Though some analysts simply called it inevitable, Microsoft's decision to acquire long-time partner ProClarity has implications that will likely set off tremors in the business intelligence landscape according to a Forrester Research analyst.

ProClarity, which offers advanced analysis and visualization products, is a longtime partner with deep ties to the Microsoft SQL and BI products as well as the Office suite. What makes the deal special, says Forrester Research Principal Analyst Keith Gile, is a ready to go front-end adaptable interface which, aligned with the next Office 2007 release, will make up a formidable BI platform.

"It gives them a quality front end to a strong back-end engine," says Gile. "It gives them tools that were built around the whole analyst services engine to begin with." ProClarity's long partner status is further already tuned to the nuances of SQL and Office, Gile says. "There's very little reengineering that's going to have to be done. They bring to the table a mechanism for controlling the abusive use of Excel spreadsheets as BI tools. This is a no-brainer."

The acquisition will likely put more pressure on BI platform providers such as Cognos and Business Objects that have been "living off the fact" that Microsoft had no front end to speak of. "Business Objects and Cognos could brag about getting to anybody's back-end engines, but even reporting services by its nature is just a repository," Gile says. "Now add a front end and a reasonable sense of market share or presence with a mature product that's very good at complementing the Microsoft stack and you have to reconsider what they are dealing with. It is the smartest thing Microsoft has done in the last five years."

Microsoft expanded its presence in the BI marketplace with the fall introductions of SQL Server 2005 and Office Business Scorecard Manager 2005, and promises more BI enhancements in the Office 2007 suite. ProClarity and Microsoft already have an aligned sales structure and currently serve 1,200 mutual customers.

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