Business Objects Upgrades Enterprise

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Business Objects SA on Wednesday debuted a major upgrade to its core business intelligence software suite, with enhancements ranging from new data warehouse technology and end-to-end metadata management to scalability and performance improvements.

The new release, Enterprise 6, addresses demands from buyers for business intelligence tools that can be deployed on an enterprise scale. The product could also give Business Objects' software-license sales a boost. The company reported Wednesday that while first-quarter sales were up 10 percent year over year, to $118.5 million, license fees, a key indicator of future growth, were down nearly 11 percent.

Enterprise's architecture has been overhauled for faster calculations and report generation and to better support deployments within companies to thousands, even tens of thousands of users, the company says. The latter is particularly important given that business intelligence tools are being more widely deployed throughout companies. Some customers that installed earlier versions of WebIntelligence, the suite's Web-based query and reporting tool, ran into scalability limitations, said Ventana Research analyst Mark Smith.

But financial services firm Morgan Stanley, a Business Objects user for about three years, already has deployed WebIntelligence to nearly 20,000 managers, brokers and sales assistants. "It's always been very scalable," said Vice President Michael Strachan. "That's always been one of WebIntelligence's strengths."

Morgan Stanley uses the software to provide workers with reports about clients, revenue and assets, and sales opportunities. The firm already has the new release running on clustered servers, which makes it easier to distribute workloads, and this week it will begin training instructors who, in turn, will train users, Strachan said.

The new WebIntelligence release within the suite now has feature parity with the client-server version of Business Objects' query and reporting tool, the vendor says. That includes the ability to create reports with multiple formats and save them to Microsoft Excel and Adobe Acrobat PDF. Other new capabilities include sophisticated user-defined calculations and report component templates.

"[Enterprise 6] delivers full client capabilities to the WebIntelligence software," said David Muller, senior director of information strategies at Ingram Micro. The computer-products distributor has 1,400 Business Objects users, about 600 on WebIntelligence and many of them working remotely. "So Web access is critical," he said. The employees use the Business Objects software with a Sybase Adaptive Server IQ data warehouse for a wide range of customer- and sales-analysis applications. Ingram Micro has evaluated Enterprise 6 and plans to deploy it in the future, Muller said.

Enterprise 6's new data warehouse capabilities are provided by the data extraction, transformation and loading software Business Objects acquired last year when it bought Acta Technology. Renamed Data Warehouse, the software is fully integrated with the rest of the vendor's product line, including its analytical apps.

New app connectors and end-to-end metadata management features make it easier for IT managers to link Business Objects' software to multiple data sources and provide users with a consistent view of that data--a critical feature as business intelligence moves beyond departmental apps into the enterprise, Ventana's Smith said.

The suite's business intelligence portal is easier to use and supports Excel and PDF formats, while Application Foundation, the core of the vendor's analytical apps, offers new performance metrics. Other additions such as new reporting software and security development kits make it easier to install, deploy and maintain the applications. Morgan Stanley's Strachan says a new report-audit feature allowing him to see which reports employees are accessing, and which ones they're overlooking, will help him better serve users.

Enterprise 6 is available on Windows, with versions for HP-UX, IBM AIX and Sun Solaris scheduled to ship by May 15. Pricing is per server or per user.

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