Microsoft?s release today of technology from its Israeli acquisition, Panorama, will change the face of the Olap (online analytical processing) industry, analysts claim.
The software, OLEDB for Olap, is an application programming interface (API) formerly codenamed Tensor, which is based on the server software Microsoft acquired from Israeli ISV, Panorama, earlier this year.
The software giant?s aim is to provide the industry with a standard API to enable all Olap clients and servers to communicate with each other and to hook into third party data sources.
The move is significant because the supplier that controls the API has a great measure of control over the direction of the industry. Microsoft is positioning itself to become market leader in this space, which is predicted to boom over the next three years especially in its coveted enterprise market.
Nigel Pendse, analyst at consultancy Business Intelligence, welcomed the move, claiming it would spark a major boom in the sector, because it would be the first open API of substance for this market.
But, while 18 software suppliers, including Business Objects, SAS Institute and Seagate Software, lined up to bang the drum for the new Microsoft API, the two leading Olap players - Arbor and Oracle - were notable by their absence.
Oracle had reportedly not been invited to participate, while Arbor was said to have declined the invitation.
This would appear to indicate that the industry is splitting into two predictable factions, with one party rallying behind the work of the Olap Council, which also seeks to define standard interfaces, and the other behind Microsoft - although about half of the Microsoft camp are also Olap Council members.
Chris Hill, Arbor?s European marketing director, said: ?We have our own API to make our Olap product open. We understand the importance of Microsoft?s API because we have 25 front end tools, spreadsheets and so on supporting our offering. What Microsoft is doing is sensible, but it?s not necessary for us to get involved because we?re in the same space and don?t have a front end product. We don?t see demand at the moment for customers to mix and match their Olap engines.?
He also refused to comment on resurfacing rumours that IBM is about to buy Arbor, after signing the tools company to optimise its Essbase product to become IBM's Olap product of choice for the DB2 database.
Pendse said: ?The API is important because users will be able to genuinely mix different clients and servers without vendors explicitly having to collaborate with each other. The next step is that Microsoft will bring prices down because its product will be cheap and Olap will become more mainstream.?
He added that he welcomed the API because the Olap Council had spent two years dithering over its offerings and not produced much. While the Microsoft API was currently immature and needed a lot of work, it promised to be excellent and the Olap market would boom over the next three years as a result of it, he predicted.
However, it would lead to a fallout, with many suppliers disappearing if they could not adjust to the new market dynamics. Other players would emerge though, offering cheap, specialist applications.
The OLEDB specification is now available at www.microsoft.com/data/oledb, and Microsoft will start shipping a software developers' kit this week.
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