Twenty-year veteran of reporting and analytics Cognos has finally thrown in its lot with Web services and the SOA camp. It has replaced its existing suite of tools and applications with a full rebuild and a single, Web-architected application platform it hopes will see it right for the next decade.
Known as Cognos 8 (Cognos V8), the new package welds together ReportNet, Metrics Manager, PowerPlay, DecisionStream and NoticeCast, with the vendor betting large that full Unicode support embedded into the code base will entice multinational customers to standardize on the new product.
Unicode is a set of services applications and applications standards that let users see reporting results displayed consistently across a wide language group. For example, a multinational corporation will be able to extract views of operating expenses versus sales volumes from financials packages running in French, Arabic, Mandarin and Russian - as is common in the energy and petroleum industries.
No fan of forklift upgrades, Jack Thomas, Cognos vice president for Asia and offshore, frankly admitted a unified product has been a long time coming, but claims well-built integration and vastly enhanced interoperability will be worth the wait.
"We think this product will be in the marketplace for the next decade in terms of its architecture. It's fully Web architected - it's something we in the IT industry have been struggling with for some years," Thomas said.
Despite the struggle, Thomas maintains upgrades for users should remain in the most part seamless, although he concedes some users on older client/server versions of Cognos products may need some integration work to port through to a fully, Web-enabled version.
Eager to prove the new product is ready to go out of the box, Cognos pointed to the experiences of its beta-testing user guinea pigs. In Australia these include hardware and office products manufacturer Newell Rubbermaid, with the Australian Customs Service also understood to be a large beta site.
According to Newell Rubbermaid's director of corporate information services for Asia, Phillip Bradwell, the full Web build has allowed his company to consolidate much of its reporting data while at the same time negotiating around user loyalties to specific application versions or platforms.
"We have frypans, we have window fashions - we have a lot of stuff. We had people in New Zealand saying they wanted the Windows version rather than the Web version because it is more powerful - that's not the case anymore," Bradwell said.
Another angle Cognos is hoping to exploit is that customers running different operating environments will also be able to cross-deploy the product across divisions as well as platforms. Effectively this means an IT shop running their financials over everything from mainframe operating systems, Unix and Linux and Windows will be spared the drama of integrating infrastructure.
In terms of licensing, Cognos says customers will be able to "license by user role", or pay by way of access to functionality in the integrated application. The company says customers currently on maintenance subscriptions for individual products book forward their license credits into the corresponding parts of Cognos 8; for example, customers using ReportNet will receive licences for the new software's reporting features.
The product is available in November.