Business Objects And MicroStrategy Debut Business-Intelligence Upgrades

Providing a broader range of users with access to more data sources is the central theme.
Business Objects SA and MicroStrategy Inc. Monday unveiled major upgrades to their business-intelligence software. MicroStrategy announced MicroStrategy 8, a new release of its flagship reporting, analysis, and performance-monitoring system, while Business Objects debuted Crystal Reports XI, a new version of its report design and server software.

The features and capabilities in the two products follow a trend in the use of business-intelligence software in the business environment, from purely strategic use by analysts and top executives to tactical and operational use by larger numbers of workers throughout a company, says Keith Gile, an analyst with Forrester Research.

Some of the new features and capabilities in MicroStrategy 8 make it easier for a broader range of workers to use. For example, the interface has been revamped with more one-click action buttons and new drag-and-drop interactivity with Web browsers such as Microsoft Internet Explorer and Firefox.

Also, users have more options for designing and formatting reports from their Web browsers. That's important, as demands for the number of business-intelligence reports increase within companies with limited developer resources, says Sanju Bansal, MicroStrategy's chief operating officer.

Other new capabilities are aimed at improving integration of the system's reporting, analysis, and performance-monitoring capabilities, Bansal says. Online analytical processing (OLAP) features can now be embedded directly within MicroStrategy reports, for example. MicroStrategy 8 also can take advantage of advanced analytical models, based on the predictive model markup language, developed by other vendors of predictive analysis software.

The new release can access more data sources, including real-time data from operational databases, using a new free-form SQL engine. MicroStrategy also now supports SAP's Business Information Warehouse data-warehouse system. "Clearly, the extension to a greater number of data sources is key here," Forrester's Gile says, citing the ability to analyze real-time data as especially important.

MicroStrategy 8 is being announced at the vendor's user conference this week and will begin shipping Feb. 4. Pricing starts at $1,000 per user.

Business Objects' new Crystal Reports XI and Crystal Reports Server XI also provide a new, easier-to-use user interface, the company says. Additional drivers provide enhanced data connectivity to more data sources. Reports can be enhanced with new prompting features. And a new report-management workbench makes it easier to organize and manage reports. The Crystal Reports Server package is priced at $7,500.

Business Objects acquired Crystal Decisions in late 2003, and integrated the Crystal technology with its own software into Business Objects XI, which it debuted in early January. But the vendor is continuing to sell this separate version of the Crystal software targeting midsize companies, says Guy Weismantel, corporate marketing director.

Gile says Crystal Reports XI is targeted at Microsoft's reporting services, which it builds into its SQL Server database. Crystal Reports XI and Crystal Reports Server XI are available now.

Also this week, IBM will ship a version of its DB2 Data Warehouse Edition data-warehouse system that incorporates its Alphablox tools for building analytical applications. IBM acquired Alphablox last year. IBM also plans to expand the number of data-warehouse packages it offers for vertical industries beyond those it already provides for financial services and law enforcement to include packages for the health-care, retail, and telecommunications industries.