A few weeks ago I had an interesting email conversation with Nick Goodman and Julian Hyde after Nick noticed that the XMLA Council’s web site which used to be at www.xmla.org now redirects to a site ‘brought to you by Simba Technologies’. Now I have nothing against Simba – in fact they have a number of interesting products – but the lack of an independent web site highlights the fact that the XMLA Council is in effect dead, having not met (so I understand) for several years now. A few days later I saw Andrew Wiles had blogged on this topic too:
As Andrew points out, at present XMLA interoperability is something of a myth. There are a few tools that do manage it such as Rex which, unlike Mosha, I was able to use successfully against AS2005 as well as Mondrian although it’s probably not worth the bother (it’s nowhere near as good as SQL Management Studio for running MDX queries). JPivot is another open source tool that claims to work against AS and Mondrian but although I know other people have got it working against AS2K (see for example here: http://forums.pentaho.org/showthread.php?t=49954) and AS2005 I’ve never been able to do so against AS2005 despite several hours of effort. The only commercial product that works against multiple platforms that I’ve had experience of is Panorama (though I know there are others out there), and as this blog entry suggests it’s been a hard slog for them to work with SAP’s bizarre implementation of MDX.
I guess what happened with the XMLA Council is that like a lot of initiatives like this there was an initial burst of enthusiasm that dissipated once its ideals came into conflict with the demands of real-world product development. I know it’s pie-in-the-sky to expect perfect cross-platform interoperability but I think the present situation could be made a lot better and I think the time has come to resurrect the XMLA Council – and I think it’s up to Microsoft to take the lead on this. I don’t want to suggest that Microsoft have some kind of moral obligation to do this as de facto owners of the spec, rather that while everyone would benefit from increased interoperability Microsoft would benefit most. The first reason why is that the XMLA-compatible client tool market is dominated by tools that work against AS and which are sold by Microsoft partners, and they would be able to expand their potential customer base to support other servers like SAP BW and Essbase. More importantly though, the client tool that everyone really wants to use is Excel and if it were possible to hook Excel 2007 up to other OLAP engines then it would cement its position as the BI client tool of choice. Reporting Services’ support for SAP BW and Essbase shows that Microsoft are interested in supporting competing OLAP tools so is it unrealistic to expect Excel could support the same platforms?