Business Objects 11 Beta Features Back-End Integration

With competitors claiming that the Crystal acquisition has been a dud, Business Objects preps the next major release of its BI suite

Last week, Business Objects SA trumpeted a beta release of its upcoming Business Objects 11 BI suite.

A major vendor trumpeting the beta availability of an upcoming software release is nothing new, of course, but for Business Objects there’s a lot more at stake. The company has said that Business Objects 11 is the first release in which its own technologies and those of the former Crystal Decisions Inc. are to be tightly integrated, on both the client-side and in the back-end.

“This will be moving the core enabling technology behind our primary query and analysis and performance management and reporting products on to a common integrated infrastructure that borrows a lot of components from the Crystal Enterprise framework, but incorporates the Web engine and the Business Objects universe in such a way that upgrade will be very straightforward for customers,” explained Lance Walter, director of BI platform product marketing for Business Objects, in an interview earlier this year.

Almost from the moment it ponied up more than $800 million for Crystal, Business Objects has been dogged by speculation—much of it fomented by competitors—that it is behind schedule (or otherwise experiencing difficulty) with its Crystal integration efforts.

The BI giant has countered these claims by emphasizing its adherence to a roadmap disclosed in January of this year that called for delivery of an interim release of its end-to-end BI suite (Business Objects 6.5) and a promised Integration Pack (to expose the Business Objects semantic layer to users of Crystal Reports) by the end of Q2, followed by the Business Objects 11 release at the end of this year or early next year. Business Objects made good on the first deliverable at the end of June, just one day before its self-imposed deadline. With the release of the Business Objects 11 beta, officials say, the second deliverable of its three-phased roadmap is also on schedule.

Mike Schiff, a senior analyst with consultancy Current Analysis, has said that the best way for Business Objects to counter the fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) disseminated by its competitors is to execute on its roadmap milestones. “There’s been a lot of FUD out there about Business Objects and Crystal not integrating well, and any time they come out with a new release, it’s like one more milestone. I think it’s still a marriage of winners,” he said, when interviewed about the Integration Pack Business Objects announced in June.

While Business Objects 6.5 and it attendant Business Objects Integration Pack concentrated on front-end integration between both Crystal and Business Objects, Business Objects 11 delivers on integration between back-end components—such as security, scheduling, and the repository. In Business Objects 12, slated for release sometime next year, the company plans to expand the functionality of current products and introduce additional integration for common components and services.

Business Objects has stated that many of its customers are also users of products from the former Crystal Decisions, which isn’t surprising considering just how pervasive Crystal Report is. Even so, joint users of both products are eagerly awaiting the integration Business Objects has pledged to deliver.

Take Jonathan Rothman, director of data management with healthcare services provider Emergency Medical Associates (EMA). The company uses an Oracle data warehouse that pulls data from Crystal repositories deployed at 16 customer sites scattered through New York and New Jersey. At the moment, Rothman taps an ETL solution to extract data from Crystal and load it into its Oracle database on a nightly basis, which effectively lets EMA refresh its data warehouse every 24 hours.

With the integration Business Objects has promised in its upcoming version 11 release, Rothman expects to be able to publish data directly from Crystal out to Business Objects users via the Business Objects Application Framework (AF): “I am excited about the fact that Crystal Reports can take advantage of the Business Objects universes, but I I’m even more excited about being able to post Crystal Reports directly on AF.”

About the Author

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