Business Objects goes deep

Business Objects either threw down a gauntlet to its competitors or manufactured a heck of a controversy. That seems to be the takeaway from the company's ~$70 million acquisition of data quality specialist Firstlogic.

Business Objects can now credibly trumpet a highly vertical BI stack that runs the gamut from data integration and data management (with its Data Integrator ETL tool, existing data modeling tool and new Firstlogic data quality assets) through bread-and-butter reporting (where Business Objects' Crystal brand is a recognized best-of-breed.) On the other hand, it's not at all clear that customers even want a highly vertical BI stack.

Philip Russom, senior manager of research and services with TDWI, says there's something to recommend both viewpoints. True, Cognos, Hyperion Solutions and MicroStrategy have failed to develop credible data integration strategies. Cognos does have an ETL tool--viz., DecisionStream, which it acquired nearly 8 years ago--and has also partnered with enterprise information integration specialist Composite Software, but hasn't focused nearly as much on data integration as Business Objects. (In addition to Firstlogic, Business Objects also acquired former ETL player Acta Software and EII specialist Medience.)

"Actuate has a more modern data integration strategy than most BI vendors. Leaders in this regard are Business Objects and SAS--[which are] both focused on the BI front end--[along with] possibly IBM, Microsoft and Oracle," although the latter vendors tend to focus on the BI back-end, Russom says. The rub, he says, is that the highly vertical BI stack--at least as envisioned by Business Objects--might be a product vision in search of a market: users haven't yet had a chance to vote with their IT budgets, and (at this point, anyway) it's not clear that going deep (vertical) is the answer for a critical mass of users.

MicroStrategy can join data from multiple sources in its BI tool, but with respect to the heavy lifting of data integration--what Business Objects might call enterprise information management--Mark LaRow, VP of products for MicroStrategy, says that's a job best left to the database vendors. "From our take and from the market's take, the database vendors are truly the people who are heavyweight enough to solve the problem of data integration. It's probably not the purview of the BI vendors to try to solve these problems," he comments.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a contributing editor for Enterprise Systems. He can be reached at [email protected].