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Vendors Jockey For BI Pole Position

Now that all the checks have been signed and SEC documents have been filed, top enterprise software vendors are racing to release new intermediate products to prove they can efficiently integrate all this new business intelligence technology they've paid billions to acquire.

IBM on Wednesday took its turn, announcing 10 Cognos-enabled applications tailored for customers in specific industries that increasingly rely on real-time business analytics and reporting data to differentiate themselves from the competition.

One such application is for store planning and shelf-space management for retailers. Other programs include one for financial risk management and planning for banks and a crime-management application for government agencies and law enforcement.

After spending more than 15 years partnering with Cognos on various BI implementations, IBM acquired the company for $5 billion in November and immediately began integrating its front-end, customer-facing tools with IBM's ambitious information-on-demand (IOD) strategy.

While analysts say much of what IBM offered Wednesday represents more of a revamped pricing and packaging model than any significant technology integration, it provides a preview of how these top-tier middleware providers will use their new BI suites to supplement their middleware stacks and attract new customers still riding the fence.

"IBM is attractive to any company that's looking for a one-stop shop for software, hardware and services," Madan Sheina, an analyst at Ovum, told InternetNews.com. "Business intelligence was third leg in its IOD stool, along with data content management and data integration."

Sheina added, "We're seeing BI absorbed into the enterprise infrastructure, and right now, IBM has more pieces than SAP and Oracle."

[cob:Related_Articles]Oracle, which picked up Hyperion Solutions in March, and SAP, which snapped up Business Objects in October, might not have the inventory of hardware, software and services that IBM offers, but they have plenty of experience deploying customer-facing applications and -- particularly in Oracle's case -- incorporating new applications with their core middleware product.

SAP unveiled nine new applications born out of its Business Objects acquisition last month and is expected to announce significant news related to its business intelligence platform next week. Oracle outlined some of its plans for Hyperion applications during its OpenWorld conference in October.

"These initial joint offerings are mainly about new pricing options and new packaging and configurations," Ken Vesset, an analyst at IDC, told InternetNews.com.

"They were all partnering and competing with each other before [the consolidation]," he said. "They're all been pretty aggressive about making some sort of intermediate announcements to show things are moving forward. But there's still a lot of work ahead."

[cob:Special_Report]And customers who counted on the likes of Hyperion, Business Objects and Cognos for new, innovative data mining, reporting and querying tools will now have to look elsewhere -- at least for the next year or so -- to find the next generation of killer applications that drive business analytics and reporting.

"I suspect that based on what I see, there will be whole new classes and families of applications that will come out into the marketplace as point solutions," Denis Pombriant, an analyst at Beagle Research Group, told InternetNews.com. "We'll soon see them become partner products for IBM, Oracle and SAP. That's a never-ending game."

While the big vendors sort our their strategies, weed out their overlapping products and integrate their newly acquired BI assets with their core middleware suites, enterprise customers will likely have to sit and wait.

"I don't think you'll see a slew of overhauled or revamped product releases from any of these companies for the next year," Sheina said. "That opens the doors for smaller and independent companies to innovate. Sheina said BI is being pressured by new delivery models involving software as a service and open source. "Now is the best opportunity for these companies to get their foot in the door while the large vendors are distracted," Sheina said.