There's more than meets the eye with the latest integration software Business Objects released Tuesday.
As anticipated, Data Integrator 6.5 tightens family ties between its hallmark analytical software and its Crystal Decision acquisition. Where the business intelligence (BI) vendor entered unexpected territory is its head-to-head competition against Ascential Software and Informatica--the acknowledged leaders in extract, transform and load (ETL) tools for the BI market. When combined with its analytical tools and ubiquitous reporting software, courtesy of Crystal Decision, the integration piece provides a trifecta of capabilities the company hopes will transform it into the powerhouse of the BI industry.
"We are often seen as just a front-end specialist, but we want our partner community to know that this is something we now provide," said Darren Cunningham, director of data integration product marketing at the San Jose, Calif.-based company. "We now can deliver a complete solution all the way from sourcing the data from different systems to making it ready for the end user and delivering it up to dashboards, scorecards and reporting tools."
Business Objects' more-rounded product strategy represents the first step in the company's tactics to become a world leader in the BI market. In February, Business Objects Chairman and CEO Bernard Liautaud told analysts the company aims to "become one of the top 15 [global] software companies in the next three years."
Data Integrator 6.5 comprises realtime and batch technologies via the company's acquisition of Acta Technology, along with data cleansing and profiling functions licensed from Firstlogic, La Crosse, Wis. The embedded Firstlogic technologies enable developers to, for instance, compare data pulled from different sources, quantify data defects and scrub data to remove inconsistencies and orphan records. Additional data quality functions include the ability to visually locate workflows, dataflows and datastores, as well as track how frequently users access different resources, down to the table level.
Business Objects has improved its software's performance by adding parallel ETL processing and support for grid computing. While grid computing denotes a variety of capabilities, depending on the vendor, Business Objects defines it as moving ETL jobs to available servers on the network. "The system will intelligently know which server is maxed out and push the job to a server with free capacity," Cunningham said. "The difference between this and a cluster is no one node manages all of the others, so there's no single point of failure."
The company has also added interactive debugging and error trapping to the integration software. "Business Objects has made significant changes in performance, profiling and debugging code," said Eric Shepherd, senior consultant at Axis Group, a BI consultancy in Short Hills, N.J. "It enables the construction of a repository, and then tells the analytical software all of the items in that repository without our having to manually describe that data universe. It seems like they are investing a lot of time and money to making this a better overall solution."
Part of that overall solution is the Crystal Decisions reporting software, the product of Business Objects' $800 million acquisition completed this past December. The new version of Data Integrator now enables business users to create data marts directly from their Crystal reports. Cunningham said this has become an issue as Crystal customers increasingly tend to store their data snapshots within their reports. Now with Data Integrator, they can view complete histories of their data, drill for deeper understanding and see trends.
"Business Objects already has a large client base with its analytical software and its Crystal reporting software," Shepherd said. "Now they can tout the integration aspects of their tools. They clearly aim to be a force in the market."