Will Google Fancy Panorama BI Cloud?

Panorama is angling for Google's attention. Will Google bite to challenge Microsoft in BI?

Business intelligence software maker Panorama Software insists it wants to remain an independent company, letting traditional BI software makers scrape for new customers while it offers a more modern software-as-a-service suite. However, certain moves the company is making increasingly endear it to Google.

In March, Panorama adapted its analysis and reporting applications to support the hosted spreadsheet application in Google Docs. Panorama Analytics for Google Docs lets users run collaborative analysis in Google spreadsheets in a live browser session. This software lets programmers build custom reports from within Google Apps.
To make that possible, Panorama had to build a Web-based OLAP engine and is now planning to offer that engine to the general public. Called PowerApps, the solution is sure to become more interesting to Google.
Here's why: Panorama is moving into the cloud, where Google, Microsoft and other vendors are either buying or building out online real estate. Google offers several productivity apps as SAAS, but doesn't yet have a BI play, making Panorama an interesting partner that could lead to a marriage.
Google declined to comment about whether it intends to buy Panorama, but Oudi Antebi, vice president of marketing and strategy for Panorama, told eWEEK that Microsoft wasn't especially happy with Panorama's move.
"They were concerned with PowerApps because it competed with their own SQL Server platform," Antebi said.
Perhaps greater than that is the uneasy feeling of d??«j??í vu. Microsoft acquired Panorama's traditional OLAP engine in 1996, which it fashioned into SQL Server Analysis Services. This has yet to be ported to the cloud.
PowerApps is essentially Panorama's OLAP engine revisited Web 2.0-style, and the company is unabashedly cozying up to Google by rewriting its code to support Google Apps. Were Google to buy Panorama-or at least PowerApps and make the software the foundation of a BI strategy-it would open up another front in the competition with Microsoft.
If Microsoft is concerned, it won't own up to it. Michael Smith, director of marketing for Microsoft Office Business Applications, didn't take the bait.
"We always welcome competition, as we believe customers as well as the whole industry benefit from a healthy competitive landscape," Smith told eWEEK, noting that Microsoft already offers on-premises and hosted BI solutions in conjunction with its partners. He also noted Gartner placed Microsoft as a leader in its hallowed BI Magic Quadrant.
Panorama bills PowerApps as an "analytics-as-a-service platform." The platform aims to let software developers write analytical applications for the Internet.
"When we started developing, we basically realized that what we were doing could be much broader than being an engine for Google applications. It was something we could open and extend to third-party ISVs and developers to use in the cloud computing format," Antebi said.
Panorama hosts the OLAP engine and provides APIs for programmers to create OLAP cubes. The software lets thousands of concurrent users analyze data that comes from any tabular source. Moreover, because Panorama hosts it, users can request more machines to power the system without reconfiguration.
As a default front end, Antebi said Panorama will offer ways to customize its solution for Google Apps. However, Microsoft Excel and other applications supporting Multidimensional Expression will be able to query data sitting on PowerApps.
PowerApps is currently open for private beta testing here and will be generally available by the end of the year, along with sample applications and code that showcases usage of the platform.
ISVs will get to use PowerApps for free for a while. Antebi said Panorama is still mulling how to price the offering, though he said some typical per-user, per-year model in the $20 range will be the way to go.
PowerApps could be a nice complement to cloud database storage systems, such as Amazon SimpleDB, Google BigTable or SQL Server Data Services, but Panorama is proud of being cozy with Google.
The ball is in Google's court.