Gartner recently released an updated version of the Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence Platforms. One quick glance at the new Magic Quadrant and you'll notice there are a whopping 19 entries this year, with 8 companies making the prestigious leader quadrant. When compared to the 4 leaders in the Data Integration magic quadrant and 6 in the data warehouse space it is clear there is a lot happening in the world of Business Intelligence.

The number of entries confirms that BI continues to see growth even in a down market. Gartner confirms this in the report with a prediction of 7% CAGR growth in the BI market over the next 5 years. With continued growth combined with the large number of players in the market, I expect to see further consolidation in the space. For example, MicroStrategy is a pure play that leads the pack in terms of product performance with large data sets, and Teradata is a pure play leader in large scale data warehousing. With over 200 customers in common, it seems like the perfect opportunity for the two to join forces and become the next mega-vendor.

Something more concerning that I took away from the report is the widening split in the market between the IT centric mega-vendors and the business oriented data discovery vendors. The business is making it clear that to stay competitive in the market they need to be able to make decisions quickly and often with disparate data sets not under IT control. They want to consume and visualize data on their own terms rather then wait for support from IT. This new breed of data discovery tools is exactly what the business wants, but it comes at a price. By straying from the structure of the IT implementation the business is creating departmental information silos, which is what the enterprise information architecture is trying to prevent. So where does this leave us? With visualization companies like QlikTech making it into the leaders quadrant and Tableau close behind a happy medium between the business and IT has to be found. The data discovery tools are not mature enough to handle enterprise data volumes and the mega-vendors are not nimble enough to support the departmental needs. Both sides are working to address this, but no one has the answer yet.

Another takeaway from the report that I see first hand as a BI consultant is the discussion of cost. Even if the lower cost vendors in the survey don't have a solution as mature as SAP, Oracle or IBM, the cost differential is hard to ignore. One of the major pain points with the mega-vendors is licensing costs, and when looking at a reporting solution it is hard to ignore LogiXML's unlimited user license model or the low cost of ownership offered by the open source leaders – Jaspersoft and Pentaho. IBM has responded to this pricing pressure by offering Cognos Express, a slimmed down version of the Cognos product aimed at small to midsize organizations and priced more competitively. Microsoft also positions SSRS as a lower cost option, but this only applies if you are already using the Microsoft technology stack. Cost is also driving buyers to the data discovery tools. The combination of a low entry cost and no IT support required to deploy make them a very attractive option to business customers. It will be interesting to see how this cost game impacts the market especially now that we are in an economic recovery.

After reading the report you can clearly see that there is a dichotomy between the business and IT, cost and features across the products vary widely, and customer satisfaction is all over the board. So where does this leave us? Do we drop everything and start from scratch, do nothing, or stick our head in the sand and hope for the best? I think the answer lies somewhere in between. We need to find the happy medium between the data discovery tools and the enterprise BI solution so we can keep our organizations working toward the goal of using data to deliver innovation.

Free copies of the Gartner report are available for download from a number of vendors including Microsoft, LogiXML and SAS.