Business Objects, Cognos beef up reporting

On Tuesday Cognos will formally unveil ReportNet, a query and reporting engine that has been written to support Web services, Java, and XML. At the same time, Business Objects will unveil Version 6.1 of its Enterprise business intelligence suite of applications.

While Enterprise 6.1 will offer better data integration with Business Objects' ETL (Extraction Transformation and Load) platform, deeper impact analysis on changes to the source system that can be displayed on scorecards and dashboards, and improved analysis capability over the Web, it is Cognos' ReportNet that industry analysts are hailing as an important breakthrough.

With ReportNet, Cognos is putting itself at the forefront of BI vendors by combining business reporting and production reporting into a single application and by writing the code to support Web services, according to David Folger, vice president of Enterprise Analytics for Meta.

"They have built a product that covers everything from ad hoc queries against a database to end-user reporting to production reporting all in one product line. Up until now, it took multiple products to do that and they were usually somewhat incompatible," said Folger.

Making ReportNet Web service-enabled is the direction that most of the BI industry is headed, but Cognos is the first to really get there, Folger added.

"BI products have been built before the Web and have been kluged and re-kluged and (BI) companies need to redo things. Cognos has done that," Folger said.

By designing ReportNet to extend the report building capability to more people within an organization, which includes report recipients, consumers, and business authors, the burden of creating reports will not fall back onto the IT shop, according to Michael Branchaud, director of product marketing at Cognos.

The SOAP-based architecture exposed through service calls will also expand the application's ability to integrate "at a granular level" with third-party applications, according to Branchaud.

Cognos also included native support for SAP BW (Business Warehouse) and support for SAP's iView portal interface, and has full BAPI certification.

By way of comparison with ReportNet, Folger called Business Objects a good next step.

"It's not a dramatic change over 6.0, but it should help get to the next level of acceptance," Folger said.

Nevertheless, one enterprise-level manager found 6.1 to offer dramatic gains in its applications reporting function.

"Our reports are showing a 35 percent gain in response time," said Tom Nether, senior systems analyst for Penske Logistics.

Nether also ticked off two other improvements in the current version: an easier GUI navigation and the fact that the same set of servers used for Penske's intranet can be used for its extranet to suppliers.

According to Darryn Cunningham, director of marketing for Business Objects, Enterprise 6.1 also gives end-users the ability to analyze data stored in OLAP cubes over the Web.

Although Folger at Meta found Cognos' ReportNet reporting functionality to be a "more complete Web implementation" than Enterprise 6.1, Folger also said that with the acquisition of Crystal Decisions, Business Objects has a huge installed base while Cognos is in essence trying to gain the attention of the enterprise with a brand-new application.

Cognos ReportNet is available now, as is Business Objects Enterprise 6.1.

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