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November 17, 1997updated 03 Sep 2016 7:55pm

RED BRICK BUILDS ITSELF UP AS WEB MART SUPPLIER

By CBR Staff Writer

Red Brick likes to make life simple for its users and has always specialized in the provision of the data store proper, plus all of the tools needed for loading in and managing data, as well as querying the database. But the company has never provided tools for end-user access or conventional data analysis – let alone for web site analysis. So last month’s $11.5m acquisition of two tools and 24 support staff from little known Engage Technologies Inc (CI No 3,238) broke new ground for the specialist database management company in that it provides it with a query and analysis product (Engage Discover) and a data extraction tool (Engage Fusion), which will now offer users the ability to create a web mart. Last year, the company was planning to develop a warehouse for web toolkit, to enable the Red Brick user base to access warehouse information using standard web browsers. Allied to this initiative, this purchase appears to provide Red Brick with a kick-start to developing systems for users wanting to generate very large web marts. Both Engage products have been designed specifically to collect and manage the large quantities of data that can be generated by web sites. So using the products, a company would, in theory, be able to pass log and registration information from its web server(s) to an off-line Red Brick processing engine for integration and transformation into functional data sets or profiles. These could build a targeted database for driving interactive web applications, or a decision support database for ad hoc queries or analysis. Prior to its Engage purchase, Red Brick’s eponymous product did not have all the capabilities needed for a full data mart implementation. The company has already integrated data mining technology from the California-based software vendor, DataMind Inc with the product and, with the acquisition of Fusion and Discover, Red Brick looks to be promising a cohesive set of web mart tools that could be tightly integrated with future generations of its database product. Red Brick is actually no more than a specialist database vendor.

Upwards growth curve

Despite its data mart focus, the company’s main product is still without a full set of end-user tools and the company is reliant on a partnership policy to provide users with integrated warehousing tools. Long-standing partners include Arbor Software Inc, BMC Software Inc, Blyth Software Inc Brio Technology Inc, Business Objects SA and Prism Solutions Inc. Red Brick is promising to integrate Fusion with the current version (5) of the Red Brick Warehouse, by the close of the first quarter of 1998. But the task may not be straightforward. Problems arise in that the metadata repository in Red Brick recognizes relational data whereas for metadata storage, sharing, and management, Fusion and Discover use an object database known as ObjectStore from Object Design Inc. It is crucially important that the metadata generated by the extraction tools and the database engine itself are compatible. And though Red Brick claims many of its customers eagerly await the product, they should be skeptical about whether the company will be able to deliver the schema-level integration which it is talking up. Red Brick’s stock has been buoyed by the Engage Technologies deal, and this, combined with the first profitable quarter the company has had since the fourth quarter of 1996, has meant its share price is now firmly on an upward growth curve. However, Red Brick’s poor sales and marketing track record has cast doubts over the company’s ability to sell the acquired Engage products – something the company is sensitive to, announcing it is to increase its sales and marketing spend from $3.5m to $7.3m. The company has said that it intends to target the Red Brick solution – encompassing the warehouse and acquired front and back-end tools – at certain vertical markets including retail, health care, financial services and telecommunications. But can Red Brick afford to rely on targeting its products at specific verticals to build itself a lucrative niche? Rumors still abound that the company is ripe for acquisition – with NCR the most likely purchaser.

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