Business Objects offers BI software on-demand

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

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Business Objects has started to roll out a full suite of business intelligence (BI) software in the form of an online service, initially for customers using Salesforce.com 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. Business Objects maintains a copy of each customer's data in its own datacentres, and employees access the data and BI applications through a web 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 Monday, 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 is for customers who have data stored in Salesforce.com's online CRM applications. Business Objects will load a copy of the customer's Salesforce data to its own datacentres and build a data warehouse that customers can use to run their BI queries.

The service is aimed at sales and marketing staff and business analysts at companies with a high volume of Salesforce data, and is the first in suite of similar services that Business Objects plans to roll out, the company said. It includes on-demand versions of its Crystal Reports, Crystal Xcelsius and Web Intelligence products.

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

Proponents of such services say they help customers to cut costs because they 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 company data.

Business Objects representatives weren't available to give pricing for the new service, which will be unveiled at an event in California later on Monday to coincide with the start of Salesforce.com's Dreamforce user conference in San Francisco. Some more information is at Business Objects new On Demand website.

The company also opened an online store on Monday 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 and Dun & Bradstreet.

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