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William McKnight

Hello and welcome to my blog!

I will periodically be sharing my thoughts and observations on information management here in the blog. I am passionate about the effective creation, management and distribution of information for the benefit of company goals, and I'm thrilled to be a part of my clients' growth plans and connect what the industry provides to those goals. I have played many roles, but the perspective I come from is benefit to the end client. I hope the entries can be of some modest benefit to that goal. Please share your thoughts and input to the topics.

About the author >

William is the president of McKnight Consulting Group, a firm focused on delivering business value and solving business challenges utilizing proven, streamlined approaches in data warehousing, master data management and business intelligence, all with a focus on data quality and scalable architectures. William functions as strategist, information architect and program manager for complex, high-volume, full life-cycle implementations worldwide. William is a Southwest Entrepreneur of the Year finalist, a frequent best-practices judge, has authored hundreds of articles and white papers, and given hundreds of international keynotes and public seminars. His team's implementations from both IT and consultant positions have won Best Practices awards. He is a former IT Vice President of a Fortune company, a former software engineer, and holds an MBA. William is author of the book 90 Days to Success in Consulting. Contact William at wmcknight@mcknightcg.com.

Editor's Note: More articles and resources are available in William's BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel. Be sure to visit today!

July 2008 Archives

In a very strategic move for Microsoft’s enterprise goals, they have just announced the purchase of data warehouse appliance vendor Datallegro!

While Microsoft has significantly expanded SQL Server’s scale over the past few years, the perception of its limitations has been somewhere below the “big guys” of Oracle and IBM. And, wherever you believe the scalability of SQL Server has grown to, now undoubtedly the scale of Microsoft solutions goes beyond 100 terabytes. This is the scale that many, myself included, believe accessible data management capabilities need to get to in order to manage the future of telecommunications, retail, healthcare and other transactions and make them available.

Look for Microsoft, and others like myself, to publish reference architectures and guidance on the changeover point from SQL Server to Datallegro (or should we start calling it Microsoft MPP?) as well as integration points.

I have found Microsoft’s integration of its acquisitions to be very above average in terms of making the most of the acquired products. There are too many data appliances and Datallegro was caught up in this frenzy. It has found its way to be a long-term appliance play.

The open source DBMS that Datallegro was using, Ingres, will be scrapheaped over time and replaced by SQL Server. This will take some time, but Microsoft has that. Its customers now can see a plan in action and that will hold them over for a while. Many customers have settled into the “Microsoft zone” of pricing, which is more than open source (duh), but less than its big competitors. Look for Datallegro, likewise, to be in the low (but not “no”) cost points for its capabilities.

Congratulations to the respective teams.


Posted July 24, 2008 1:25 PM
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Some of you have noticed that my bio, above, has changed. Yes, I have completed my employment agreement with Conversion Services International and I have joined Lucidity Consulting Group to lead their information management practice.

A little about my new company and endeavor...

Lucidity has been around for 8 years and has built a solid consultancy based on relationships and results. I've found the people extremely professional and dedicated. Lucidity was rated #8 “Best Companies to Work For” in Texas earlier this year. With over 100 consultants and offices in Dallas, Chicago, Denver and St. Louis, and existing, strong practices in Oracle applications, JD Edwards, Hyperion and Siebel, I have the foundation of a strong team for expansion of the information management capabilities.

My practice will be one that you can count on that can partner with your organizations and I am eager to engage a new set of client challenges. I will have a broad range of full lifecycle skills on board that are needed to assess, plan, analyze, design and build best practices information strategy, data warehouse, business intelligence or master data management environments and, as always, from a vendor-neutral, methodology- and architecture-base.

I'm going to stop here because the blog is not where I have historically got salesy. I know some of you were interested in knowing more about Lucidity.


Posted July 24, 2008 12:48 PM
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I was looking forward to this presentation. However, I must admit, with the plethora of appliance vendors who have hit the market lately and made their way onto client short-cum-long lists, I was more than happy to dismiss NeoView if this data point did not move the story forward several paces. However, Greg Battas addressed NeoView's lack of market penetration and their 'soft roll out' up front. They spent a full year with customers before the announcement in 2007.

HP, as a company, was losing big deals to IBM and Oracle since those 2 had full suites. Back in 2004/2005, Tandem (now part of HP) had built an earlier form of NeoView, but ultimately didn’t go to market with it because they didn’t want to compete with Oracle. That's not an issue now.

The first place to test NeoView was at HP itself, where they have, according to Greg, shut down 500 internal databases in a consolidation project.

HP still lacks in the data access space. Obviously, they were looking at BO and Cognos as well as SAP and Oracle did. They are working closely with Ab Initio for ETL although they're philosophy is less 'load and analyze' and more 'ingest and do things inline.' The philosophy, supposedly manifested in the architecture, is very Operational BI-centric.

NeoView is meant to be a "Teradata killer." However, as Greg pointed out, the road is littered with those who claimed to be "better than Teradata" and still, there's Teradata.

Technorati tags: Business Intelligence, Independent Analyst Platform, HP, NeoView


Posted July 14, 2008 7:44 AM
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Microsoft has so many components to their SQL Server family, the standard pitch on SQL Server never gets old. Awareness is paramount to Microsoft's success as it tries to integrate acqusitions (latest: Tetris, FAST) and keep spreading its wings within existing clients and, really, aren't we all Microsoft clients at some level?

Microsoft's philosophy is "BI should be like electricity, it's just there" and "integrating bi into the world in which people work." This philosophy makes sense in Microsoft's world because Microsoft products are like electricity (i.e., Office). Therefore, BI will surface within the Office environment. For example, there are users of Performance Point who don't know they're using it and think they're just using Excel.

Furthermore, they promote BI in 3 contexts: personal (built by me, used by me), team (built by team, for team) and organizational BI (built by IT for use in company) whereas most vendors only focus on the last context.

Sharepoint is going to be increasingly important for BI. Kristine put it this way: Sharepoint is for delivery, Office/Office PPS 2007 is for end user tools and performance management applications and SQL 2005 is for the RDBMS, ETL, OLAP and reporting.

Finally, I was glad to see some emphasis on, and apparent uptick in usage of, data mining in SQL Server, which could be instrumental in taking information exploitation to new levels.

Technorati tags: Business Intelligence, Independent Analyst Platform, Microsoft, SQL Server


Posted July 11, 2008 8:37 AM
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What I liked about the Kalido presentation was that a demonstration was given (that worked) in a short amount of time. I think Bill Hewitt, CEO, has an excellent grasp of the market. Like many of the products at the IAP, I have worked with Kalido.

The modeling tool is very intuitive and graphical and a contrast to ErWin, which is entrenched in our culture. You can download it for free at www.kalido.com/bmcf. Kalido also has a community (http://groups.google.com/group/bmcf), where you can find a number of pre-built models and join the discussion about business-model-driven BI.

In addition to the modeling tool, Kalido has its Dynamic Information Warehouse which, to me, is the backside of the modeling tool - the implementation side, the Universal Information Director, and a Master Data Management tool.

Technorati tags: Business Intelligence, Independent Analyst Platform, Kalido


Posted July 10, 2008 8:06 AM
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This one was mostly an overview of recent incremental updates to Informatica's main product, now at version 8.6. This included one platform for structured and unstructured data, on demand job streams, and real-time integration with a real-time authoring package with Orchestration and Human Workflow managing the overall business process.

Those were great enhancements, but there was more! The Identity Systems acquitision allows Informatica to match names with multiple languages. The Identity systems product is called by IDQ (Informatica Data Quality) but it’s a separate product. This will help identify people at the beginning of processes.

The Itemfield acquisiton allows for conformance to industry standards, i.e., HIPPA, for partner interchange.

The presentation gave a strong nod of acknowlegement to data governance. There's no specific product here, but they are advocating a certain approach. I found it quite complex, however, and could not imagine any of my clients going to such lengths of process.

Overall, Informatica is doing quite well serving their clients with their complete focus on data integration.

Technorati tags: Business Intelligence, Independent Analyst Platform, Informatica


Posted July 9, 2008 9:01 AM
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Composite Software is rolling out their EII appliance, called the Composite Discovery Appliance. It's for enterprise search and utilizes indexes and discovered relationships in the data sources that you train it on. The appliance is actually a blade. Composite Software is embedded into some other more popular large-vendor stack EII products in the market.

Composite attempts differentiation from enterprise search (i.e., Fast and Endeca) through its focus on structured data and their focus on unstructured data.

This is EII and subject to all the pros and cons of that method.

One thing I really liked about this presentation was that they shared the price! Sure, most of the vendors have good and interesting technology, but it's all only worthwhile at a price.

The Composite Discovery Appliance is $150,000 for full use or you can pay $7,500 up front plus $4,000 per month.

I find it interesting that data access is now getting wider. Different methods are emerging with ample, but not obscure, access capabilities. Whereas data access had been an inch wide and a mile deep, now I see some balance emerging in the marketplace (i.e., Composite, IBI) that are balancing that out.

Technorati tags: Business Intelligence, Independent Analyst Platform, Composite Software


Posted July 8, 2008 7:53 AM
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Kevin Quinn gave a convincing presenation about WebFocus’ relevance-cum-dominance in the “super multi user” (my words) space. Why do they do this? Part of it is the deals they craft and their focus on enterprise licensing. Part of it is is the architecture of the product – it’s multi-threaded, not ODBC, and native and you can put the WebFocus server on any platform and it has load balancing and failover capabilities. There is a white paper on why they scale available on the Information Builders web site. I read and recommend it. Finally, the "active reports" feature of Information Builders - highly interactive reporting to Office products and with an easy method of distribution - helps enable the product's scaling.

If “pervasive BI” takes off, IBI could see glory days ahead. One wonders if they’re really well-classified as “business intelligence” (i.e., Gartner Magic Quadrant, etc.) since they really serve a different space – quantity users – and can co-exist with analytical and power users.

Also, IBM distributes Webfocus on the I platform now and it’s more than doubling Webfocus’ reach. Apparently a nice deal for IBI.

As for iWay, IBI’s other product line, it has 300 adapters and has always been a leader there. This is some behind-the-scenes stuff, but iWay also sells directly. Webfocus is its “biggest OEM”.

Technorati tags: Business Intelligence, Independent Analyst Platform, Information Builders


Posted July 7, 2008 12:23 PM
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Only about 10% of BO customers have SAP, but who knows how many SAP customers do not have BO. There is a clear corporate focus on delivering the rest of them to BO. They will do this with a light roadmap, which is to say BO just works on top of SAP. Another focus area is the non-SAP customer, which currently comprises 90% of their customer base. With mostly separated companies, this dual strategy for growth can work.

Also discussed were the plans for SAP Netweaver and incorporating MDM (A2i acquisition) into it as Netweaver MDM, one of the only MDM products with ‘writeback’. Also, a lot of focus was on BO Accelerator - which I’ve blogged about before - to speed up BW performance. One gets the impression it’s supposed to be more than a luxury item for BW. Of course, Crystal Reports remains a focus (BEX moving to Crystal) and Xcelsius was mentioned as their dashboard. I’m a fan of Xcelsius, but it takes a knock here and there for being more of a desktop, than an enterprise, tool.

Technorati tags: Business Intelligence, Independent Analyst Platform, Business Objects


Posted July 6, 2008 12:17 PM
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First off, stepping out of the airport in Phoenix was like stepping into a blast furnace. And I was coming from Dallas, which is not exactly cool this time of year. At a high of 114 and seemingly well over 100 from sunrise to sunset, it was hot in Phoenix! Never mind that stuff about dry heat. Fortunately, we were kept busy and focused in the briefing room.

My fellow attendees were Alec Sharp, Barry Devlin, Beth Gold-Bernstein, Bill Inmon, Claudia Imhoff, Clive Finkelstein, David Loshin, David McGoveran, Gwen Thomas, Jan Henderyckx, John Ladley, John Zachman, Jos van Dongen, Ram Krishnan, Lyndsay Wise, Mark Madsen, Mike Ferguson, Nancy Williams, Peter Aiken, Richard Hackathorn, Rick van der Lans, Shawn Rogers and Stan Locke.

The international flavor of the attendees was evident, as was the strong pedigree of knowledge. I owe a great deal to many of them. Thanks especially to Rick van der Lans for organizing this compact, minimal-fluff education event.

For the speakers, please forgive us for our incessant short-attention span behavior as we typed away while you spoke. It was mostly note taking. There was some detail gathering and cross-checking on the internet and chatting on same in real-time. There were lots of questions and challenges of the speakers, which made for a lively event. (Note to self: forgive this behavior in your classes!)

Some of the questions were about the gap between the vendor’s products and successful implementations of information management, which naturally incorporate stewardship, data quality, governance, metadata, architecture, methodology, process, etc. Vendors are not to be faulted for the lack of such things in their products. These are mostly best practices that people have to add to the product implementations. Vendors can be faulted however if their products are incompatible with these practices and, as is more common, if the products are sold downplaying the need (i.e., as the “silver bullet”).

I think it is somewhat interesting the vendors who chose to attend and present to us. It indicates a confidence in their product sets technically and an eagerness to get the word out. I won’t repeat their marketing messages. I’ve hyperlinked the vendor names below and, at their websites, you can find a lot of that information. I will break out my observations of the vendors into other blog entries.

Vendors: BusinessObjects/SAP, Information Builders, Composite Software, Serena Software, Informatica, Progress, Microsoft, Teradata, Datallegro, Corizon, Lumigent, Kalido, Hewlett-Packard, Pervasive Software, Dataupia and Ingres Corporation.

Technorati tags: Business Intelligence, Independent Analyst Platform


Posted July 5, 2008 12:30 PM
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I’ve noticed a general creep of the term “mashup” into vendor vernacular. However, I wouldn’t necessarily agree that the buzzword buzz is resultant of actual tool implementations of mashup. In the “traditional” sense, mashup is a web application that combines data from multiple sources. Some of the better products in this space are Kapow and Denodo.

I’m at the IAP, which Shawn Rogers has been busily blogging about, receiving numerous product walkthroughs and presentations. At this pace, “mashup” may make it to its crest quicker than the other buzzword terms in my blog title did. And that’s saying something. Remember when everything was CRM (until the term fell out of favor)? Or business intelligence (hey, wait, that’s still true)? Over time, these terms became, or will become, so meaningless so as to really demand definitions and scrutiny at the outset of any conversation.

May I suggest that if you’re combining things, you’re “combining things”, not necessarily doing mashups?

Technorati tags: mashup


Posted July 1, 2008 5:26 PM
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