Hyperion challenges MS’ Plato

Newly merged Hyperion Solutions unveiled plans for the fast-growing financial analysis market this week, challenging Oracle and Microsoft’s long-awaited Plato database.

The merger between Hyperion and Arbor Software, ratified two weeks ago, brings together two big-hitters in the financial applications world. Hyperion is the acknowledged market leader in the emerging planning and budgeting applications sector – the collection and analysis of data from enterprise resource planning systems and data warehouses.

Arbor’s best-known product, the Essbase multidimensional database, links to datawarehouse systems and sits on top of financial systems such as Lawson, IBM and Peoplesoft.

With a market capitalisation of $1.3bn (#800m) in May, over 4,000 clients worldwide – including Bay Networks and NatWest group – and 300 solution partners, Hyperion Solutions has a strong client base. By 2001, analysts have forecast that the analytic application market will be worth around $6.3bn.

Tony Speakman, UK director of marketing for Hyperion Solutions, said that its products will appeal to finance directors as well as the IT department.

‘The challenge for executives is to make sense of their data from their general ledger or human resources, coming from ERP systems,’ he said.

‘Our reporting and analysis tools can help reduce internal costs and keep an eye on market developments.’

It has not been a marriage of equals, though. Hyperion’s annual sales of $270m dwarf Arbor’s $82m – reflected in a four to three equity split in favour of Hyperion.

Speakman denied that the merger will trigger job cuts: ‘The reason for merging was because both companies were growing quickly. There is no dominant player and we’ll be recruiting additional people.’

Over the next few months, the two firms will integrate UK sales and marketing teams.

Speakman said Oracle was its strongest rival, due to its database strength and impressive range of applications.

But in the autumn, Hyperion Solutions will have to contend with Microsoft’s own much-anticipated on-line analytical processing database server, codenamed Plato.

Speakman was keen to put a positive spin on the Microsoft competition: ‘Arbor is the market leader in OLAP and all the attention Microsoft is getting is legitimising the market.’

He added that the company would consider using the Plato technology as a possible platform in the future.

John Tate, MD of accountancy software reseller Tate Bramald, which advises companies on implementing such technology, highlighted its pitfalls, however: ‘Successful implementations of OLAP are few and far between due to the different systems you need to integrate and the sheer scale of management problems.’

‘Microsoft threatens to take over the new market on cost offering alone.

The competition should be terrified,’ he added.

But John Watton, Oracle UK marketing director for datawarehousing, rejected the view that Microsoft will dominate the OLAP market: ‘The Microsoft Sequel server for its relational database has not dominated the market.

We have a larger market share. It also doesn’t have enough experience in managing data in large corporations.’

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