BI vendor MicroStrategy eyes growth for 2007

MicroStrategy is looking to animation and a new caching architecture as new directions for its BI software in 2007.

When listing its resolutions for 2007, MicroStrategy plans to enhance the visualization and performance capabilities of its business intelligence (BI) software as well as grow its headcount and geographical presence.

"2007 is going to be an exciting year for us," said Sanju Bansal, MicroStrategy's chief operating officer.

The vendor is working closely with Adobe Systems on integrating Adobe's Macromedia Flash authoring tool into new MicroStrategy BI dashboards and visualization. With the vast amounts of information companies are trying to query, the ability to run an animation of all that data could be pretty illuminating. "You could play 30 years of data in five seconds and use it as a launch pad for ideas," Bansal said.

MicroStrategy hopes to demonstrate the Flash animations at its MicroStrategy World user conference taking place from Jan. 22 to Jan. 25 in Las Vegas.

On another front, the vendor is working "very aggressively" on a new 64-bit caching architecture designed to boost the performance of its BI software.

With most of its customers running on Windows, MicroStrategy is looking to take advantage of the capabilities of Microsoft's new 64-bit Vista operating system. The idea is to ensure that when thousands of users are trying to access a data cache at the same time, they all gain access to the information within a few seconds.

Although he notes the trend among application vendors like Microsoft, Oracle and SAP to incorporate more BI functionality into their software, Bansal believes such moves won't negatively impact MicroStrategy's business.

He draws a distinction between the "industrial-strength BI" his company is delivering and the more "departmental BI" delivered by the application vendors. A company that uses Oracle's BI software departmentally wouldn't use that same technology to carry out reporting and querying of its 2T-byte data warehouse, he said.

Bansal welcomes open-source BI players such as Pentaho and JasperSoft. "The rising tide does lift all boats," he said. "Users will start with open source and move to MicroStrategy for more serious BI."

MicroStrategy's main competitors are Cognos and Business Objects, a situation Bansal expects to continue. He declined to speculate on which vendors might be acquired as a result of ongoing consolidation in the BI market, but doubts that MicroStrategy will be one of them.

"Myself and CEO Michael Saylor have majority voting control of the equity of the company. There's no way we could be taken over against our will; it would have to be consensual," he said. "That's not true for Business Objects, Hyperion and Cognos; they're relatively defenseless against a hostile takeover."

MicroStrategy has something of a checkered past. The company went public in 1998, with its stock soaring during the dot-com boom -- trading once reached US$3,300 in 2000 -- only to spectacularly flame out following the revelation of massive accounting irregularities and shares plummeted as low as US$4.20 in 2002. After resolving an investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and numerous class-action lawsuits, the company cut staff and operations and battled losses.

Over the past few years, MicroStrategy has got back on track and puts revenue for the most recent 12 months at around US$300 million. Having rebuilt its North American and European operations, the vendor is now ready to focus on Asia-Pacific. MicroStrategy plans to build up its sales and distribution operations in the region particularly in China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Singapore and South Korea, Bansal said.

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