is once again the 'darling' of the Magic Quadrant, with customers even more enamored with it this year than last," said Sallam. "It gained overwhelmingly positive customer survey feedback across the board in all measures in the survey, including for ease of use, functionality, product quality, product performance, support, customer relationship, success, achievement of business benefits and view of the vendor's future."

Sallam, noted, however, that it lacks broader BI platform capabilities, such as for production reporting, metadata and predictive analytics.

Tibco Spotfire

While Gartner gave kudos to Tableau, analysts give even higher marks in complex analysis to Tibco Software's Spotfire application.

"Tibco Spotfire came out as a strong performer, offering top choices for analytics based on its traditional strength in middleware and application integration," said Forrester's Evelson. "The combination of integrated BI, process, rules, workflows, event streams, and advanced analytics, building on Tibco's traditional strengths in application and data middleware, is hard to beat."

He noted, though, that it is not a panacea. For example, it does not compete with report writers like Actuate and SAP BusinessObjects Crystal for producing production reports for mass distribution.

Gartner also cites above average total licenses costs per user. That said, new pricing and packaging options introduced in 2010, as well as a low-cost Software as a Service (SaaS) offering, may be changing that.

John Callan, director, product marketing for Spotfire at Tibco Software, said key features include: the ability to analyze and explore data with intuitive, interactive visualizations; bar charts, scatter plots, treemaps, box plots, map charts and so on; in-memory data architecture for speed and flexibility; direct access for corporate and local data sources, including spreadsheets; and integration with SAP BW, SAP R/3, Oracle eBusiness Suite, Salesforce.com, or any ODBC database.

Open Source Business Intelligence

Jaspersoft BI

It's big news that Gartner included open source vendors in its Magic Quadrant. Actuate and Jaspersoft made it onto the list, with Pentaho getting an honorable mention. Jaspersoft is included in the MQ for the first time this year. The rise of open source and low-cost BI alternatives is putting downward pressure on price, making it difficult for the big vendors to continue to charge a premium.

Jaspersoft provides a comprehensive BI platform. The Jaspersoft Enterprise Edition has a reporting server, ad hoc query, in-memory analysis, dashboarding, a reports library, OLAP and ETL. The company partners with the likes of VMware, HP and Red Hat, and some of its partners embed it into their other applications as a value-add. The company has more than 13,500 commercial deployments.

"Cost is by far the most compelling part of the Jaspersoft value proposition and the major ingredient driving its success," said Gartner's Sallam. "Early success in cloud deployments is another strength."

Pentaho BI

Another open source player knocking on the MQ door is Pentaho. All it needs to do is continue to expand its sales numbers and it will be included in the next one.

"Even though Pentaho failed to meet all the criteria, it is still a company worthy of note," said Sallam. "Low license cost is a key element of Pentaho's value proposition."

The company provides an open source BI platform made up of Extract, Transform, Load (ETL), OLAP, reporting and dashboarding, ad hoc analysis, and data mining components all managed from a central BI server deployed either on premises or in the cloud. Pentaho BI is available on-premises as an annual subscription and on-demand as a monthly subscription.

Pentaho has also been one of the first BI vendors to deliver capabilities for integrating its tools with open source Hadoop to support Big Data. Managed by the Apache Software Foundation, Hadoop's list of contributors includes Facebook, Google, Yahoo and Amazon.

"Open Source BI is changing everything," said Joe Nicholson, vice president of product marketing at Pentaho. "Much like open source changed the database and application server markets, open source BI is rapidly becoming the solution of choice for customers large and small." 


Actuate does well with externally facing BI deployments, according to Gartner. It also is well suited for complex reporting and development requirements, as well as when integration with enterprise applications is a major requirement. ActuateOne is a unified suite for developing and deploying BI applications that include reports, dashboards, in-memory analytics, and mobile and cloud-based deployments. It leverages open source Business Intelligence and Reporting Tools (BIRT).

"Actuate continues to transition its product and marketing emphasis to its open-source commercial products based on BIRT," said Sallam.

Customer satisfaction isn't especially high, according to Gartner surveys. However, this applies mainly to its pre-BIRT applications.  

Actuate has recently added BIRT Data Objects, which can be used for disk- or memory-based OLAP-style analysis and end-user-built dashboards. Like many of the others, it has also been expanding its mobile options for iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry and Android.

Panorama Software

According to Gartner, Panorama's NovaView BI Suite is used primarily as a front end for OLAP databases — chiefly Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services. It is ranked highly in OLAP and in dashboarding.

"The top three reasons customers choose Panorama software are functionality, integration to chosen infrastructure, and implementation costs and efforts," said Sallam. "The vendor also offers good deployment flexibility with on-premises, pure SaaS and hybrid on-/off-premises offerings."

However, being so closely tied to Microsoft could be a dangerous strategy, as it's quite possible Microsoft will develop its own software to cover the same functions. But as a company that made it into the top reaches of the Gartner MQ, it bears consideration in any midmarket evaluation.


  This article was originally published on Tuesday Aug 9th 2011
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