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Web Services Extend Tools' IQ To Other Apps

Cognos developers' kit provides links to query and reporting capabilities.
Cognos Inc. will dive into Web services this week when it debuts a software developers' kit for building Web services. The kit lets users extend Cognos' business-intelligence tools to other applications. While developers' kits from Cognos and its competitors are designed to bring business intelligence to a wider audience, analysts say vendors can do more to realize Web services' full potential.

The kit allows developers to extend Cognos' Series 7's query and reporting capabilities to other applications and environments. Using XML and Simple Object Access Protocol technology, industry-specific applications such as manufacturing and logistics apps can tap into Cognos data with less integration effort than through direct connections, the company says. The kit also will transform Cognos reports into XML content.

Web services link Cognos applications to a portal, an extranet, or apps running on handheld devices. Windows and Unix versions of the kit will be priced at $10,000 per developer.

The hotels division of Carlson Cos. has been testing the Cognos kit with mobile devices used to provide hotel managers and company executives with reports. Today, custom code links those devices to the Cognos PowerPlay and Impromptu applications that generate the reports. "The Cognos platform will allow us to develop more of these services faster," says Scott Heintzman, CIO of Carlson Hotels. Such wireless services "are the perfect application of Web services," he says. Carlson plans to deploy the Web-services apps this fall.

Developers' kits like Cognos' or one from rival Business Objects SA released earlier this year are "basically a bag of nuts and bolts," says Philip Russom, an analyst at Giga Information Group. Developers use them to build Web-services wrappers around the business-intelligence tools' APIs--a technical chore. And they provide only front-end links to reports generated by the business-intelligence tools, not links between the tools and back-end data sources, he says.

Other business-intelligence software vendors have been embracing Web services as well. Crystal Decisions software is bundled with Microsoft's Visual Studio .Net for building Web services with business-intelligence capabilities. Sagent Technology Inc. will add Web services to its products late this year.