Microsoft, Cognos Expand Analytics Apps

Microsoft to support OLE DB, ODBC; Cognos enhances scalability, performance.

As Microsoft Corp. readies new reporting capabilities for its SQL Server business intelligence platform, Cognos Inc., one of the reporting software vendors threatened by the move, is developing the next version of its Series 7 BI platform.

Microsoft earlier this month said it is developing new software called Reporting Services. Officials at the Redmond, Wash., company said that development partners will be able to use this "open and extensible reporting platform" to broaden their own offerings without having to invest in building reporting infrastructure.

Reporting Services, due in beta in the first half of this year, will support custom application development through a Web services interface and will support several data sources, including OLE DB and Open Database Connectivity. It will support output to Web browsers and Microsoft Office applications.

Developers will be able to use Microsoft Visual Studio .Net and .Net Framework to extend the capabilities of the platform, so that it can connect to custom data sources, produce additional output formats and deliver to more devices, Microsoft officials said.

Meanwhile, Ottawa-based Cognos next week will make available Version 2 of its Series 7 software. The upgrade features a predictive analytics technology in the PowerPlay OLAP (online analytical processing) server known as Instant Projection, which will predict future business trends based on historical data, officials said. PowerPlay includes significant enhancements in scalability and performance with the capability of handling up to 2 million categories and 1 billion input records, officials said.

A new browser-based version of the Series 7 software will have parity with the client/server version with no use of Java applets, officials said. This will make the software easier to use in a distributed fashion throughout the enterprise, they added.

Shimi Minhas, product director for Deltek Business Intelligence at Deltek Systems Inc., said the true thin-client capabilities of Series 7 Version 2 are most appealing to her, since the PowerPlay Web server in the upgrade is virtually identical to the client/server version of the OLAP product.

"We have no reason to run the fat client anymore," said Minhas, in Herndon, Va. "We can do the same thing over the Web. We get the same drag-and-drop and slice-and-dice capabilities all in a zero-footprint environment."

Not having to install client software saves time and money, Minhas said. It will also make it easier for Deltek to use the Cognos software in a distributed fashion, rolling out PowerPlay reports and analysis to customers of its professional services management software and services.

Separately, Cognos earlier this month announced a strategic alliance with Tokyo-based Fujitsu Ltd. that will combine PowerPlay with Fujitsus Sympho Navigator for the enterprise market in Japan. The combination will provide enterprise customers with the ability to build applications that can present large volumes of data to users for analysis and exploration, Cognos and Fujitsu officials said.