While much of the business intelligence (BI) software business has grown up around islands of specialization, Hummingbird has been buying up many of those islands, hoping to integrate them into a substantive archipelago. The objective is to be able to offer its customers one-stop shopping for the building block technologies needed to develop a data warehouse, the business intelligence solutions that feed off it and a knowledge management platform.

A Canadian-headquartered company, Hummingbird has acquired most of its technologies locally and from Europe. One result is that the company is not as well known in the U.S. domestic marketplace as many of its competitors. The company's challenge will be to establish a dominant presence in the U.S. market before it gets steamrollered by a host of other companies who are currently adopting a similar strategy. Nearly every company that was a BI front-end tool or ETL vendor last year is currently repositioning itself as an end-to-end BI solution vendor this year.

Meanwhile, Hummingbird is the only kid on the block with all the marbles. The company calls its one-stop shopping product BI/Suite, which includes:

  • * BI/Query ­ an enterprise query and reporting tool
  • * BI/Web ­ a thin-client solution that provides query, reporting and OLAP services via the Web
  • * BI/Analyze ­ a fat-client OLAP application for multidimensional analysis
  • * BI/Broker ­ an application that provides a range of management services for BI solutions including security, scheduling, distribution, notification and other administrative services
  • * Genio Suite ­ a collection of integrated tools for ETL including a graphical development environment, scheduler, transformation engine, data repository and connectivity for most of the popular relational and multidimensional database management systems and EBCDIC flat files
  • * PC Docs ­ Web-based knowledge/document management system for unstructured and structured data that includes Fulcrum's knowledge desktop
  • * EIP (Enterprise Information Portal) ­ provides an integrated browser-based interface to all of the functionality of BI/Suite in the solutions context

A key element of the Hummingbird approach is the Genio Information Broker architecture. The objective of this architecture is to bring order out of chaos by eliminating typical point-to-point system connections and replacing them with a hub-and-spoke logical topology. Envision the following diagram: a circle labeled "Information Broker" sitting in the middle of the page with arrows emanating from it that point to the many diverse elements of an enterprise-class data warehouse/business intelligence solution. Arrows connect to multiple data sources, to applications, to warehouses or marts, operational data stores, etc. Arrows also connect to analytical tools such as OLAP and data mining. A thick dotted line points to the Genio repository which contains all the transformation rules and meta data for the entire solution complex.
The objective of this architecture is to address the challenges of consolidating aggregations across applications, providing for a central point of management for data transformation and efficiently responding to changes in the system as they occur. The approach would seem to have merit, since Genio is currently the leading ETL product in Europe where it has set a number of transformation and loading performance records.

At an annual revenue run rate of approximately $250 million, Hummingbird is one of the few software companies in the BI business with enough critical mass to succeed as an end-to-end BI vendor in the 21st century. How well it integrates the technologies and products of its disparate acquisitions and how well it establishes sufficient market presence will be the determinants of the company's success for the long term. Management seems to be aware of these priorities and is taking steps to address them. For example, Hummingbird is in the process of lining up a cadre of heavy-hitter service partners that will use its technologies as the foundation for analytic applications in both horizontal and vertical markets.

While it may be a bit early to play "I bet my company" on Hummingbird, it certainly ought to be on your short list of vendors to watch in the months ahead.

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