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.