IBM Acquires Cognos, the Last Major Standalone BI Vendor

Lately, I think that I've been spending slightly too much time talking about business intelligence (BI), development, SharePoint, and other "extending the SQL Server platform" topics at the expense of the core relational meat and potatoes. I had promised myself I was going to talk about a more relational topic this week. That is, until I read about IBM's acquisition of Cognos for approximately $5 billion in cash. Nice pocket change.

The acquisition isn't entirely unexpected. I wrote about Oracle's acquisition of Hyperion earlier this year. That article shared my thoughts, and the sentiment of many industry analysts, that Microsoft's success with BI tools and the huge revenue growth for SQL Server that's being driven by BI would lead to a round of consolidation as major vendors snap up the leading standalone BI and OLAP companies. Sure enough, Oracle's acquisition of Hyperion was followed by SAP's bid for Business Objects on October 7, valued at about 4.8 billion euros. In fact, Cognos' shares were up about 30 percent after the Business Objects bid in anticipation that IBM would most likely feel compelled to pick up Cognos, lest it be left out of the party. The Business Objects and Cognos deals are subject to shareholder approval, but both deals are expected to close with no problems.

Of course, there are several smaller BI/OLAP vendors, but Hyperion, Business Objects, and Cognos represented the last of the major standalone BI/OLAP vendors. The recent acquisitions give Microsoft (with its largely homegrown tools), Oracle, SAP, and IBM compelling stories to tell in the BI space. I could be biased, but arguably, Microsoft has the best end-to-end integration with the rest of its technology stack. However, I think it's fair to say that each of the other vendors will be polishing up their integration capabilities with their newfound BI prowess. I think it's valuable that Hyperion, Business Objects, and Cognos all have noticeably deeper pockets, and larger sales teams, than they did at the start of the year. All in all, I think the acquisition spree is largely a good thing for BI customers, regardless of which technology sandbox you play in. Fear is a great motivator for innovation. Competition among these vendors will drive each of them to innovate at a rapid pace for fear of being left behind. I promise to get back to some relational topics next week, unless, of course, something really juicy pops up.

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