MicroStrategy eyes Flash for animated intelligence

Integrating Flash into BI dashboards could provide a launch-pad for creative business ideas

When listing its resolutions for 2007, MicroStrategy plans to enhance the visualisation and performance capabilities of its business intelligence (BI) software, as well as grow its head-count and geographical presence.

The vendor is working closely with Adobe Systems on integrating Adobe’s Macromedia Flash authoring tool into new MicroStrategy BI dashboards and visualisation. With the vast amounts of information companies are trying to query, the ability to run an animation of all that data could be pretty illuminating.

“You could play 30 years of data in five seconds and use it as a launch pad for ideas,” MicroStrategy’s chief operating officer Sanju Bansal says.

“[And] 2007 is going to be an exciting year for us.”

On another front, the vendor is working “very aggressively” on a new 64-bit caching architecture designed to boost the performance of its BI software.

With most of its customers running on Windows, MicroStrategy is looking to take advantage of the capabilities of Microsoft’s new 64-bit Vista operating system. The idea is to ensure that when thousands of users are trying to access a data cache at the same time they all gain access to the information within a few seconds.

Although he notes the trend among application vendors like Microsoft, Oracle and SAP to incorporate more BI functionality into their software, Bansal believes such moves won’t negatively impact MicroStrategy’s business.

He draws a distinction between the “industrial-strength BI” his company is delivering and the more “departmental BI” delivered by the application vendors. A company that uses Oracle’s BI software departmentally wouldn’t use that same technology to carry out reporting and querying of its two terabyte data warehouse, he said.

Bansal welcomes open-source BI players such as Pentaho and JasperSoft. “The rising tide does lift all boats,” he says. “Users will start with open-source and move to MicroStrategy for more serious BI.”

MicroStrategy’s main competitors are Cognos and Business Objects, a situation Bansal expects to continue. He declines to speculate on which vendors might be acquired as a result of on-going consolidation in the BI market, but doubts that MicroStrategy will be one of them.

“Myself and CEO Michael Saylor have majority voting control of the equity of the company. There’s no way we could be taken over against our will; it would have to be consensual,” he says.

“That’s not true for Business Objects, Hyperion and Cognos; they’re relatively defenceless against a hostile takeover.”

MicroStrategy has something of a chequered past. The company went public in 1998, with its stock soaring during the dotcom boom — trading (NZ$4730) in 2000 — only to spectacularly flame out, following the revelation of massive accounting irregularities. Shares plummeted as low as US$4.20 in 2002.

After resolving an investigation by the US Securities and Exchange Commission and numerous class-action lawsuits the company cut staff and operations and battled losses.

Over the past few years, MicroStrategy has got back on track and puts revenue for the most recent 12 months at around US$300 million.

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