Microsofts BI Crusade Draws
BI Vendors Ire"> "At the end of the day, the issue has been that there is everyone using their own stand-alone Excel. Theyre not connected, and theres no security on Excel," said Dan Vesset, an IDC analyst. "Its hard to maintain metadata and master data. [But if Excel is] tied to the back-end BI server, all that logic is stored at the server level, and Excel becomes an end-user interface." As far as the cost argument goes, regardless of what Cognos or other BI vendors protest, the fact of the matter is that Microsofts offering is "quite attractive," Vesset said. The server will cost about $5,000, and the CAL (client access license) will run about $175 per user."You dont really get BI for free from Microsoft," Vesset said. "You do have to buy the database license. If you want to scale you need to buy more database licenses. As such, the argument from Cognos is somewhat valid, but most companies, theyll [upgrade to Office 12] anyway, so its not an add-on cost." In fact, the added BI goodies will work as just one more lure to upgrade, Vesset said. But selling more SQL Server 2005 and Office 12 is the main point, not getting good, deeply functional BI into the hands of the masses, said Rene Bonvanie, chief marketing officer at Business Objects. "Theirs is a strategy to sell more Office 12," he said. "They have a troublesome time getting Office adopted. Theyre in trouble getting people to move off previous Office versions. This is a more interesting way to convince people to move than a squirrely little line under [search term results]." But customers dont necessarily agree. Laura Gibbons, manager of customer satisfaction and Six Sigma for Expedia, said that harnessing the power of Excel "excites [her] personally, very much." "Microsoft is giving users the ability to do that without [having to write code]," she said. "The ability to collaborate across the enterprise, the persistence of data instead of having it in spreadsheets, and you can do it cross-functionally across the organization. Control in Excel was just a huge I wouldnt say limitation, its too strong a word. But in the previous version, you had multiple versioning, and people breaking formulas. Now you can control it end-to-end. Its just exciting." Gibbons said that, compared to enterprise-grad BI platforms, Microsofts Office 12 scenario is still "very cost-effective." One mitigating factor, she said, was that most users know how to use Excel, to some extent, thus removing the need to train users on complicated BI platforms. But another unclear piece of Microsofts BI puzzle is whether all data has to be on SQL Server to get the full promised BI capabilities, according to Cognos Hill. "Office 12 has a brand-new version of Excel on the desktop. For the BI functionality for analysis, they have a server addition of Excel that you interact with. Whats not clear yet is, OK, if I want to interact with the data using the server edition of Excel, can it be out in existing versions of databases, or does it have to be in the local version of SQL Server?" Next Page: Trusting Microsoft
Click here to read more about Microsofts new UI for Office 12.