Business Objects Acquires Medience
The folding of EII into BI continues as Business Objects grabs Medience
- By Philip Russom
Business intelligence software vendor Business Objects recently announced it will acquire all assets of Medience SA, a startup software vendor that has developed technology for enterprise information integration (EII). Both companies are headquartered in or near Paris, France. The name Medience is a contraction of “mediator and intelligence,” an appropriate name for EII middleware that supports business intelligence (BI).
That’s interesting, but what is this EII stuff?
According to a report from Forrester Research titled “Defining Enterprise Information Integration (EII),” EII is: “an umbrella term that arches over a collection of technologies and best practices for providing custom views into multiple data sources as a way of integrating data and content for real-time read and write access by applications.” This definition is aggressive and no longer accurate, because EII has not lived up to its early expectations for supporting content and write access.
At the other extreme, Gartner, Inc. defines EII as mere “virtual data federation,” which “enables enterprises to create integrated views of data across multiple sources, while leaving the data in place.” The first definition is too lofty to come true, while the second is too narrow to be complete. As usual, the truth is somewhere in the middle.
TDWI takes a more realistic-but-complete position by focusing on the three key technology pieces of EII:
- Tool for designing views: This is where a technical user defines custom views of distributed data, making it all look as if it resides in a single database. Applications or business intelligence tools access data through a view (which is also a run-time platform, not just a design-time tool), greatly simplifying the querying and joining of distributed data.
- Data integration engine: The engine handles connections to data sources (usually through ODBC or JDBC, less often through native gateways or APIs), as well as data transformation and data quality functions.
- Optimizer for distributed queries: The engine must include a query optimizer that specializes in distributed queries. For the sake of performance, optimization may push processing into source databases, cache data in server memory, or persist data to disk. Due to optimization, most EII products can return a joined result set in near real-time.
Several software vendors claim EII capabilities, but not all claims are genuine. Users creating an evaluation list for EII should limit it to vendors who can demonstrate they have the three technology pieces listed above. (For more details, see the article “A Virtual Point of View,” available at http://www.intelligententerprise.com/030405/606decision1_1.jhtml.)
How is EII related to BI?
EII’s focus on simplifying and optimizing distributed queries makes it a good fit with solutions for business intelligence. In fact, certain types of reports are the “killer apps” of EII. Two use cases stand out:
- Operational reporting. Most companies still run operational reports overnight, so that each morning managers see what the company did yesterday. But the trend is toward refreshed reports at noon and close of business, too, which EII’s real-time performance can enable.
- Dashboard reporting. Via EII’s on-demand capabilities, managers can refresh a dashboard or scorecard multiple times daily, to exercise a granular form of business performance management (BPM).
Considering the useful combination of EII and time-sensitive reports, it’s no wonder that BI and EII vendors have struck partnerships. For example, Business Objects has relationships with EII vendors MetaMatrix and Ipedo. IBM, of course, has relationships with almost all BI vendors to show that its WebSphere Information Integrator product works with them all.
Then there’s Composite Software. Owners of Cognos’ ReportNet can download a limited-use license of Composite’s EII product at no additional charge. And Composite’s EII kernel will soon be embedded in Informatica’s PowerCenter, a leading tool for extract, transform, and load (ETL). After all, both ETL and EII are forms of data integration; yet they are complementary, because the former handles bulk data in batch, while the latter handles smaller datasets in real-time.
Where is EII going?
EII solves very specific problems around modeling data views and optimizing distributed queries. While the solutions are highly useful, they amount to a very short list. Therefore, it’s likely that EII will eventually be a specialized collection of functions within larger platforms for integration, database management, and/or BI. In other words, the future of EII as a self-standing product type is unlikely.
In fact, the market is already well on its way to folding EII into BI and other platforms. For example, in 2002 BEA Systems acquired EII vendor Enosys, which today powers the Liquid Data functions within BEA’s application integration platform. In 2003, enterprise reporting vendor Actuate Software acquired EII vendor Nimble Technology, which lives on as the EII option in Actuate’s report server. IBM built its own EII product, which sits atop IBM’s DB2 database management system. Sybase’s recent acquisition of Avaki pursues a similar meld between database and EII.
How do Business Objects and Medience fit into all this?
According to Business Objects representatives, Medience includes the three technology pieces that TDWI requires of a true EII product, plus some data quality functions. Once this product is available to Business Objects’ customers (sometime in 2006), it will give them more options for real-time, cross-database table joins than they currently have. This, in turn, applies well to reports that are run directly against source applications and databases, without an intervening data warehouse.
Business Objects is currently following a product integration strategy that relies strongly on the metadata-driven Universe to integrate BusinessObjects, Crystal, Data Integrator, and other products. In fact, this is one of the advances of the XI release. So, it’s likely that EII will be folded into the Universe or will integrate with other products through it. Even so, Medience has customers who don’t use other Business Object products. So, Business Objects is considering a self-standing version that existing Medience customers and other potential customers could use.
The need for EII among Business Objects’ customers isn’t new, which explains why Business Objects had already defined partnerships with EII vendors MetaMatrix and Ipedo. According to Business Objects representatives, these partnerships will continue as defined – alongside whatever Medience evolves into – giving Business Objects’ customers an array of options for EII technology.