Are BI Tools Falling Behind the Times?

Loraine Lawson

One of the most important reasons for integration of any kind, but particularly data integration, is so that companies can (one day) have real-time access to information and therefore make smarter business decisions (presumably).


And yet it seems business intelligence vendors may be dragging their feet on SOA. This is even more surprising when you consider many of the vendors promoting SOA -- IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and SAP.


Mark Smith, Ventana Research's CEO and senior vice president of research, posted this week about his experience at IBM's Impact 2007 -- a conference devoted to service-oriented architecture. He noticed Actuate was the only BI vendor demonstrating how its product interfaces with IBM's SOA technology.


Smith wasn't that surprised, though, since he knew about Ventana's study on BI and SOA, completed last fall. The study revealed that BI vendors are working on Web services, XML and a few other SOA-enabling technologies. But in general, there's little demand for BI vendors to support SOA.


By the way: The full study on SOA and business intelligence will be sent to you if sign up for free registration with the site.


But there's another reason I'm starting to wonder if BI tools are keeping up with the technology times. As this column from points out, the majority of BI vendors have given up on proprietary dashboards and making Excel the primary user interface. That may be comfortable for business users, but it's not particularly innovative, especially when you consider the growing popularity of 3-D technology.


There's always one rebel, though, who shows everybody up and, according to Bloor Research analyst Gerry Brown, that BI company is Tableau.


Tableau is the creation of Dr. Pat Hanrahan, who's better known for receiving two Academy Awards from his time as chief architect of Pixar's RenderMan software. That's the same software used to create the flying Golden Snitch in the Harry Potter movies.


Hanrahan pondered what would happen if someone created a graphical interface that does for business software users what Pixar did for films. The result is Tableau -- a solution that turns live data into pictures.


Is it successful? Well, Google, eBay, Microsoft, Boeing and Wal-Mart are customers, if that tells you anything. You can learn more about it by reading Brown's column at

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