BI vendors push new data integration capabilities

Von Ephraim Schwartz

Access to all data all the time appears to be the oft-repeated theme from the three BI software vendors who are announcing either new products or upgrades to the current versions of their BI applications this week.

Oracle announced the general availability of Oracle Business Intelligence 10g, while rival Information Builders launched WebFocus 8.1. In the meantime, vertical solution provider Spotfire DecisionStie 8.1 unveiled a visual data analytics tool for the pharmaceutical industry.

According to Keith Gale, principal analyst at Forrester Research, in the past BI vendors touted their ability to access any data warehouse. However, that is no longer good enough, said Gale.

"Now BI vendors say we will help you get to any data that is necessary for you to get to," Gale said.

The BI product suite from Oracle includes a spreadsheet add-in which will give users direct access to Oracle OLAP from within Microsoft Excel spreadsheets.

Oracle Warehouse Builder adds a builder featuring ETL (extract, transform, and load) functions that can read data from its source, format it, and write to the target repository to be exploited.

Oracle BI Beans is targeted to corporate developers creating customized BI applications.

Oracle BI 10g is shipping now.

A major factor in Information Builders" integration capability rests on a very strong integration product from its iWay Software subsidiary, according to Gale. However, unlike Oracle BI 10g, which is a strategic product, WebFocus 8.1 is targeted at a different user in the enterprise.

"It is an operational application. It brings business intelligence to the operational level," said Kevin Quinn, vice president of product marketing.

As Quinn explains, up until now BI has been targeted to the back office rather than for tens of thousands of customer service representatives in the front line of an enterprise.

WebFocus 8.1 is in fact focused on allowing customer-facing agents to use BI tools to create reports.

Administaff, an Information Builders customer, does outsource administration and accounting for small companies. Administaff has four or five thousand customers and 80,000 total users who now can use WebFocus to generate reports for such functions as payroll and benefits.

Other new features in WebFocus 8.1 include a unified metadata tool that describes every source of data in the enterprise for usage by ETL, reporting, and analysis, according to Quinn.

From an architectural standpoint, the system now supports so-called autonomic servers that can manage the load and scale configurations to any server running WebFocus.

Information Builders WebFocus 8.1 will ship the third week in April.

Spotfire, the third BI vendor to make an announcement this week, unveiled DecisionSite 8.1, a visual data analytics platform for the pharmaceutical industry.

The newest version allows for accessing data from a wider range of research applications, according to officials.

For collaboration between researchers, DecisionSite also upgraded its analysis and communications tool, DecsionSite Posters.

SpotFire DecisionSite 8.1 is available now.

(Laura Rohde of the IDG News Service contributed to this article)