Reading between the lines

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Content Copyright © 2006 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.

Business Objects has announced that it is to acquire FirstLogic. Very soon thereafter Cognos put out a statement (not a press release, as I first thought) saying, in effect, that its rival had made a big mistake and that this was good news for Cognos. Now, I don’t know about you, but this sort of thing gets my goat.

Not only that, it makes me deeply suspicious. What is it that Cognos is so worried about that it has to put out such a statement denigrating its competitor? Of course, the company could argue that it was only pre-empting analyst questions but, personally, I never ask companies to comment on their competitor’s announcements.

Let’s go back to the facts for a moment. Business Objects markets its Data Integrator product to the general purpose market and not just to its existing user base and not just to business intelligence customers. Cognos takes the opposite view and only markets Cognos Data Manager to its customer base. Business Objects views (and so do I) Data Integrator as a serious player in the data integration market. It is logical to want to expand that capability through data quality. Now, I agree that FirstLogic is perhaps not the company that you would ideally want to buy: but Group 1 and Trillium are not available and Informatica has bought Similarity, so there is not a lot of choice left.

In particular, Cognos seems to think that the data integration market within which Business Objects wants to play (and Cognos doesn’t) has already been sewn up by the big players. Nothing could be farther from the truth: that’s why my forthcoming report on the ETL market has more than 40 vendors in it. The fact is that the data integration market is expanding significantly, largely thanks to two factors: compliance and a realisation of the importance of data quality, both of which are pushing companies away from hand coded solutions.

In its press release, Cognos implicitly criticises Business Objects, suggesting that it is becoming an infrastructure player along the lines of Informatica and IBM. Well, what I have been writing about the data integration market for the last two years? That ETL (extract, transform and load) and data movement are merging with enterprise information integration (EII) and federated query capabilities. And who did Business Objects buy towards the end of last year? Medience, an EII vendor. What does that tell you: it tells you that Business Objects is constructing a complete data integration platform.

Now look at this the other way round: suppose that you are a BI vendor that wants to expand its capabilities: where do you look? Well, one of the areas that you might look is towards federated query capability and EII. After all, that’s a pretty natural thing for a BI player, right? But what do you discover when you look at that market? Oh, it’s merging with ETL. So, if you want to do one it makes sense to do the other. Need I say more?

I think that the reason that Cognos is running scared of Business Objects is that the latter is moving in a direction which expands its capabilities beyond the horizons of Cognos and which therefore offers it new opportunities that would not otherwise be available. Cognos may well be right in expressing doubts about the acquisition of FirstLogic: that would certainly have been the main discussion point in this article had not Cognos put its oar in first. As it is the company has managed to deflect my ire onto itself; I think that’s what they call shooting yourself in the foot.