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Are Brio, Cognos, Crystal, BusinessObjects and SPSS the same type of BI solution?

  • Joe Oates, Chuck Kelley, Les Barbusinski
  • April 02 2003, 1:00am EST


Are Brio, Cognos, Crystal, BusinessObjects and SPSS the same type of BI solution? I get the impression SPSS is more off the shelf (even though you don’t buy it at Best Buy) than the others. The others seem to offer more customized solutions, meaning more expensive?


Les Barbusinski’s Answer: No. The functionality and feature sets are significantly different and so are the costs. Generally speaking, BI tools are categorized by a) their architecture (i.e., ROLAP, MOLAP, HOLAP, DOLAP, etc.) and b) their cost (i.e., high end or low end) which is usually related to the size of their feature set. For example, DOLAP solutions would include Cognos and Crystal, MOLAP solutions would include Essbase, SAS and Oracle Express, ROLAP solutions would include Business Objects, Informatica and Microstrategy and so on. Similarly, Cognos, Brio, Crystal and Microsoft OLAP are considered low-end solutions, while Business Objects, Microstrategy, Essbase and Informatica are considered high- end solutions.

For a more detailed comparison of BI tools you can purchase a copy of Nigel Pendse’s white paper "The OLAP Survey" which is available on the Web at

Chuck Kelley’s Answer: I think with the exception of SPSS, the other products are pretty much query and reporting tools with some analysis built in. Of course, this would depend on which product set you buy from Cognos, etc. SPSS is more of a statistical package with lots more stuff built-in (boy is that bad American language or what.).

Joe Oates’ Answer: First off, there are apples and oranges in your list of products. SPSS is a suite of statistical and data mining applications. SPSS products offer industrial strength statistical and data mining solutions.

Cognos and Business Objects are point-and-click presentation tools that are primarily used in data warehouse and data mart multidimensional environments. These tools are designed to make it easy for non-technical end users to generate ad hoc reports that would otherwise require IT resources to design and write programs. These tools are often referred to as online analytical processing (OLAP) tools. Both Cognos and Business Objects have some built-in statistical and data mining capabilities but are not as robust as SPSS.

Crystal is a more general-purpose set of reporting tools. While some organizations use Crystal Reports for data warehouse and data mart environments, the majority of customers use it for transaction reporting. Before deciding which of these products to purchase, develop a set of requirements for your particular organization. These requirements should include consideration of the type of reporting, the technical level of the end users, your management commitment to having at least one person fully trained in the tool of choice and overall budget.

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