Gartner releases 2013 BI Magic Quadrant

Summary:As a follow-up to the data warehouse Magic Quadrant, here's a roundup of Gartner's annual Business Intelligence Magic Quadrant report.

Open source BI matures

Almost three years ago now I gave a talk at Microsoft's BI conference, presenting a competitive analysis of Microsoft BI in the marketplace. I urged the audience not to underestimate the then-nascent open source BI scene, insisting it would emerge to be an important force in the industry. The two biggest vendors in that space, Pentaho and Jaspersoft, are in the very center of the Niche Players quadrant this year. And Actuate, the company behind open source reporting component BIRT, entered the MQ for the first time, and in the Challengers Quadrant to boot. Another open source BI vendor, SpagoBI, while not included in the MQ, is nonetheless mentioned in the "Other Vendors to Consider" section of the report.

Two things about Pentaho and Jaspersoft are important to keep in mind: they both derive significant revenue from OEMs that embed their technology, and each one is focusing very heavily on connecting to Hadoop and NoSQL data sources. This distinguishes both companies from many of the other vendors in this report (Tableau is an important exception, though) and points out why industry watchers should continue to monitor both companies. Actuate, meanwhile, in acquiring analytics provider Quiterian earlier this year, is working hard to complement its BIRT-based reporting chops with serious data mining, social media analytics and predictive analytics capabilities as well.

The open source guys are playing to win and are successfully using the open source mechanism as a viral marketing tool. These companies are not in this for philanthropy, knowing full well that most of their serious customers will end up acquiring their fee-based enterprise editions, rather than sticking with the open source community editions

MISO vendors each lag, somewhere

The MISO vendors continue to dominate, mostly through achieving status as the corporate BI standard within their customers' organizations. These vendors have very broad BI stacks (in all cases but Microsoft's, due largely to acquisitions) and present formidable barriers of entry to their competitors. Even to players like MicroStrategy, SAS and Informtion Builders, the MISOs are still tough to beat, since their stacks (and enterprise licenses) span beyond BI itself.

But Gartner's BI MQ report this year points out that the MISOs are each lacking in at least one key area. For example, Microsoft and Oracle each lags in mobile, Oracle also lags in interactive visualization, IBM lags in performance and ease of use and SAP lags in integration of its SAP BW and Business Objects stack components and the stability of those components.

In short, each of the MISO megavendors is vulnerable to disruption from the various smaller players, who have the luxury of less legacy code, fewer codebases (due to fewer, if any, acquisitions) and greater concentration on newer BI market imperatives including Big Data, mobile and cloud.

Incumbent pure plays vulnerable

Just as the MISOs are at once dominant and vulnerable, so too are the incumbent pure plays (though less so). Customers report SAS is hard to use and expensive. With open source R coming on as a challenger in the stats/predictive analytics area, the price premium becomes harder still to justify and perpetuate.

Gartner's research finds that customers find MicroStrategy has a steep learning curve, high licensing and implementation costs, and comes up short on predictive, and what Garter calls "prescriptive," analytics.  Nevertheless, MicroStrategy's integration of R in its newest version could well mitigate this last shortcoming.  Further more, its integration with SAP HANA and Hadoop (via Hive) put it close to the leading edge of BI-Big Data convergence. 

Tableau ranks high

Visuald Data discovery player Tableau has entered the BI MQ Leaders Quadrant for the first time this year. The company and its eponymous product achieved among the highest rankings in product quality-related measures, latest release migration, dataset sizes, analytical complexity, analysis of unstructured data, ease of use for developers and end-users, shortest time to implementation, fastest report and dashboard development times, percentage of business user authors and percentage of customers using or targeting cloud deployments in next 12 months.

With so many superlatives it's a wonder Tableau isn't the leader in both of the BI MQ's axes.  But there are some vulnerabilities that Tableau and its data discovery peers face...

Data exploration pure plays on back foot

Tableau, QlikTech and Tibco Spotfire face new competition as Enterprise BI vendors add visual exploration to their stacks. Notable also is that all three products offer direct connect options for back end data sources, scaling past their proprietary engines' capabilities.  In the past, only Tableau offered this ability, providing it with a competitive advantage that now seems likely to erode over time, as Qlik and Spotfire's comparable capabilities help them achieve parity in the marketplace.

All three companies have in recent years upstaged the bigger players with compelling visualizations and, at least in the cases of Tableau and QlikView, tools that business users actually find fun to use.  This has given these companies much-deserved traction.  But they cannot ignore more enterprise-y features like data integration/extract transform and load (DI and ETL), master data management (MDM) and data quality (DQ) forever, especially when the players that do offer those capabilities are closing the gap on usability and compelling visualizations.

The cloud is coming

Two of the three BI MQ newcomers, Birst and GoodData (the third is Permformance Management provider Bitam), are cloud-based BI vendors.  Moreover, open source BI players Pentaho and Jaspersoft pursue cloud-based offerings of their own platforms with gusto.  Tableau has Tableau Public.  IBM supports Cognos BI 10 in the cloud.  And MicroStrategy, SAP, Panorama, Tibco Spotfire, Alteryx and others have cloud options as well.

It should be noted that some cloud-based companies (Gartner mentions Birst explicitly) are achieving traction by offering an on-premise appliance solution as well.  For some customers, the road to the cloud is through the corporate data center, however counterintuitive that may seem.  When you consider that the real attraction of cloud BI isn't the off-premise aspect per se, but rather the ease of provisioning, then the appliance option starts to make more sense.

Whatever the approach, it's clear that a big barrier to BI implementations has been the complexity of installation, configuration and optimization.  The more devices available to eliminate that barrier, the better.

Big Data is…big

Many of the BI MQ vendors (at least eight by my count, and likely a lot more) offer integration with Hadoop, and various others offer integration with R, and leading NoSQL databases.  So to end near where we began, I'll once again point out that these worlds are colliding.  Part of what will make Big Data enterprise-ready is that the major technologies within it will have the BI capabilities (either natively or through partnerships and integrations) that enterprise customers now rely upon.

There are important companies in this space (SiSense and Datameer come to mind right away) that are not included in the BI MQ.  I hope that next year some combination of their revenue and Gartner's criteria change, so that they are included.  Meanwhile, the BI MQ report represents work by Gartner analysts Kurt SchlegelRita L. SallamDaniel Yuen and Joao Tapadinhas that is nonetheless quite exhaustive.

Topics: Big Data


Andrew Brust has worked in the software industry for 25 years as a developer, consultant, entrepreneur and CTO, specializing in application development, databases and business intelligence technology. He has been a developer magazine columnist and conference speaker since the mid-90s, and a technology book writer and blogger since 2005. A... Full Bio

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