Posted by Muneeswara C Pandian
Comments (3)
January 3rd, 2008

What is a BI Appliance?
If a data warehouse class database product or a reporting product or a data integration product or an all-in-one software package is pre installed and available in a preconfigured hardware box, then such a “hardware + software” box is called a ‘BI Appliance’. The very purpose of an appliance model is to cover the underlying software components complexity and intricacies and make it simple like operating a TV system.

How an Appliance Model evolved?
As businesses gathered huge data, the demand for faster and better ways of analyzing data increased, the data warehouse as a software technology got evolved; there have been continuous efforts to build software systems that are cognizant of data warehouse environments.

  • We have seen IBM and Oracle releasing their data warehouse specific database editions
  • We seen the growth of data warehouse specific databases like RedBrick(now part of IBM), Teradata, Greenplum…
  • We have seen simple list reporting tools getting into proprietary data structures cubes and the emergence of acronyms MOLAP, HOLAP, ROLAP, DOLAP
  • We had a very new software market created for ETL and EII products
  • We have seen more new software applications related to BI being created BAM, CPM, Metadata Management, Data Discovery and lot more getting defined every day into the market….
  • As many organizations started setting up its BI infrastructure or enhanced its existing BI environment with different BI software packages they needed, they also imbibed different platforms and hardware, the maintenance of these became frightening. Getting started with a BI project by itself became a bigger project; we needed to spend sufficient time not just on choosing the right set of BI products but also on the supported hardware, dependent software packages and the platform. No BI vendor currently addresses the complete stack of BI system needs and this has been the driving factor for more acquisitions.

    Products like Nettezza (Data base Appliance), CastIron (ETL Appliance) came up with their ‘software in a box’ concept, where we can buy or rent preconfigured ‘hardware + software’ boxes which in a way addresses the need of ‘ready to use’ BI market. Many of these boxes have Linux, open source databases, web server, message queues and proprietary software.

    The Appliance based model is not new, IBM has been renting its ‘mainframe + software’ for decades. IBM has addressed the BI market with its ‘Balanced Warehouse’; a preconfigured ‘hardware + software’, its OS can vary from Windows – AIX – Linux with DB2 as database and data reporting can vary from DB2 Cubes – Crystal – Business Objects. HP in a similar way has come out with its Neoview platform which is a revitalized version of NonStop SQL database and NonStop OS.

    The need of a CIO has been always ways to shorten the application deployment cycle and reduce the maintenance factor of the servers; the Appliance based products meet these KRA of a CIO and are getting accepted widely.

    The Future

    More Appliances, Focus on Performance:
    We would see more BI appliances coming into market; as the Appliance model covers what’s underneath and in many cases the details being not available; the buying focus would be more on what the products deliver rather than what they have inside.

    Common Appliance Standards:
    Getting best of breed of software and hardware from a single vendor would not happen. We might see both software and hardware vendors defining a set of basic standards among themselves for the Appliance model. New organizations would also evolve similar to “” which would define performance standards for appliances. We might see companies similar to DELL coming up which can assemble best of breed components and deliver a packaged BI Appliance.

    More Acquisitions: The current BI Market landscape can also be interpreted as

    1. Hardware + Software or Appliance based vendors – HP, IBM
    2. Pure software or Non-Appliance based vendors – Oracle, Microsoft, SAP

    Once the current BI software consolidation gets established the next wave of consolidation would be towards companies like Oracle looking for hardware companies to be added to their portfolio.

    Technology Appliance Products
    Database Netezza
    Data Integration CASTIron
    Reporting-Dashboard Cognos NOW (Celequest LAVA)
    Configurable Stack (with third party support) IBM Balanced Warehouse
    HP Neoview

    Comments (3)

    WizOWash - February 4th, 2011

    Really good article. Thanks. Clearly explains the appliance model. Microsoft and HP launched a BI appliance too just a couple of weeks ago. They also released a enterprise data warehouse. Microsoft also has something called Fast Track - do you know anything about it? Could you explain what that is and how that is different from an appliance? Thanks

    sreenivas rao - February 15th, 2010

    Over a Couple of years it is observed that Database Appliances have really attracted the customers to make a shift. performance boost up with less cost and single vendor support is really a piece of cake for many. Especially netezza which is releasing products such as Netezza Retail analytic appliance, Netezza Skimmer, Netezza Twinfin makes sense that BI appliances is a good choice

    Illiyaz Mohammad - January 7th, 2008

    Good article,BI appliance is definitely solving the performance issues that most of the BI implementations suffer.But it is too early to judge if it will stand the test of time in solving the Operational customer intelligence,which is direclty related to value addition to the organization as in any BI implementation,end users determine if the investment was worth or not.Also,BI appliance ties a customer to the specific hardware+software which may not be an attractive propositon to the customer always.

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