In late January, upstart BI (business intelligence) tools vendor Brio Technology announced a brand new release of its Brio Enterprise family of query/OLAP/reporting tools, Version 6.0 by name. Normally, the sixth release of a software product engenders a cacophony of wide-mouth yawns, but in this case you might just want to close your yap and take a look-see. Version 6.0, while maybe not revolutionary, is certainly a big step up from evolutionary. Brio is attempting to do no less than redefine the way people think about BI. The company has a vision of empowering every worker by giving them access to information and data analyses. Brio plans to do this by providing a common suite of tools that can be used by everybody working in a substantial enterprise. That means tools for the boys in the glass houses, tools for the analysts, tools for the application developers and tools for you and me.

In order to accomplish this, Version 6 tools are environment-sensitive. IT folks and some analysts typically work in the client/server paradigm and need tools that can be utilized effectively in that environment. Application developers need to work at the coding level and thus need tools that are programmable. But you and I mostly stare at Web pages or e-mail all day, so we need tools that are effective working across extranets or the Internet, meaning they are easy to use, fast and efficient.

In February 1997, our study (Large-Scale Database Solutions) reported that, "Survey respondents expect that the average number of users accessing data warehouses within their respective enterprises would increase by a factor of 70 from 444 (in 1996) to more than 31,000 in 2001." This is the trend that Brio plans to exploit by ensuring that its software meets the reporting and BI needs of all users, not just "knowledge workers."

What, you may ask, does all this mean? You'll have to get the details from Brio, but I can give you a glimpse of the features you'll find.

The IT folks will be happy with the scalability, robustness and manageability characteristics of the software that will be running on their servers. Version 6 provides support for a wide variety of data sources including multidimensional databases such as Plato, UDB and SAP's Business Warehouse. In addition, new features for managing applications and deploying them across a Web-enabled enterprise that scales to thousands of users are incorporated.

Programmers will be thrilled to find that everything is programmable. The programming language is JAVA script. Modules can be called from other applications or by other languages. SQL generation facilities are greatly enhanced over earlier versions and support highly complex queries.

The rest of us can get our dose of BI through what Brio likes to call "subscription and publish" models. A common scenario is one in which developers create custom apps for the various segments of the user population, the IT guys shove them out across the networks according to predefined criteria, and we get what we need with a few mouse clicks. If we play nicely, the boys in the back rooms let us use some Brio software that works nicely in a Web browser so that we can manipulate reports or even submit some simple queries!

The market implications of Version 6 for Brio are significant. Although Brio will continue to sell its stuff to its current IT and analyst markets, its tools will now become a platform for delivering both prepackaged and custom BI applications to mass audiences. As a result, Brio is gearing up to sell its Enterprise technology to integrators, developers, designers, etc. Chances are that you'll be using Version 6 software without knowing it.

People in my business love to say "I told you so." It sort of justifies our raison d'etre. Well, Brio's new strategic direction ­ certain to be copied ­ is based on the desire to deploy BI throughout the enterprise to those 31,000 employees. If we are wrong, one might naturally conclude that Brio will soon be going down the proverbial tubes. The prevailing wisdom, however, runs counter to that notion. In conclusion then, I TOLD YOU SO!

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