BorisevelsonBy Boris Evelson

When Business Objects got acquired by SAP earlier this year, it made a statement that it plans to continue to remain an open, heterogeneous BI vendor, treating all partners equally. Apparently, all partners are not created equal – and, as we suspected and long predicted, this Business Objects strategy does not extend to its own parent.

Well, the cat's finally out of the bag. Efforts are already underway at SAP to improve the existing connectivity between Business Objects products and SAP applications. The improved connectivity that Catsoutofthebagmay result from these efforts will be very much optimized for Business Objects products only. SAP states that "SAP customers who instead decide to move forward with non-SAP third party BI tools will not benefit from these types of improvements and enhancements."

I am not singling SAP out. Oracle and IBM are also working hard on tight integration between their own BI products, applications, servers, middleware, etc such as automatic configuration, shared security and metadata, SSO, embedded BI, and undoubtedly many others.  And we already know Microsoft's position here: Microsoft BI only runs on Microsoft Windows servers, requires Visual Studio for IDE, and does not integrate out-of-the-box with portals other than SharePoint.

While all four vendors claim a win-win scenario – tight integration within their own environment, while maintaining and continuing to improve their open architecture standards – one can't have the cake and eat it, too. Or, as they say in my old country, you can't be at two weddings at the same time. Imagine a typical scenario of a customer running SAP and Oracle ERP applications, while using IBM InfoSphere stack, and trying to standardize on SharePoint for Intranet portal, ECM and collaboration. Each vendor will claim that their BI tool works best in their own environment, while only providing "open" connectivity and integration with the others. How will that customer make the BI tool choice? Based on whether more source data and business rules exist in Oracle or SAP ERP apps? Based on building a DB2 data warehouse and betting on better integration at the DBMS level? Or will that customer decide that Information Workspace is the ultimate vehicle for all office apps, including BI, and therefore placing a bet on tight integration with SharePoint?

Wow. Long live the app/stack king! Death to the democracy and open BI partnership ecosystem! If we extrapolate what we already see happening in this market segment, it's not difficult to predict that IBM is probably working hard on acquiring an apps vendor (Lawson? Infor?), and SAP on acquiring a DBMS technology (a DW appliance vendor?). How long will it be before a large, heterogeneous, complex enterprise could really run on a single apps/stack? How many new BI customers do these vendors hope to win by claiming better integration within their own environment, while how many customers are they prepared to loose to their competitors who will be making the the same claims, but within their own stack?

I don't know, so I want to find out. In the next few weeks Forrester plans to run a BI survey, where in addition to exploring other hot and burning BI issues, we'll pose the following question:

“If your ERP (SAP, Oracle, Microsoft) or DBMS (Oracle, IBM, Microsoft) vendor offers better integration (connectivity, security, metadata, etc) options for their own Business Intelligence tool, would you consider switching to that tool, even if you currently use a 3rd party BI tool:

  • Already use and prefer BI tools from my ERP/DBMS vendor. Not an issue.
  • Yes, tighter integration is important to me, I will consider switching.
  • I will switch anyway, because I prefer dealing with a single vendor. Tighter integration is icing on the cake for me.
  • No, I will not switch because:
  • – Have many different ERP / DBMS systems, need an open, generic 3rd party BI tool
  • – I am too committed, too invested into my current 3rd party BI tool it will probably be hard to justify a major migration
  • – I am concerned with too much dependency on a single vendor
  • Don’t know / don’t care / other (please comment)”

What's your prediction on how the market will react? Please post questions and suggestions to this blog, and we'll do our best to incorporate them into our upcoming survey.