BI platforms get smarter

Business Objects, SAS Institute, and MicroStrategy are bolstering their BI technology in the areas of data integration, analytics, and links to popular desktop applications in order to drive BI from a back-office querying and reporting tool to a front-office mainstream system. These initiatives are aimed to provide an end-to-end infrastructure to liberate BI data locked in operational systems and to enable data to flow to an expanded set of users who can, in turn, make better critical business decisions.

Business Objects is scheduled to unveil a new release of its data integration platform next week. The platform features new support for grid computing, embedded data-cleansing functionality in partnership with Firstlogic, and the first integration with BI tools from Crystal Decisions since Business Objects acquired the company last July. The link with Crystal Decisions will allow users to create a data warehouse or data mart from historical data stored in Crystal reports, said Darren Cunningham, group manager of data integration at Business Objects.

"(Data Integrator 6.5) helps Business Objects' story about providing a more solid overall infrastructure that will support various styles of BI," said Ted Friedman, an analyst at Gartner. "We believe that solid data integration is critical to BI success. The data quality functionality from Firstlogic is important (because) we see a growing demand from our clients for data quality best practices, methodology, and technology."

Friedman added that for true end-to-end BI, Business Objects will need to provide more integration between the platform and its query and reporting capabilities. BI needs a single metadata repository underpinning the entire stack and tools that would support administration and change management throughout, he said.

For its part, SAS Institute unveiled its new SAS 9 business intelligence platform this week that includes data integration, enhanced analytics, and refined user interfaces. SAS 9 data integration supports data quality and a common metadata repository to ensure the reliability of information across IT systems, whereas the ETL (extraction, transformation, and loading) server is designed to cleanse and integrate data.

As companies move from analyzing a snapshot of an ERP, for example, to attempting to glean intelligence from vast streams of data, such as Web site click streams and point-of-sale data, they will need enhanced analytics, said Guy Creese, a research director at Aberdeen Group Inc. SAS 9 features the performance improvements and scalability needed to address these larger records often generated on the edge of the enterprise, he added.

And MicroStrategy will roll out MicroStrategy Office next week, a new product designed to provide any user of Microsoft Office applications a direct connection to BI metadata. The product is designed to eliminate the step of cutting and pasting data from BI applications into Office applications, said Sanju Bansul, COO of MicroStrategy. Instead, the new product leverages Web Services to allow a company to provide its trading partners access to BI data through Office without allowing these outside users to modify any global metadata.

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More about Aberdeen GroupBusiness ObjectsCrystal DecisionsGartnerMicrosoftMicrostrategy AustraliaSASSAS Institute Australia

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