IT calls for enterprise integration-BI link

Corporate users are increasingly pairing enterprise information integration (EII) technology with business intelligence tools to bolster their efforts to use real-time transaction data to make day-to-day operating decisions.

BI vendors are aligning their products with those of EII vendors to meet user demand to augment historical information in a data warehouse. The EII tools can be used to federate data by providing a single point of access across disparate systems.

For example, Composite Software this week will unveil Version 3.0 of its Composite Information Server, adding intelligent querying technology for formulating an optimum aggregation plan in real time. New optimisation features are designed to evaluate data shapes and the cost of running complex queries against more data sources in less time, said Jim Green, chairman and CEO.

BI vendor Cognos this month said it will embed Composite's server in its reporting tools. Ottawa-based Cognos also said this month that its reporting tools will interoperate with integration software from Ascential Software.

San Jose-based Business Objects and EII vendor Attunity this month signed a joint development and marketing agreement to allow users to update a data warehouse or data mart in real time. Business Objects has similar alliances with MetaMatrix and IBM.

BI vendors are responding to growing user interest in EII tools, particularly to access a variety of data stores, said Colin White, president of BI Research in Ashland, Ore.

Motorola recently finalised plans to standardise on technology from Boston-based MetaMatrix to build an EII layer into its enterprise architecture, said Toby Redshaw, corporate vice president of IT strategy at Motorola.

"Most large companies have a bucket of legacy spaghetti, (and) the promise of BI is diluted because of the difficulty of getting to the spaghetti," he said. "Without a tool that lets you quickly interrogate these things, normalise data and express it a layer above the spaghetti, you're doing a lot of heavy lifting."

Beachwood, Ohio-based Penske Logistics uses technology from Attunity and Business Objects to offer its customers more real-time information on delivery or pickup times, said Thomas Nather, a senior systems analyst at Penske.

"It opens up another venue for BI," he said. "To keep inventory low, you have to know where the rolling inventory is."

Owens Corning, a Toledo, Ohio-based manufacturer of building materials, uses integration technology from Ascential combined with Kalido's BI software to generate daily gross margins from multiple ERP systems, said Klaus Mikkelsen, Owens Corning's global development leader.

Before using the joint solution, the company could only access margin information monthly. "Now, we have the ability to generate gross margin information every day, giving us 365 opportunities for course correction," he said.

NStar, a Boston-based electric and gas utility, uses Ascential's QualityStage integration software to transform real-time customer location data into reference data for dispatchers analyzing service outages.

That data can also be used in combination with BI tools for later analysis of maintenance work and improvements that are needed in the utility's distribution system, said Mannie Goldberg, NStar's director of data resource management.

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