The new BI OnDemand unites (and replaces) two formerly distinct offerings: CrystalReports.com, the company's simplest and most popular SaaS offering, which has hundreds of thousands of users; and the previous version of BI OnDemand, the SaaS-delivered BI platform based on the vendor's conventional software.The new BI OnDemand not only delivers a single, consistent online environment in which to use familiar tools -- CrystalReports for reporting, Web Intelligence for query and analysis, Xcelsius for dashboarding and data visualization, and SAP BusinessObjects Explorer for fast, in-memory data analysis -- it also greets neophyte users with hand-holding wizards and workflows said to make data access and analysis a simple proposition.
A big theme executives noted in a Webcast on today's announcement was SAP's ability to be a single source of on-premise and on-demand BI, which opens up the opportunity to blend the two worlds. For example, users of conventional Crystal Reports software already had the ability push a button to publish reports on CrystalReports.com. What was missing in today's formal announcement was news that the next major "Aurora" release of the on-premise BusinessObjects XI platform, which is expected in the second half of this year, will be loaded with data-export and report/visualization publishing options that will link conventional software to the SAP BusinessObjects online services.
Also missing was detail on the pricing of the new BI OnDemand. CrystalReports.com subscribers and current BI OnDemand customers will be grandfathered into the new service under their current contracts, but they'll gain access to all the tools, wizards and workflows at no additional charge. A free Personal Edition will be limited to 10 MB/2,000 rows of data. An Essential edition will allow up to 2 GB of storage and will be geared to individuals, work groups and departments. An Advanced edition will be aimed at companies that require integration with on-premise data sources, advanced security features, and more storage (up to 5 GB). Add-on features will include hosted data warehouses, a development environment and single sign-on capabilities.It's more than an incremental upgrade but everything promised isn't all there -- just yet, anyway. That's my quick take on SAP BusinessObjects BI OnDemand, a major upgrade and consolidation of the vendor's software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings for business intelligence.