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BI Consolidation Continues as Hyperion Acquires Brio

Less than a week after Business Objects acquired enterprise-reporting specialist Crystal Decisions, Hyperion Solutions countered by snapping up Brio Software.

Hyperion announced last week that it was acquiring Brio, a developer of enterprise reporting software, for $142 million. Brio’s price tag, while steep, is a bargain compared to the $830 million that Business Objects shelled out for Crystal.

Crystal’s acquisition by Business Objects was unexpected, but Brio has been the subject of take-over speculation for some time. In its January BI market assessment, for example, Gartner said that Brio and several other BI vendors were “weak and vulnerable to attacks from competitors.” In a March interview, Gartner analyst Kevin Strange even went so far as to speculate that, “Brio is a possible takeover candidate … probably before the end of the year.”

"Brio had embraced BPM [business performance management]—which is Hyperion’s strategy—and offers a good metrics management tool to boot,” notes Wayne Eckerson, director of research at The Data Warehousing Institute (TDWI).

So if Brio was in the offing, why didn’t Business Objects snap it up at one-sixth the price? According to Eckerson, Crystal simply had more to offer: “I suspect that Business Objects wanted not only best-of-breed products but a best-of-breed organization, with robust sales channels, developers, etc."

Mike Schiff, a senior analyst with consultancy Current Analysis, says that Hyperion’s move probably saved Brio from ultimate demise. “In its former glory days, Brio was considered the ‘forgotten BI player’ … but was respected by those who knew it for its ease of deployment and early adoption of a Web-based architecture,” Schiff notes. “However, in the past few years it had suffered from management turnover, staff reductions, and financial disappointments that made many companies reluctant to even consider its technology.”

Schiff is optimistic that Brio’s technology will be enhanced by Hyperion, which, he notes, notched over half-a-billion dollars in revenue during its most recent fiscal year—and posted a profit. “[Hyperion] is one of the few BI vendors to credibly claim success in both the analytic applications and tools segments.” Hyperion will use Brio’s products in place of Crystal Enterprise and Crystal Reports, which it now OEMs for use with its Essbase XTD OLAP platform.

Because Brio and Hyperion have a pre-existing relationship (Brio Performance Suite and several generations of its predecessors can natively access Essbase), Schiff points out that users shouldn’t be inconvenienced.

For his part, TDWI’s Eckerson sees the deal as a largely positive deal for Hyperion, which is trying to recast itself as a BPM vendor. “Hyperion [now] owns its own BI tools, which is a good thing. And even though it says it’s a BPM company, not a BI company, you can’t do BPM without BI. So it was critical for them long-term to own the tools which form the basis of [their BPM applications and BI platform]. So this is much more of a pure technology acquisition than the BO/Crystal deal.”

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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