The BI battle isn't between IBM and SAS

The little known open source project R may be the disruptor in this billion-dollar market

BusinessWeek and the New York Times have both recently written about the looming battle in the BI market between SAS and IBM. IBM acquired SPSS earlier this year for a relative bargain price of $1.2 billion and has built a significant arsenal through a series of acquisitions in recent years, including Cognos, Exeros, and AlphaBlox. While Oracle has been getting a lot of press for its acquisition strategy, IBM has not exactly been on the sidelines; it's made more than 50 acquisitions (mostly in infrastructure and analytic software) since 2005.

[ Also on InfoWorld, Zack Urlocker investigates disruption in the enterprise: "What does it take to create business disruption?" and "Disruption as a business strategy" | Stay up to speed with the open source community via InfoWorld's Technology: Open Source newsletter. ]

One area of focus for IBM is the $9 billion BI market. Big Blue has plenty of expertise helping customers get more information out of their data, and as BusinessWeek has written, this puts IBM in direct competition with the analysis heavyweight SAS, a $2 billion private software company:

IBM is at the forefront of companies hoping to lure SAS clients that may be looking for an alternative... Over the past five years, IBM has spent $12 billion to acquire 13 companies in data analysis and to beef up its own research and development in that arena... In April, IBM formed a group of 4,000 "business analytics" consultants, which the company expects to yield $2 billion in services revenues next year.

As the New York Times writes, SAS is threatened by IBM and from open source project R:

To be sure, the corporate cocoon in Cary can breed insularity. SAS, for example, was slow to recognize the brewing challenge from free, open-source alternatives to some of its products. A free programming language and set of software tools for statistical computing, called R, has become increasingly popular at universities and labs.

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