Business Objects Updates Next-Gen BI Suite—Again

Enterprise 6.1 finally delivers on the promise of ETL

When is a next-generation release of a major business intelligence (BI) suite not quite a next-generation release of a major BI suite? When it ships only four months after its next-generation predecessor, of course.

Business Objects SA recently introduced Enterprise 6.1, an upgrade to its next-generation Enterprise 6 suite, which the company announced in late April (see (http://info.101com.com/default.asp?id=1272 for details). Just four months ago, analysts said Enterprise 6 was probably Business Objects’ most important product release since the company unveiled its Business Objects 5.0 decision support system in 1999.

There’ve been a few changes since then, however. For starters, Business Objects picked up enterprise reporting specialist Crystal Decisions Inc. this July for a cool $820 million (http://info.101com.com/default.asp?id=2252). Don’t get your hopes up, however: The new Enterprise 6.1 release doesn’t feature any of Crystal’s products or technologies. Instead, Business Objects says that the upgraded suite packs several new features, including an enhanced user dashboard, better integration among its constitutive components, improved data analysis capabilities, and an enhanced training application.

What are we to make of Enterprise 6.1, then? One less-than-ideal upshot, suggests Mike Schiff, a senior analyst with consultancy Current Analysis Inc., is that Business Objects’ competitors could make the argument that it rushed Enterprise 6 to market in April.

That’s not a view endorsed by Schiff, who notes that a significant value-add of the new release is a substantially revamped Data Integrator 6.1 extraction, transformation, and loading (ETL) tool, which boasts enhanced access to Oracle Applications, along with native support for Teradata Warehouse Builder.

What’s especially notable about this, Schiff suggests, is that Business Objects has now started to deliver additional enhancements on top of technology that it acquired only last summer from ETL specialist Acta. After the Acta purchase, Business Objects quickly released another generation of rapid data marts “to show that they could keep things going,” Schiff says, but the new Data Integrator 6.1—which also boasts a revamped parallel-processing architecture for ETL processes and data movement tasks—demonstrates that Business Objects hasn’t just assimilated, but has also enhanced, the Acta technologies.

“The bigger message here is the fact that they can acquire technology and then subsume and integrate it. There are a lot of skeptics out there, but the fact is that they have a good track record with this,” he argues. “They bought Acta, before that they bought Blue Edge [Software] and [Action Technology’s] AnswerSet. They have been successful in assimilating and productizing these companies.”

This success bodes well, Schiff says, as Business Objects undertakes its biggest and most important acquisition to date, Crystal. Although the deal hasn’t yet closed, Schiff expects that Crystal’s products will be quickly re-branded under the Business Objects umbrella and that the company will tout some degree of integration—such as a consistent user interface—between Crystal’s tools and the other Enterprise 6.1 applications.

Elsewhere in Enterprise 6.1, Business Objects says it revamped the suite’s WebIntelligence thin client ad hoc query and reporting component to more effectively exploit the online analytical processing (OLAP) capabilities in major relational databases from IBM Corp. and Oracle Corp. It also features a new Knowledge Accelerator application that makes it easier to train new users and get them rapidly up to speed on Enterprise 6.1 enhancements.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.