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IBM plunges into data analysis

Big Blue announces what it terms a company-wide initiative to supply business intelligence software and services.

Hoping to capture a larger share of the emerging market for decision support software and services, IBM (IBM) today announced what it terms a company-wide initiative to supply business intelligence software and services.

The company introduced new industry-specific data analysis and marketing tools, and data warehousing, data mining, and data mart software. IBM also said it will boost its consulting and services offerings for building business intelligence systems, and it has signed up additional partners to provide services and software.

As part of the announcement, IBM introduced its DB2 OLAP Server, a new package for performing online analytical processing (OLAP) against data stored in the company's DB2 database server.

As previously reported by CNET's NEWS.COM, the DB2 OLAP package consists of Arbor Software's Essbase OLAP server, reworked to run atop IBM's DB2 relational database.

OLAP is a process in which users can quickly analyze shared corporate data organized on multiple dimensions, not just the two-dimensional horizontal and vertical categories of simple spreadsheets. That allows data to be viewed, for example, as "sales by region" or "sales by quarter, by sales representative, by product line, by region," for instance.

Despite what is perceived as a slowdown in the sales of database software for online transaction processing (OLTP) applications, the market for business intelligence tools is growing at a steady clip, said Janet Perna, general manager of database management for IBM's software solutions division.

"The high growth market through the end of the millennium is business intelligence," Perna said.

IBM also announced new business intelligence software packages for specific industries, including finance, insurance, and banking. The company also introduced tools for analyzing data stored in business applications from SAP and JD Edwards.

Also introduced today is Visual Warehouse, a software bundle which includes DB2; Distributed Database Connection Services for managing multiple DB2 databases; a database cataloging tool called DataGuide; a single-user license for Lotus Approach to produce queries and charts based on DB2 data; and Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) drivers for Informix Software, Oracle, Sybase, and Microsoft SQL Server databases.

IBM cites studies from the Palo Alto Management Group which peg the emerging business intelligence market to be worth nearly $70 billion by 2001.

Numbers like that have made other software companies, including Oracle, Sybase, Informix Software, and Microsoft, take notice of the burgeoning market.

Yesterday, Microsoft announced that it is holding a developers conference this week to woo customers to its SQL Server 7.0 database server and a new OLAP data analysis tool code-named Plato.