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At Business Objects’ European User Conference in Cannes the main emphasis was on encouraging users to migrate to BusinessObjects XI Release 2. However, from my perspective what was most interesting was the announcement of EIM (enterprise information management), though there was also some Crystal stuff of note.
Let me start by discussing the Crystal elements, which consisted of one already available product, one newly announced at the conference, and one not mentioned at the conference but due for release later in the summer. First, the product that is already available is crystalreports.com, which is the reporting equivalent of salesforce.com in that you can use it to host and then distribute reports. It is early days and the company really doesn’t know where it will go with this offering but there are encouraging signs of interest from the mid-market for this software as a service capability.
The second Crystal piece was the announcement of Crystal Vision, which brings to Crystal environments the visualisation capabilities of Crystal Excelcius that were previously only available to Excel users. Crystal Vision is neat but of more interest to me is the forthcoming (it is currently in beta) Crystal Reports for Eclipse. Assiduous readers will know that I have written on a couple of occasions about Actuate’s work with BIRT, which is the Eclipse standard for reporting, so it will be interesting to see how the two products stack up in this arena.
As far as EIM is concerned, this consists of, essentially, four elements: Data Integrator, the company’s ETL (extract, transform and load) and data movement tool; Data Federator, which provides a federated query capability based on the Medience acquisition the company made last year; Data Quality, which is the FirstLogic capabilities that Business Objects bought (finalised) last month; and Metadata Manager, which is a new product.
Now, first of all let’s be clear that this is not a unified platform but only an integrated one. That’s hardly surprising given the newness of the acquisitions. It was also no surprise that the company announced products based on these purchases or even that it was offering a new product called Metadata Manager (which doesn’t do a lot more that what was previously available with Data Integrator) or, indeed, that it was putting them all together in one platform.
What it does pose, however, is the question of where Business Objects is going as a company. Currently, annual revenues are at around $1bn. The company’s plan is to double this by the end of 2008 and it expects something between 10 and 15% of its revenues to stem from EIM and associated products by that time. That’s more than most business intelligence vendors make from BI and it is more or less equivalent to what Informatica turns over today—in other words, Business Objects is very, very serious about EIM. It sees it as the underpinning for all of its BI solutions but it also sees it in broader terms. In particular, it will be doing something in the MDM (master data management) space though the CEO was not prepared to speculate on whether that would be a build or buy decision. In any case, the company already has both Kalido and Purisma as partners and the latter had already got out a product leaflet in time for the conference, showing its CDI Registry running on top of the EIM platform.
However, the implications are even broader than this: once you start building MDM into a platform as broad as EIM already is, then you are getting into the space that is variously described as Information as a Service, information services or data services. In effect, this does for data and information what web services do for applications, extending SOA (service oriented architecture) right down to the data level. This is where the big boys play, most notably IBM—whoever wins the battle at this level is going to own the market for corporate infrastructure. Clearly, Business Objects has ambitions to be a big boy.