The acquisitions of Tandem Computer and Digital Equipment Corporation are about to vault Compaq into the top rank of players in the data warehousing/decision support market. Although at this writing the operations of Digital and Compaq are not yet integrated, Compaq and Tandem have joined forces and begun a process designed to position Compaq as an industry leader. Digital will add to the mix and immensely strengthen Compaq's position in the DSS business.

This quarter, Tandem and Compaq boldly announced a new statement of direction:

Compaq's goal is to be the leading provider of value-added decision support solutions--from data marts to enterprise warehouses and packaged to integrated solutions.

Heady stuff. The strategy, according to Compaq, is to provide solutions offering customers lower risk and simpler management at less cost. It intends to accomplish these noble goals "by providing a range of software and service products that supports data warehousing from the planning phase through implementation and ongoing management and by integrating business functions into single applications."

My translation of the above verbiage is that Compaq, Tandem and eventually Digital are marching lockstep and headlong into the valley of solutions. In the vanguard of the marchers, one finds the "solution partners." No doubt the same ones trailing along in the wake of the IBM, NCR and various other hit parades. Sorry folks, nobody ever said that distinguishing between vendors would be easy.

Nonetheless, Compaq/Tandem has a suite of programs on the drawing board with which they hope to achieve some measure of differentiation. These are referred to as pretested recipes and include tools such as the DSS System Tuner, the DSS Configuration Sizer and the DSS Performance Manager. (Personally, I love these product names because I don't have to waste words describing what they do!) Along with these tools, Compaq/Tandem has also announced three integrated solutions kits which are: Customer Relationship Marketing, Insurance Claims Analysis and Credit Card Marketing.

Anybody reading this article might logically conclude that these companies are abandoning their core hardware businesses in favor of software and services, but Compaq et al assure us that this is not the case. In fact, when it comes to hardware platforms, Compaq will offer more choices than any company in the world with the possible exception of IBM. Departments and small businesses will be running on the NT-based servers you buy out of a catalog; mid-size businesses can run on ProLiant servers with up to eight processors; macho users can go for the Tandem Himalaya line which can handle terabyte+ databases; and, pretty soon, the noble DEC systems will enter the mix with an entire range of Alpha-based platforms (from under $5,000 to over $5 million) running your choice of NT, UNIX or OpenVMS. Users will also be able to cluster or otherwise interconnect these systems via a wide choice of interconnect technologies ranging from Ethernet to ServerNet.

When it comes to software partners, Compaq's position as a premier systems vendor gives it access to basically any company it wants to have a relationship with. It can simply pick and choose its partners whenever it sees a business advantage to doing so. In the DBMS arena, for example, Compaq is currently supporting Oracle and Microsoft in addition to its own NonStop SQL. It could easily add others such as Red Brick or Informix when and if customer demand warrants it.

The front-line troops for enterprise-class DSS solutions, however, are the service vendors--the people that pull it all together and make it happen for the end user. Compaq/Tandem currently has a fair amount of vertical and horizontal expertise in its Directional Consultants organization, but that organization will be immeasurably strengthened worldwide when Digital's service business is integrated with it. Like everyone else, Compaq will have relationships with the Big 4 or 5 and other major service firms such as EDS. These relationships will, in turn, attract the best VARs and systems integrators, most of whom are already in the Compaq camp.

In short, Compaq is in the process of pulling together all of the pieces it will need to be an international leader in the data warehousing/decision support business. Compaq, the parent, has deep pockets, distribution, brand recognition and one of the world's premier distribution channel infrastructures. Tandem brings several world-class, enterprise-level technologies including its Himalaya MPP systems, fault tolerant know-how, the ServerNet interconnect and a wealth of experience and software aimed at managing terabyte-size databases. Digital is already an important player in the enterprise warehousing/DSS market and will bring to the party its own hardware and software suites together with one of the world's largest IT service organizations. By the end of this year, Compaq will undoubtedly be on everybody's short list of the world's leading data warehousing/DSS vendors.

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