IBM, Hyperion, and SPSS Part Ways on DB2 OLAP Server
by Alex Woodie
IBM last week formally announced the end of marketing and support for the OS/400, Windows, and Unix versions of DB2 OLAP Server, a collection of business intelligence products it resold through OEM agreements it had in place with Hyperion and SPSS. While IBM is separating itself from the powerful multidimensional database product line it has offered for almost a decade, its 400 so DB2 OLAP Server customers will continue to receive support through Hyperion (for Windows and Unix customers) and through SPSS (for iSeries customers).
IBM had separate OEM agreements with Hyperion and SPSS for the Essbase database. Nearly ten years ago, IBM formed an agreement with Hyperion that enabled it to develop, market, and sell its own Unix and Windows versions of the Essbase OLAP engine for IBM's DB2, which IBM called DB2 OLAP Server. In 2000, IBM formed an agreement with a company called ShowCase for the OS/400 version of Essbase, which IBM called DB2 OLAP Server for iSeries. IBM had to go through ShowCase (which was acquired by SPSS in 2001) for the OS/400 version of Essbase because ShowCase itself had an OEM agreement with Hyperion that gave it exclusive rights to port Essbase to OS/400 and sell the resulting product, which has gone by several names over the years and is currently known as ShowCase Essbase.
IBM is giving its DB2 OLAP Server and DB2 OLAP Server for iSeries customers a year and a half to figure out what they're going to do before it completely pulls the plug on the products. After November 9, IBM will no longer sell any new copies of DB2 OLAP Server, DB2 OLAP Analyzer, DB2 OLAP Server for iSeries, and the associated development tools. All support for these products ends on January 31, 2007, according to IBM withdrawal announcements 905-183 and 905-184, which were published last week.
IBM and Hyperion are working together to transfer customer support agreements for the Windows and Unix versions DB2 OLAP Server over to Hyperion. The companies expect this to be a relatively painless process, according to this statement posted on the Hyperion Web site: "When we first began producing IBM DB2 OLAP Server nine years ago, there were many differences between the IBM and Hyperion versions; however, over the last several years the products have grown to be nearly identical. Thus, for most customers, there will be very few if any functional changes in the product should you choose to transition from IBM DB2 OLAP Server to Hyperion Essbase."
Similarly, IBM and SPSS are working together to transition customer support agreements for DB2 OLAP Server for iSeries customers over to SPSS. "We're taking the iSeries customers and pretty much working the same deal that Hyperion is working with the non iSeries customers," says Kathy Konkel, SPSS product marketing manager for the ShowCase Suite. "Essentially, the products are about the same. It's better to get the product directly from the person who's developing it," she says, adding that the deal is basically about eliminating the middleman.
While IBM sold the core Essbase OLAP server software, its customers still had to go to Hyperion or ShowCase to buy the reporting tools that enable them to extract meaningful data from their multidimensional cubes, Konkel says. So in most cases, the two companies already had relationships with DB2 OLAP Server customers, which should help to simplify the transition. Out of IBM's 400 or so DB2 OLAP Server customers, about 80 of them are running the software on the iSeries, she says. The rest are Unix or Windows customers that will have the option of signing new maintenance contracts with Hyperion. IBM also sells a version of DB2 OLAP Server for its zSeries mainframe, but that number is more than likely a small fraction of the total.
IBM has sent letters to DB2 OLAP Server customers explaining their options. In the letters, IBM explains that licenses for the DB2 OLAP Server products will transition to their Hyperion or SPSS counterpart, and that customers will be given a choice when it comes to maintenance, says Konkel, who works out of the ShowCase lab in Rochester, Minnesota. Customers will have the choice of waiting until their current maintenance agreement runs out to convert to Hyperion or SPSS maintenance, or, if they just recently signed new maintenance contracts, IBM will let them out of the agreements in exchange for credit, she says.
The end of life of DB2 OLAP Server raises some questions about IBM's business intelligence strategy. Is business intelligence an application area where IBM does not want to compete with its business partners? This is a hard theory to swallow, since its main database competitors, Microsoft and Oracle sell their own OLAP tools (and make a tidy profit by doing so).
Perhaps IBM is not ceding multidimensional OLAP to Hyperion and other business partners, but has other cards in its business intelligence hand. Last year, IBM acquired Alphablox, a developer of J2EE-based business intelligence software that was also a Hyperion partner (see "IBM to Acquire J2EE Business Intelligence Developer Alphablox"). It also has another business intelligence product called DB2 CubeViews, which is the most likely candidate to provide the multidimensional OLAP functionality that it is losing with DB2 OLAP Server. CubeViews does not at this time run on OS/400.
IBM executives could not be reached to speak about its OLAP strategy on the iSeries before this issue of The Four Hundred went to press. Stay tuned for a future, in-depth article discussing IBM's OLAP options for the iSeries in particular and for distributed platforms.