SAS Takes Leadership Role in XML/A Council

By Matthew Hicks  |  Posted 2002-04-09 Print this article Print

SAS Institute Inc. Monday joined Microsoft Corp. and Hyperion Solutions Corp. as a co-chair of the XML for Analysis (XML/A) Council, a group the company was at one time resistant to joining.

SAS Institute Inc. Monday joined Microsoft Corp. and Hyperion Solutions Corp. as a co-chair of the XML for Analysis (XML/A) Council, a group the company was at one time resistant to joining. Hyperion and Microsoft formed the XML/A Council last April to develop common specifications for deploying analytics software over the Web, specifically allowing developers to create Web services out of OLAP and data mining functions. SAS at that time balked at joining the council, though it has since joined as a contributing member, as have most major business analysis software vendors.
Now, the Cary, N.C., company joins Microsoft and Hyperion in taking a leadership role in the group. The addition of SAS in the councils leadership helps fill a void in data mining expertise in the early release of the specification. Angoss Software Corp. and SPSS Inc. are also providing data mining expertise as contributing members.
"This will help us bring more thought leadership to the data mining area and will help us adopt even more use of data mining today," said John Eng, lead product manager for Microsoft SQL Server in Redmond, Wash. SAS officials could not immediately be reached for comment on SAS increasing role in the XML/A Council, though the companys chief marketing officer, Jim Davis, in a statement said the company believed that developing viable industry standards for XML-based business intelligence was "critical" for the growth of the industry. XML for Analysis is a set of XML Message Interfaces that use the Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) to define the data access interaction between a client application and an analytical data provider (OLAP and data mining) over the Internet. The specification is intended to allow corporate developers, third-party tool vendors and other partners to query analytical data providers in a standard way, much in the same way that SQL queries are done today. Proponents say adoption of the standard will accelerate the adoption of Internet business intelligence software, providing growth opportunities for the vendors that make up the council. To date, the council has issued Beta and Version 1 releases of the specification, though widespread use of XML/A is still seen to be a few years away. The council is working on a Version 1.1, according to Eng. Within the next year, it will likely recommend the specification as a standard through a standards body such as the World Wide Web Consortium. Microsoft has begun adding support for the XML for Analysis specification into its SQL Server 2000 data management system. SQL Server customers currently can download an XML for Analysis driver that acts as a bridge between SQL Server and Microsofts Internet Information Server for the development and requesting of business intelligence Web services, Eng said. Microsoft plans to integrate the XML for Analysis protocol directly into SQL Server in future releases such as the next SQL Server release code-named Yukon. Other vendors in the council are working on implementing the specification in their products. "The whole goal is to make BI available for masses, to drive more adoption of BI among more organizations not just large and well-funded ones but to ones not well-funded and that want to be competitive in todays market," Eng said. Eng said that Microsoft has invited not only OLAP and data mining competitors but also other database competitors such as Oracle Corp., IBM and Sybase Inc. IBM is involved indirectly in its relationship with Hyperion, which provides the OLAP engine for IBMs DB2 database. Oracle and Sybase have chosen not to join, Eng said.
Matthew Hicks As an online reporter for, Matt Hicks covers the fast-changing developments in Internet technologies. His coverage includes the growing field of Web conferencing software and services. With eight years as a business and technology journalist, Matt has gained insight into the market strategies of IT vendors as well as the needs of enterprise IT managers. He joined Ziff Davis in 1999 as a staff writer for the former Strategies section of eWEEK, where he wrote in-depth features about corporate strategies for e-business and enterprise software. In 2002, he moved to the News department at the magazine as a senior writer specializing in coverage of database software and enterprise networking. Later that year Matt started a yearlong fellowship in Washington, DC, after being awarded an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellowship for Journalist. As a fellow, he spent nine months working on policy issues, including technology policy, in for a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He rejoined Ziff Davis in August 2003 as a reporter dedicated to online coverage for Along with Web conferencing, he follows search engines, Web browsers, speech technology and the Internet domain-naming system.

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