To help companies get their data act together, business intelligence vendor Business Objects last week unveiled an enterprise information management strategy that includes new information integration and metadata management tools. IBM on the same day unveiled a release of WebSphere Product Center for building a master data management repository for product data.
As data proliferates, managers and workers increasingly are unable to integrate disparate data to get a comprehensive view of their customers, or they can't trust the data they're using for business decisions because of inconsistencies (see story, "Hamstrung By Defective Data"). Businesses recognize they need to address the problem. Only 19% of 672 data pros surveyed by the Data Warehousing Institute last year rated their use of enterprise information integration technologies as high or medium, but 52% expected it to reach that level in two years.
Business Objects unveiled Data Federator, a tool for enterprise information integration that lets users get a virtual, consolidated view of data from multiple sources without physically moving it into a single database. The software, which uses technology the company acquired in October when it bought Medience, lets users more easily perform queries against real-time data generated by ERP, CRM, and other systems. Most data integration is done in batch mode on a daily or even less-frequent basis--too slow for some business intelligence needs.
The vendor also debuted Metadata Manager, software that collects and combines metadata from databases, business intelligence tools, and data extraction, transformation, and loading systems. That lets administrators see and analyze metadata relationships and better understand the impact of changes in data sources throughout a business intelligence environment.
While Cognos and Business Objects offer data extraction, transformation, and loading software for batch-mode data integration, Business Objects is the first BI vendor to expand into enterprise information management, which means it will be battling vendors such as BEA Systems, IBM, Informatica, and Oracle.
IBM has its own approach. While customer data integration has been getting a lot of attention, providing a central repository of data about products such as pricing, product codes, and product dimensions can be just as critical. Such information is often siloed in disparate databases, which causes confusion, delays in getting products on shelves, and angry customers.
The most significant element of the new WebSphere Product Center release is a Java API that lets the software work within a service-oriented architecture, making it easier for companies to build links between the software and other operational applications. The new release also makes it easier to search for more detailed information using a SQL-like query language instead of custom scripts.