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Major BI tools available in the market - comparing Oracle-SAP-IBM and others

by Dr. Berg

January 7, 2011

 by Dr. Berg

There seems to be a real confusion about the different  BI tool categories and why SAP has so many types of tools. There is a lack of understanding of what Managed Query Environment (MQE), OLAP, Report, data mining and dashboard tools really are, and without this, it is hard to compare tools from SAP, IBM/Cognos, Oracle, Microsoft and others.

For example, comparing the SAP's WebI to IBM/Cognos Analysis studio would be incorrect since one is a MQE and the other is an OLAP tool.

In addition, the BI industry seems to have recently developed a problem with giving their tools real names. Instead we see BI tools being named as verbs which really confuse buyers and users. For example, how did the BusinessObjects tool called "Voyager" become the generic "Analysis"? The answer is a painful, confusing road of five names in 18 months from:

1. Voyager
2. Pioneer
3. Advanced Analysis
4. Analysis Edition for OLAP (this is the web version)
5. Analysis Microsoft Edition (this is the Excel/PowerPoint version)

Unfortunately, this non-sense has become the 'rule' in the BI world. Cognos Impromptu has changed name to ReportNet and then to QueryStudio inside ReportNet. Others have been somewhat easier to follow. Oracle Discoverer 2000, became only 'Discoverer' then 'Fusion' before gaining the name 'Business Intelligence Discoverer'. However, I challenge anyone to keep up with the other 10-15 vendors, five major tool categories and the 40-50 major tools that are renamed and bundled in sales offerings such as SAP's NetWeaver and Oracle Fusion.

So here is my 'humble' summary of the tool mess in the BI world: 

 Types of BI tools 

Tool category

Managed Query Environments (MQE)


Formatted reports

Data Mining


Technology Approach

Generated single-fetch database statements (i.e. SQL) & moves result to client

Generated database statements & moves result to an application server that serves 'chunks' of data to the client based on navigation

Generated single-fetch database statements & moves result to app sever for formatting based on templates

Search database using algorithms & statistical methods

Present graphically data from OLAP or MQE data (semi-static dashboards can be based on data mining & formatted reports)


Faster navigation on data once result is transferred to client

Often appears to have faster initial execution on large data set, since users often sees only part of the data

Standardized forms & custom formats can be created

Complex pattern analysis of large data volumes

Easy to see trends and simplified reporting


Slower initial execution & slow when new data is needed (i.e. drill-down)

Slower navigation, since result set is at app-server & must be transferred to client

Inflexible for analysis purposes & navigations are slower.

Slow & complex for novice users

Limited access to details

Major BI tools available in the market:

Tool category

Managed Query Environments (MQE)


Formatted reports

Data Mining


Major tools in the marketplace

Oracle - Business Intelligence Discoverer

Oracle - OLAP (Express) with front-end tools (OLAP is embedded in Oracle Database 11g)

IBM/Cognos Report Studio (formerly 'Impromptu')

IBM - Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS)

Oracle BI Interactive Dashboards (part of OBIEE)

IBM/Cognos Query Studio in ReportNet (formerly 'Impromptu')

Oracle - Essbase (bought with Hyperion)

SAP BusinessObject Crystal report

Statistical Analysis Software (SAS) - Predictive Analytics & Data Mining

MicroStrategy Report Services and "Web' tools

SAP Business Object Web Intelligence (webi) & Desktop Intelligence (DeskI)

IBM/Cognos Analysis Studio (based on PowerPlay), also see: PowerPlay Studio

SAP Report Designer (not included in new version 7.3)

SAP - Analysis Process Designer (APD)

SAP BusinessObject Dashboard (Xcelsius)

MicroStrategy Desktop

SAP - BEx web & Excel

MicroStrategy Reporting Suite


SAP Web Application Designer

Oracle Hyperion Interactive Reporting

SAP - Business Objects Analysis (formerly Voyager/Pioneer)


IBM - various capabilities embedded in OLAP/MQE tools


MicroStrategy OLAP Services and Intelligence Server

Apple - Konfabulator

Microsoft Anal ysis Services (MSAS)




Oracle -Hyperion Web Analysis


Oracle, Cognos and SAP BusinessObjects

Oracle, SAP and Microsoft

SAP BusinessObject Crystal report



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