Wednesday, July 29, 2009

FORRESTER blog repost IBM Goes Deeply Predictive, Announces Acquisition of SPSS

IBM Goes Deeply Predictive, Announces Acquisition of SPSS

By James Kobielus

IBM dropped a big bombshell at the start of any already action-packed day for the analyst community. At this moment, I’m sitting, along with several dozen of my peers from Forrester and other firms, at the IBM Smart Analytics System launch event in Hawthorne NY. I’ll blog on IBM’s other announcements in a separate items.

The bombshell was IBM’s announcement that it’s acquiring SPSS, a long-established, leading provider of predictive analytics (PA), data mining (DM), statistical analysis, and text mining tools. The acquisition, subject to the usual shareholder approvals and regulatory reviews, is expected to close later this year. But, even in advance of that near-certain consummation, IBM’s bold move has already sent shockwaves throughout the analytics market.

Most important, IBM has acquired the second largest vendor of PA/DM solutions, dwarfed only by privately held SAS Institute. In this segment, IBM’s proposed acquisition is having the same impact that its Cognos buy had on the business intelligence (BI) market two years ago. In many discussions with Forrester customers, SPSS is often mentioned as a key solution provider for predictive modeling and statistical analysis against structured, semi-structured, and unstructured content.

For IBM’s competitive standing in the data management market, this acquisition represents one of the last missing pieces of its Information On Demand (IOD) portfolio. By acquiring SPSS, IBM has acquired a substantial PA/DM brand with a very loyal set of longtime customers who have build their customer churn, supply chain optimization, and other predictive models on its best-of-breed platform. SPSS recently underlined its feature-comprehensive value proposition through re-branding around the “Predictive Analytics Software” (PASW) family name. But longtime customers didn’t need to be reminded, of course, that what used to be known as “Clementine” defines a functional high-bar in this solution segment.

IBM would probably be the first to admit that it took its focus off the PA/DM market over the past several years as it build out the BI, data warehousing (DW), and other pieces of its IOD portfolio. IBM had never really exited the PA/DM market, but casual observers might have thought otherwise. However, the vendor three years ago chose to de-emphasize its Intelligent Miner tools--which support mining of structured data--as stand-alone offerings. It essentially buried these solutions, moving them into its InfoSphere Balanced Warehouse family, where they are now offered as features of its Enterprise Edition DW software, rather than as stand-alone tools that would be enhanced and evolved independently.

IBM and SPSS’s respective customer bases should rest assured that overlaps among their respective product portfolios are not extensive. Once the acquisition closes, IBM is almost certain to build out its SPSS brand and, over the coming 1-2 years, phase out the Intelligent Miner technology within its InfoSphere portfolio. One tricky issue is which text analytics solution family--SPSS’ or IBM’s OmniFind solutions--will prevail as the parent converges these offerings in its IOD portfolio. Another issue is how IBM will integrate the SPSS offerings into its still-evolving in-database analytics roadmap for InfoSphere Balanced Warehouse. Hopefully, IBM will maintain and extend SPSS’ already extensive in-database analytics integration with a broad range of vendor DWs, including such Big Blue rivals as Oracle, Microsoft, Sybase, and Teradata.

Who loses from IBM’s acquisition of SPSS? Fundamentally, one can’t help think that SAP missed the boat by not seizing the opportunity to acquire partner SPSS, whose Clementine technology it OEMs, has integrated with its BI technology, and sells as SAP BusinessObjects Predictive Workbench. PA/DM is an increasingly key component of a full-fledged BI solution stack. However, the remaining field of vendors with stand-alone, horizontally applicable PA/DM vendors consists primarily of vendors who are large but proudly and stubbornly independent (especially, SAS Institute); high-quality but much less widely adopted (e.g., KXEN, ThinkAnalytics); or specialized on customer, financial, scientific, or other specialized analytics (e.g., Unica, Fair Isaac, Accelrys).

Some IBM rivals in the BI space already have strong PA/DM tools, most notably Oracle (Oracle Data Miner) and TIBCO/Spotfire (the Insightful tools). Among BI vendors, Microsoft, MicroStrategy, and Information Builders have PA/DM capabilities, but they are not to a SAS or SPSS level of sophistication. These and other BI vendors should also be scouting for strategic acquisitions.

What do you think? Will IBM’s acquisition of SPSS lead to further merger and acquisition activity in this space as other leading BI players strengthen their PA/DM solutions?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

FORRESTER blog repost BI, Analytics, and CEP: Some Fruitful Potential Follow-Ons from Software AG’s Acquisition of IDS Scheer

BI, Analytics, and CEP: Some Fruitful Potential Follow-Ons from Software AG’s Acquisition of IDS Scheer

By James Kobielus.

Yes, of course, Software AG is buying IDS Scheer primarily for the latter’s ARIS family of business process management (BPM) tools. I’ll leave it to my Forrester colleagues who focus on BPM--on both the IT and TI sides of the house--to call out the ramifications for Software AG’s positioning in that market.

But, believe it or not, this deal will also launch Software AG into the growing markets for business intelligence (BI), analytics, and complex event processing (CEP) solutions. We bet you didn’t realize that IDS Scheer has ARIS solutions in these fast growing markets, but in fact they do--and they’re continue to evolve those offerings.

It’s no surprise that IDS Scheer’s BI, analytics, and CEP offerings supplement and extend its BPM portfolio. Its CEP solution, ARIS Process Event Monitor, supports business activity monitoring (BAM). Its analytics offerings, ARIS Process Performance Management and ARIS Performance Dashboard, support visualization, dashboarding, scorecarding, drilldown, and alerting on process key performance indicators (KPIs), both historical and real-time. And its forthcoming BI offering, ARIS MashZone, will support self-service user development of reports, dashboards, and other views of process and business metrics.

IDS Scheer has little market share in these non-core segments. And the vendor is no immediate threat, by itself or under its future corporate parent, to the leaders in the BI, analytics, and CEP segments. Indeed, its forthcoming mashup-oriented BI offering only provides a subset of the features available from market leaders such as SAP Business Objects, IBM Cognos, and MicroStrategy. But the fact that Software AG will soon be able to provide its own offerings in those segments, rather than rely wholly on partners, represents an important step in its attempt to field a full service oriented architecture (SOA) solution stack.

As noted in a blog entry a year and a half ago, BI is the crown jewel in any comprehensive SOA solution portfolio. SOA suites cannot be considered feature-complete unless they incorporate a comprehensive range of BI features. This acquisition continues the ongoing SOA solution build-out strategy that motivated Software AG to acquire webMethods in 2007.

But it’s not clear yet whether Software AG plans to flesh out its BI, analytics, and CEP strategies going forward and thereby confront SAP, Oracle, IBM, Microsoft, and other SOA full-stack vendors head-on in these segments. It is also unclear how much effort or expense Software AG would incur in extricating the IDS Scheer offerings from the larger ARIS portfolio in order to make them more general-purpose and less BPM-centric. Nevertheless, Software AG will at the very least have a strong set of enabling technologies to support any such strategy in the near future.

What’s most exciting, and potentially differentiating, about the Software AG/IDS Scheer BI portfolio is the combination of CEP with mashup and an in-memory architecture to support truly real-time, interactive analytics. In other words, Software AG/IDS Scheer could take a page out of the book of another SOA full-stack vendor: TIBCO and its Spotfire product group. In doing so, Software AG/IDS Scheer would also be well-positioned to duke it out with SAP, IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle, all of which are beginning to emphasize in-memory CEP-enabled BI strategies. As we noted in a report from late 2008, in-memory architectures are coming to dominate the BI arena. Likewise, Forrester has called attention in a recent report to the growing adoption of CEP for truly real-time BI.

Whether Software AG capitalizes on the opportunity to expand its SOA solution stack into BI remains to be seen. Considering that it took Oracle more than a year to publicly declare how it will position BEA’s CEP and data federation technologies within its own SOA stack, we may have to wait a while before Software AG and IDS Scheer craft an equivalent roadmap--if they ever do.

But if they wait too long, the newly merging vendors may find that the dynamic SOA, BI, and CEP markets have passed them by.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

poem A Mortal Mutters


Sun will shine without
my skin to receive it. Yes,
the sun will remain.

Green will gleam. The leaves
and the slime will all be fine.
As before my time.

Before this blessed
me could conceive that he too
would be forgotten.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

poem Terror


A studious girl's
laboratory acid burn
continues to sting.

Ears and attention,
fingers also wobble, they're
axes x y z.

Every potion steams,
every motion screams out its
margin of error.

poem Churchgoing


Material as
heavy as religion kills
in the aggregate.

Please pardon me for
preferring the cool air in
empty cathedrals.

An enormous room.
My solitary breath. The
infinite echo.