AJAX and 2dotoh

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Content Copyright © 2006 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.

Web 2.0 has a lot to answer for. Why, incidentally, is it not
simply Web 2? In any case, I have no quarrel with Web 2.0: what I
do have a quarrel with is all the other 2dotohs that keep springing
up. There is SaaS (software as a service) 2.0 for example and, most
recently, Business Objects has been talking about BI 2.0. This
looks altogether too much like a trend, so here is my first (early)
prediction for 2007: we will see more and more 2dotohs dreamed up
by fancy marketing executives. I guess we should be lucky that data
warehouse appliances vendors haven’t described themselves as data
warehousing 2.0.

And it won’t end there: some smart Alec will figure out that if
2dotoh is good then 3dotoh will be great. Moreover, we’ll probably
start to have products that incorporate 2dotoh. So, instead of
product x release y+1 we’ll have product x release y 2.0. Oh
yuck—pass me the sick bag!

However, all of this is not to say that there aren’t genuinely
new generations of things coming to pass. For example, business
intelligence really is in the process of re-inventing itself,
though it has a lot to do yet. One of those things, as it happens,
relates to AJAX (asynchronous JavaScript and XML), which derives
from the Web 2.0 world.

Now, AJAX supports what are known as rich internet applications.
Put simply, what these allow you to do is to interact dynamically
with a web-based application at a field level, rather than having
to refresh web pages all the time. A lot of web-based applications
require you to fill in a form and the application can’t respond to
you until the form is completed; what rich internet applications
allow the software to do is to respond to you on a field by field
basis, thereby supporting a much richer customer experience.
However, this isn’t what’s important about AJAX for BI.

Most BI tools do not provide interactive graphics. For example,
suppose you have a dashboard that shows a variety of inter-related
data using, saying, a spreadsheet, a scatter plot and a histogram.
Now, what you might want to do is to look at a subset of the data
in more detail and a good way to do this might be to draw a box on
the scatterplot that surrounded the items you were interested in
and then select this subset to investigate. In this scenario you
want all of the presentation options in use to change automatically
as you make that selection. Well, you can’t do that using
conventional browser technology but you will be able to do it using

Like most technologies this represents both an opportunity and a
threat. It is an opportunity for potential users and it is an
opportunity for the majority of BI players, who can’t do this yet.
On the other hand it is a threat to those few companies that have
already developed ways to do this, notably Advizor Solutions,
Spotfire and Visual Sciences, as they will lose one of the major
differentiators that they have when compared to the likes of
Business Objects and Cognos. Of course, they will argue that they
have some very clever graphics and that they are further down this
road than the big boys. Both of these facts are true but that does
not mean that these vendors will not come under increasing pressure
as BI 2.0 develops.