Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Goodbye to Microsoft Analysis Services?

In a series of recent Twitter tweets, fellow Oracle ACE Director Mark Rittman posted the following (pasted/edited) statement referring to a post by a Microsoft BI person at http://cwebbbi.wordpress.com/2010/11/11/pass-summit-day-2/:

"History repeating itself. MS doing to MSAS what Oracle did to Express Server .  So with MS abandoning AS and MDX, will Oracle (through Essbase) be the main sponsor and supporter of MDX going forward? Oh the irony."
Ironic?  Certainly..  I was actually there at the initial XML for Analysis Advisory Council meeting when Microsoft announced to the world that MDX would be the foundation of the XML/A standard.  It had already been discussed with Hyperion but, as it was 9/11, yes, that 9/11, I was the only "Hyperion" representative in the room as the entire Hyperion team was grounded by the terrorist attacks.  In the past 9 years, it  has now come full circle that Oracle, apparently, will be the standard-bearer for MDX.

Maybe it is my good fortune, then, that I haven't worked extensively with MDX, not that I didn't have the opportunity.  I remember exactly when I got my first copy of the precursor to Analysis Services.  I was at my first Arbor Dimensions conference in Santa Clara in the fall of 1996.  I remember being invited to a private Arbor executives party at the hotel and hearing the rumor about Microsoft buying an Israeli company that was an Arbor competitor.  Little did anyone at the party know that I had an alpha version of the software in my computer bag.  But, you know what?  I never installed it.  I am a loyal Essbase fan to the core and, despite the fact that the consulting firm I worked for at the time actually wrote most of the interface that Microsoft shipped, it just wasn't my cup of tea.

Over the years, a number of our competitors went off and re-wrote their interfaces to use XML/A so they could expose their products to other databases.  When they did that, they were forced to stop supporting some of the features that make Essbase magic.  You don't hear about most of them anymore.  Proclarity anyone?  Purchased by Microsoft and now on the trash heap.  Temtec?  Acquired by IBM where, apparently, software goes to die (remember Lotus 1-2-3?  Alphablox?); Clarity recently joined them at IBM which means, strategically, their days in the Essbase world are numbered.

If you read through the comments at the end of the blog post referenced above, it looks like Microsoft is positioning Excel PowerPivot to be the ultimate BI user interface..  That is great for spreadsheet jockeys, but will lose many, many users who don't want, or need, to look through the raw data for their summarizations.

After reading all of this, I am thankful for a few things.  I am thankful we:
  • Are exclusively focused on Essbase and that Essbase is very well tied in with the Oracle Fusion strategy and will continue to grow.
  • Invested heavily in Dodeca.
  • Focused Dodeca on the end user.


Cameron Lackpour said...

Wow, just wow. I am so curious to hear how this plays out in Oracle-land. Maybe there will be no impact? Above my pay grade for sure, but I am keenly interested in this.

>>I remember being invited to a private Arbor executives party at the hotel and hearing the rumor about Microsoft buying an Israeli company that was an Arbor competitor.

^^^Was the product name Plato?


Cameron Lackpour

Tim Tow said...

I don't think there any real implications for Oracle; they have put MDX pretty heavy into ASO and there is no turning back now.

As for the product name, yes, it was Plato.


Bowen said...

I remember that conference too, and I remember working out at Countrywide (now also gone) when MS descended on them like a flock of seagulls telling them that Plato/Panorama was the future.

Now it's the open source guys who are taking MDX seriously.

Tim Tow said...

Hi Michael,

You are right.. I forgot that the open source OLAP community has heavily adopted MDX as their standard.. Oracle will also continue to support it but I wonder if they will start doing more proprietary extensions?


Unknown said...

Hello Tim, do you usually employ Dodeca as a complementary solution for Essbase implementations?

I did not have any experience with such product but if you have docs about it I am interested to know about. Why do not you use OBIEE or former Hyperion Products, such as WEb Analysis, Interactive Reporting, etc?


Rodrigo Donato

Tim Tow said...

Hi Rodrigo,

Dodeca is the most powerful and most flexible user interface available for Essbase. It is easier to use, more flexible and more stable than either of the Excel add-ins and has much more functionality than the other UI's you mention.

OBIEE does have its place and we have a number of customers who use both Dodeca and OBIEE. In those environments, we typically see Dodeca where the end user group needs high interactivity, have high data volumes and/or need a spreadsheet interface. We have customers who regularly pull back 10,000 to 100,000 cells of Essbase data in a single retrieve. We also make drill-through from Essbase to relational sources very, very easy. In those customers that also have OBIEE, they use OBIEE for some of the nice dashboarding capabilities for either high level executives or for users who don't have complex reporting requirements.


Tim Tow said...

BTW, you can learn more about Dodeca at http://www.appliedolap.com/dodeca. At the bottom on the page, you can request a live demo over the web.