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2/25/2010
09:49 AM
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SAP Revamps BusinessObject SaaS BI Suite

The upgraded BI OnDemand service consolidates CrystalReports.com, adds workflows for business intelligence novices.

With more than 260,000 current subscribers to its services, SAP leads the SaaS-based BI market. Executives stressed that this puts the company is a unique position to blend the strengths of on-premise and on-demand software. Illustrating the benefit, users of on-premise Crystal Reports software have long been able to push a single button to publish reports on CrystalReports.com.

Missing from the formal announcement was news that the next major "Aurora" release of the on-premise BusinessObjects XI suite, which is expected in the second half of this year, will be loaded with similar report and data-visualization publishing options. And where today the service has simple FTP and browser-based options to upload data, coming releases promise much more.

"We have prior art around connectivity from our BI clients into the cloud... and over the next couple of months there will be a lot more details around APIs for pushing data into the system from any programming language or app," Meyer said. The design target, he added, is for on-premise updates on a factory floor, for example, to show up in cloud-based dashboards without human intervention.

As with any SaaS offering, key attractions include low cost and rapid deployment, SAP said. But also missing in today's announcement was detail on the pricing of the new service. A free Personal Edition will be limited to 10 megabytes or 2,000 rows of data. An Essential edition will grant up to 2 GB of storage and will be geared to individuals, work groups and departments.

An Advanced edition will be aimed at companies integrating on-premise data sources and requiring advanced security and more storage (up to 5 GB). Current CrystalReports.com and BI OnDemand subscribers will be upgraded under their current contracts, and they'll gain access to all the new tools, wizards and workflows at no additional charge.

Add-on features will include hosted, large-scale data warehouses, a development environment and single-sign-on capabilities. A small minority of SAP's current BusinessObjects BI OnDemand customers use these advanced data warehousing services. But this segment is quickly growing, according to SAP, fueled in part by partners such as Oco, a SaaS-based data warehousing vendor that offers prebuilt models and analytics for areas such as supply chain optimization and profitability analysis.

Oco uses SAP BusinessObjects BI OnDemand for reporting and analysis. Joining yesterday's announcement, an Oco executive said the combination of on-premise and on-demand BI has been a boon to larger customers including Welch's (grape juice products) and Fidelity Investments.

"These companies have existing, on-premise BI technology, but we come into play when they encounter new areas where they want to get a business analytics solution quickly up and running," said Anil Chitkara, Oco's senior vice president of market development.

The latest upgrade of SAP BusinessObjects BI OnDemand is currently accessible in English at BIonDemand.com. French, German, Spanish and Japanese versions are expected in the second quarter.

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