At its annual user conference in Orlando this week, Cognos announced May 14 a new family of appliance-based performance management and business intelligence software. Cognos Now also is available as a service.
The appliance consists of operational BI—a sort of generalized roll out of BI and analytic capabilities designed for the everyday user. Users are able to create self-service dashboards, analyze data and write reports with minimal to no IT input. The software also includes in memory 64-bit computing capabilities culled from Celequests patent stable, and data integration or ETL (Extract, Transfer, Load) functionality.
On the hardware side of the Cognos Now appliance, the company has bundled a rack-mounted server with a J2EE open-source application server and a meta-data repository.
Cognos will offer three configurations: one for the lower end of the market, a standard edition and an enterprise edition. What varies among the three editions is the amount of CPUs utilized and the amount of memory installed. The enterprise edition also has some capabilities for integrating to other applications such as SAPs Enterprise Resource Planning transactional applications.
The company also will offer different variations of the appliance.
The first, available now, is Cognos Now for Salesforce, geared towards customers who need to monitor performance against their Salesforce.com data.
The idea with an appliance-based BI is to enable companies or divisions without a lot of IT support to create their own dashboards, modifications and watch points without having to involve IT, according to Jim Hare, vice president of Product Marketing and Business Development, Cognos On Demand.
"The idea is to enable [users] to make changes without having to go to IT," Hare said.
Both the appliance and SaaS capabilities are lifted almost entirely from Celequest, a company Cognos acquired in January. Celequest had developed a BI appliance called Lava that included ETL, streaming OLAP analytics, self-service visual dashboards and a built-in rules engine for event-driven analysis. On the hardware side, Lava took advantage of multi-core processes for the standard editions. The higher-end enterprise edition included two multi-core CPUs, up to 16 gigabytes of memory, hard disk drives and was pre-wired for network infrastructures.
Cognos has tweaked Lava to include newer Web 2.0 concepts such as Google maps. Its also interoperable with Cognos 8 Business Intelligence, which provides a more comprehensive BI platform.
Like Lava before it, Cognos Now is available as an appliance or through the Software as a Service model. The appliance (and SaaS) model represents a cheaper, albeit scaled down BI tool for some users. However, some critics warn that a pre-configured appliance can only be used for its specific purpose; it cant run any other applications in the same box.
Nonetheless, Cognos is not alone in its pursuit of appliances that pre-configure software and hardware for a specific need. SAP announced its BI Accelerator last year and its largely anticipated that its new A1S mid-market suite, in the works now, will be available on demand, with some functionality pre-configured and bundled on an appliance.
Earlier this month, BI software vendors MicroStrategy and SaS confirmed that their BI software is being tailored for HPs NewView appliance, according to media reports. In March, Business Objects unveiled its Open Appliance Initiative that amounts to partnerships with data warehouse vendors—IBM, Netezza, DatAllegro, Greenplum, HP, RPath, Teradata (a division of NCR) and VMware—which will pre-install Business Objects BI software on its hardware to create mid-market geared appliances.