IBM Goes Social and Mobile with Cognos 10
November 2, 2010 Alex Woodie
IBM last week started shipping Cognos 10.1, the first major release of the business intelligence suite since IBM acquired Cognos in 2007. The new release adds a number of new features, including the capability for users to interact with BI content in a social media context, thanks to the inclusion of Lotus Connections software. IBM also added a new mobile component to Cognos that lets users view BI content from smartphones.
Cognos Business Intelligence is a sprawling suite of BI tools with over a dozen components, sub-components, add-ons, and options. But the software, which runs only on Windows, Linux, and Unix operating systems, is considered to be one of the most powerful BI suites on the planet. And with an installed base of 23,000 organizations–including a decent number of IBM i shops using it to analyze data stored in DB2/400–Cognos has the kind of customer momentum that can be rivaled only by other BI powerhouses, such as Oracle, SAP, and Information Builders.
With Cognos 10.1 becoming generally available last week, IBM is now putting into its customers’ hands features that have been well-received during the six-month beta period. Near the top of the list of anticipated new features are capabilities born from consumer-driven technologies, including social networking on the Web and mobile computing with smartphones.
The new social media collaboration capabilities reside in Cognos Collaboration, a new sub-component of the Cognos Business Insight tool. Cognos Collaboration is based on and includes a license for IBM’s Lotus Connections software, a Web-based product that IBM launched in 2007. It allows teams of users to collaborate through Web spaces, blogs, wikis, forums, and shared libraries. By embedding this product into Cognos, IBM is providing users another way to share and discuss Cognos content, and to do so in real-time.
IBM envisions customers using Cognos Collaboration to get more connected and make faster and better decisions than if they did their collaborating via e-mail, sit-down meetings, and other old forms of person-to-person communication. Users also benefit, IBM says, by having a single screen for the tasks of consuming BI content and discussing it with others. Switching screens too often disrupts the flow of thought, Big Blue says.
IBM gave an example of how Cognos Collaboration could work in the real world. Say a regional sales manager spots a sudden spike in sales of a particular pair of shoes. Instead of calling a sit-down meeting for the following week, the manager could immediately initiate discussions with representatives of the marketing and logistics department, brainstorm the issue with them, and come up with a solution that balances the demand and supply equation in the most profitable manner for the company.
Let Off the Leash
A couple of other new features in version 10.1 will let Cognos users off their tethers.
Cognos Mobile is a new component of the Cognos BI suite that provides access to Cognos BI content from iPhones, Blackberrys, Windows Mobile phones, Nokia Symbian phones, and iPads. The new product turns mobile devices into clients that can download and display the full array of Cognos BI-generated content, including static and interactive reports, dashboards, scorecards, and key performance indicators (KPIs).
Another highly anticipated new component, called Cognos Active Reports, allows Cognos users who find themselves–heaven forbid–disconnected from the network to still consume interactive reports. The product is a tool for developers to create these reports. Large data sets are not supported, but even so, Cognos users have been asking for such a product (already available from Cognos’ big-name rivals) for years.
Several other notable changes were made with this release. SPSS’ renowned statistical engine is now included in the Cognos suite as Cognos Statistics. As an optional and integrated component of the Cognos Report Studio, Cognos Statistics provides analysts with the capability to build reports that contain statistical analysis. No longer must they leave the comfy world of the Report Studio to extract data from the data warehouse, load it into the statistical engine, and then distribute the resulting reports. It can all be done centrally.
IBM has also integrated its TM1 in-memory associative database environment deeper into the Cognos BI product suite. TM1, which Cognos obtained with its acquisition of Applix just before IBM acquired Cognos, has been available as a separate product since 2007. The Windows-based product is also available as the analytical engine underlying Cognos Express.
TM1-genereated content can be manipulated into finished content (such as interactive dashboards) using the Cognos Business Insight component of the Cognos BI suite. In addition to grabbing data from TM1, Business Insight can grab data from core Cognos BI databases, CubeViews, or the Cognos Real-Time Monitoring (RTM) software, which primarily generates and distributes KPIs.
TM1 can also be used with Cognos Analysis. IBM describes Cognos Analysis as a “BI workspace” for exploring and assembling data from other sources, including TM1 and the SPSS-based Cognos Statistics engine.
Reportedly, IBM went straight to Cognos version 10.1 from version 8 (the previous release) because the TM1 in-memory BI tool was already shipping at a version 9 release level, and IBM didn’t want to confuse the matter. That begs the question, of course, why this isn’t version 10.0. Apparently, a dot-one release is much more refined than a dot-oh release.
Here’s a listing of other Cognos BI components not already mentioned in this story:
For more information on Cognos Business Intelligence 10.1, see IBM United States Software Announcement 210-348.