IBM puts brawn behind business intelligence efforts

Company pushes interoperability, usability standards, answers similar Microsoft efforts.

IBM is revving its business intelligence engines, with new software upgrades aimed at maximising customer relationships while offering IT professionals better interoperability and usability.

The computer giant said Wednesday it is launching a $30m (£19m) fourth-quarter advertising campaign that emphasises its business intelligence offerings in software, servers, storage and support. And it is renewing its efforts to help set standards in the database arena, proposing standards for both metadata management and data mining.

"There's absolutely enormous demand [for business intelligence]," said Ben Barnes, IBM's general manager of global business intelligence solutions. "In 1999, this is a $25bn to $28bn market of hardware, software and services, and we see it significantly growing over the next few years, reaching into the high double digits or low triple digits of billions of dollars."

IBM said it is delivering an upgrade to its Intelligent Miner data mining tool with better usability features and templates for Web-based customer relationship management applications for telecommunications, finance and insurance. A new offering called Fast Start for Business Intelligence, aimed at smaller businesses and departmental applications, starts at $60,000 for hardware, software and services.

Meanwhile, a new version of IBM Data Joiner data access software adds support for NCR's Teradata database, bringing to 55 the number of data sources supported, said Janet Perna, general manager of data management. Perna said IBM recently submitted to the Object Management Group standards body a proposed specification for managing metadata called Common Warehouse Metadata, developed in conjunction with Oracle, NCR, Unisys and Hyperion Solutions.

Similarly, Perna said IBM is also proposing a standard interface for data mining applications. Both standards initiatives answer similar efforts by Microsoft, which had been in the lead in driving both metadata and data mining interchange standards.

Perna said IBM's DB2 Universal Database continues to enjoy strong growth, with first-quarter revenues up 45 percent on Unix and 54 percent on NT vs. the same period last year.