Business Objects Updates ETL Tool

New features for Oracle databases, data quality capabilities, and integration with Crystal Enterprise highlight new release

Last week, Business Objects SA unveiled a new version of its Data Integrator ETL tool. Company officials say Data Integrator 6.5 boasts a bevy of goodies, including new change-capture features for Oracle databases and optional data quality capabilities via an agreement with Firstlogic.

For some prospective users, however, the product’s new integration with Business Objects’ Crystal Enterprise will probably be its most attractive feature. Thanks to a new wizard-based Data Mart Accelerator for Crystal Reports, users can build ETL jobs that populate data marts with information from existing Crystal report instances and data content.

“A lot of Crystal Enterprise Customers are using Crystal for enterprise reporting, and what we’ve found is that many of them don’t have a proper infrastructure for analytical style of reporting … in a majority of cases, they don’t actually have a data warehouse,” says Darren Cunningham, product marketing manager for Data Integrator. “So what Data Integrator [6.5] is now able to do is read all of that history and all of the complex formulas within that report and pull that into the data warehousing environment.”

Elsewhere, Business Objects has partnered with data-quality specialist Firstlogic to support data cleansing by means of integration between Data Integrator and Firstlogic’s Information Quality Suite.

“We have been working quite closely with Firstlogic over the last number of months to integrate their data cleansing technology and really embed it into the Data Integrator environment,” Cunningham explains. The result, he says, is that customers are “able to use Data Integrator Designer and they won’t be able to know that it’s Firstlogic under the cover. We have pre-built a number of their name and address transforms into our library.”

Business Objects also introduced several core enhancements in the new Data Integrator release, Cunningham says. “We’re introducing the ability for designers to troubleshoot and identify problems in the data all the way through the ETL process, interactive debugging that allows you to trace a row of data all the way through and after the transformation,” he notes. In addition, Data Integrator 6.5 boasts enhancements to the data profiling features that Business Objects delivered in the previous version of the product: “In the last release, we introduced data profiling, and this has been expanded to include this notion of interactive debugging of your ETL jobs.”

Another new addition is support for grid computing, which Cunningham says enables customers to tie together multiple machines to handle complex ETL jobs.

After it acquired ETL pure-player Acta Technologies almost two years ago, Business Objects rebranded Acta’s ActaWorks ETL technology as Data Integrator. Since then, the BI powerhouse has introduced two revs of the Data Integrator product, starting with Data Integrator 6.0 in January 2003, and expanded its capabilities and feature set. Although Acta was primarily known as an SAP specialist, Business Objects has expanded Data Integrator to support a variety of different application and database environments, including Oracle, PeopleSoft, Siebel, and J.D. Edwards.

With the new Data Integrator 6.5 release, Cunningham says, Business Objects plans to start pushing the product as an OEM solution. “This is an area that Crystal has a very strong history of addressing, with embedding their technology, and we’re starting to see a lot of interest in being able to embed Data Integrator into other applications,” he maintains.

Cunningham believes that Data Integrator could find some traction as an ETL tool in non-Business Objects environments—some users of the former ActaWorks ETL tool have stayed with Data Integrator even though they’re running BI solutions from Cognos or Hyperion, he notes—but says that Business Objects’ BI stack is always going to be its most compelling value proposition. “We’re probably not going to be going in [to most shops] trying to sell only our data integration. Our most compelling value proposition is always going to be our strong integration with the business intelligence technology,” he concludes.

Mike Schiff, a senior analyst with consultancy Current Analysis, says that Data Integrator 6.5 provides a good opportunity for Business Objects to cultivate new revenue outside of its bread-and-butter BI product base. In addition, he suggests, Business Objects’ strong track record with Data Integrator bodes well for its Crystal acquisition. “The continuing evolution of the acquired data integration product under Business Objects’ watch and its integration with Business Objects’ product portfolio bodes well for the continuing support, evolution, and integration of the more recently acquired Crystal Decisions product set as well,” he comments, concluding that Data Integrator 6.5 “augments an already highly competitive battlefield with another serious competitor.”

About the Author

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