Business Objects offers BI software on-demand

It will be available first for customers using Salesforce.com apps

Business Objects SA has begun rolling out a full suite of business intelligence (BI) software in the form of an online service, initially for customers using Salesforce.com Inc. applications.

The service allows customers to use Business Objects' BI tools without having to maintain the software themselves or buy extra servers on which to run it. The company loads the customer's data to a data center and creates a data warehouse for them, and employees access the data and BI applications through a browser.

Business Objects took its first steps in on-demand software last April with the release of Crystalreports.com for sharing reports online. That service has attracted about 50,000 customers, the company said. The new service announced today, called Intelligence OnDemand, includes a broader set of applications for formatted reporting, running ad hoc queries and analysis, and displaying BI "dashboards" on a user's desktop.

The first version of the service, available now, is for customers who have data stored in Salesforce.com's online CRM applications.

"We started with Salesforce.com because, obviously, its customers are on-demand-friendly," said Steve Lucas, a Business Objects vice president. In the next six to 12 months, Business Objects will offer services for other back-end systems, he said. They are likely to include big applications from vendors such as Oracle Corp. and SAP AG.

The service is priced at $99 per user per month, plus a one-time activation fee depending on the volume of customer data, Lucas said. The activation fee for up to 250GB is $15. There are also implementation service fees negotiated individually with customers.

The service is aimed at sales and marketing staffs and business analysts at companies with a high volume of Salesforce.com data. It includes on-demand versions of its Crystal Reports, Crystal Xcelsius and Web Intelligence products. The service is only in English today but will eventually be localized for French, Japanese and other languages, Lucas said.

Business Objects has staked out an early lead in on-demand BI, although SAS Institute Inc. and some smaller BI vendors are also getting into the game.

Proponents of such services say they help customers cut costs because the customers don't have to manage applications themselves or buy servers on which to run them. Business Objects said its new service will take the "heavy lifting" out of building and maintaining a data warehouse. The trade-off is that customers must trust a third party to look after and provide access to their sensitive corporate data.

Business Objects' data hosting partner, Opsware Inc., recently announced plans to be acquired by Hewlett-Packard Co. Lucas said it was "very rare" for customers to express concerns about their data being hosted by a third party.

The new service is being unveiled to coincide with the start of Salesforce.com's Dreamforce user conference in San Francisco. Some more information is at Business Objects new OnDemand Web site.

The company also opened an online store where customers can buy external market information, such as sales data for other companies' products, and include it in their data analysis. The information comes from firms such as Thomson Financial, eBay Inc. and The Dun & Bradstreet Corp. Customers can buy individual reports starting at $150 or sign up for a subscription.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

  
Shop Tech Products at Amazon