Enterprise BI Platforms Compared



The enterprise BI platforms compared in this article represent the most common alternatives many organizations will consider. The analysis is high level, and not a feature by feature comparison – which is fairly pointless in our opinion. The five criteria used to compare the products are:

  1. Capability – the breadth of the offering.
  2. Performance – the resources needed to make a platform perform adequately. The greater the resources the lower the score.
  3. Extensibility – very important and a measure of how well a platform can be extended functionally and how well it scales.
  4. Productivity – the support a platform offers for productive work.
  5. Value – likely benefits versus costs.

This form of analysis creates some surprises, but you need to look at the full review to see why a particular offering does so well.

Important: If you want to see the full review click on the score. If you want to visit the vendor website click on the name.

Overall Ratings

4.2 – Jedox is a BI workhorse and has a reputation for delivering good performance and ease-of-use. It’s unpretentious profile belies the fact that many organizations have satisfied complex BI needs by using this technology.

4.0 – Birst offers a complete BI ecosystem, delivered as SaaS and if necessary as a software appliance within the organisation. Great emphasis is placed on various data storage mechanisms (data warehouse, ROLAP) and sophisticated ETL capability. The emphasis seems to be on getting stuff into their ecosystem rather than getting it out, and so there would appear at least to be some level of lock-in. Of course this is true of many suppliers (lock-in is a software supplier’s dream), but it seems particularly emphasised with birst.

4.3 InetSoft is one of the most understated BI suppliers. The capability of its BI offerings is quite unique (hence the high score) and the maturity of the products and company show in the technology they offer (InetSoft has been around since 1996). Licensing structures are flexible and will appeal to mid size businesses as well as large corporations.

4.1Spotfire from TIBCO occupies a fairly unique position in the BI landscape, addressing both BI and predictive analytics needs. This makes the platform very powerful in our opinion since it becomes possible to display predictive models in a graphical environment. The recent acquisition of JasperSoft shows that TIBCO feels it needs to pitch at the less sophisticated end of the market too. Spotfire should be considered as a platform for a broad range of analytics actvities, and not simply a BI visualization platform.

4.3Information Builders is a long established supplier of BI, analytics and integration technologies. The integration of BI and data mining is quite unique and puts IB ahead of the crowd. The maturity, sophistication and value for money is very hard to beat.

4.3 – The QlikView BI platform has the ability to be all things to all people, and will satisfy business users, developers and enterprise needs. It sets the right balance between ease-of-use and sophistication in our opinion – something that very few other BI platforms achieve. We particularly like its extensibility and the ability to create new chart types and BI apps – there should be no running up against the buffers.

4.2 – BOARD provides a combined business intelligence and corporate performance management platform. The BI capability embraces reporting, multi-dimensional analysis, ad-hoc querying and dashboards. This is combined with the CPM functions of management and monitoring of performance planning, including budgeting, planning, forecasting, profitability analysis, scorecards and financial consolidation.

4.2 – Yellowfin  BI provides a powerful BI environment, which is also easy to use. This is a rare combination and probably accounts for the various accolades it has acquired in recent years. It provides dashboards, reporting, data discovery and visualization tools, storyboarding and collaborative BI as well as providing good mobile BI support.

4.1 JReport is a disarmingly straightforward BI environment capable of addressing the needs of large and medium size organizations. It is well regarded for the flexibility of the architecture and its support for the embedding of BI components into mainstream applications.

4.0 – IBM Cognos is a large, sprawling suite of BI tools and infrastructure best suited to the needs of large organizations, and most likely those with an existing IBM commitment. For senior executives with a ‘Master of the Universe’ complex Cognos will support every possible type of analysis. However for people who just want to know what is happening or has happened there are lighter and more nimble alternatives.

4.0 – Jaspersoft, now a TIBCO company, provides a BI platform based on open source software. This is a solid, widely used product set, that delivers a no frills BI environment and will meet the needs of most organizations with ease. All the usual functionality is included – reporting, dashboards, analysis and data integration.

3.8 – Oracle provides an extensive set of BI tools and specialized data management platforms. This will mostly be of interest to existing Oracle customers, being fairly expensive and highly proprietary. But for those wedded to the mantra that the Oracle way is the only way, the functionality and architectures offered by Oracle can do anything a business might require.

4.0Microsoft, in typical style, has done BI its way. Much functionality is shoehorned into Excel and SQL Server and SharePoint is used as a distribution mechanism. But the ubiquity of Microsoft products means that many organizations will go this way, and with the necessary skills they will be able to deliver what they need, and at a modest cost (usually anyway).

4.0 – Pentaho often delivers everything an organization might need, and goes beyond the classical role of BI by also offering predictive analytics capability. This unglamorous technology stack with an open source heritage is designed to get the job done – and with the least possible fuss.

3.9 – Actuate provides a capable and extensible analytics platform capable of addressing most needs. It’s mainly based on open source technology and if you use the free open source BIRT project then it will cost you nothing, although this only covers data visualization and reporting. The full blown platform from Actuate addresses much more including dashboards, predictive analytics and self-service BI.

3.9 – arcplan is a ‘no frills’ BI platform, well regarded for just getting the job done, and providing planning, budgeting and forecasting functionality in addition to the more usual BI roles.

3.9MicroStrategy is in many ways a meeting of the old and new in business intelligence, and takes the positives from both. It is truly an enterprise solution meeting the less glamorous demands for regular reporting, complex dashboards and extensive admin, while offering up the sexier self-service BI users now expect from a BI solution. It is expensive, and for organizations with less demanding requirements other options will be more economical.

3.9 – SAS BI will attract larger organizations with complex needs. Even here however there may be resistance to the high price of SAS products and a need to find simpler solutions for some requirements.

3.7SAP BI comes primarily in the form of BusinessObjects, a long established BI platform that is not particularly user friendly and can be fairly expensive. Users of SAP applications may choose to go this way, but there are no compelling reasons for anyone else to do so.

3.7SiSense provides easy-to-use business intelligence tools, and is targeted at the business user. The speed of query execution distinguishes the product and novel techniques have been used to deliver high levels of performance. Don’t expect SiSense to satisfy all BI needs, it’s ease-of-use is delivered at the price of reduced sophistication.

3.7Tableau is often the first supplier that comes to mind when businesses consider data visualization tools. While the product is easy to use, and produces very attractive visuals, it is not particularly sophisticated and may prove inadequate as needs mature. This has recently been addressed to some extent through an interface to R, but this is a classic choice between ease-of-use and sophistication – and Tableau has done very well by focusing on the former of these two.

Click on the relevant heading to sort by that criterion, and click on the vendor name to see the full review.

IBM Cognos
Information Builders4.
Microsoft BI4.
Oracle BI