Business Objects Vision on Track

Complete integration with Crystal planned.

Even as it rolls out an upgrade to the Crystal Decisions Inc. software it acquired last month, Business Objects S.A. has begun to make clear its road map for integrating Crystal with its existing business intelligence software platform.

Paris-based Business Objects early this month announced Crystal Version 10, which combines Crystal Decisions Crystal Enterprise, Crystal Analysis and Crystal Reports products.

New features in this version include a more interactive client interface, tighter integration with Microsoft Corp.s Office applications, a new Java report engine and advanced controls for Visual Studio .Net developers, officials said. Crystal Version 10 also boasts enhanced administrative capabilities and a new data access architecture.

By next quarter, Business Objects will start to bring the Crystal products together with its existing applications. In this way it will mirror similar efforts by competitors Hyperion Solutions Corp., Cognos Inc. and MicroStrategy Inc. to help enterprises consolidate business intelligence applications—enterprise reporting, query and analysis, online analytical processing, and business performance management—under a single vendors umbrella.

Business Objects consolidation process will begin at the end-user level with the release of a product integration pack that will make its software offerings accessible through the same portal interface with single sign-on. In addition, this phase of integration will call for applications to share common Web services APIs and enable Business Objects metadata, or "universes," to be used as an optional data source for Crystal Reports.

"The portal integration looks pretty good, but thats a pretty simple integration," said Mark Smith, CEO and senior vice president of research at Ventana Research Inc., in Belmont, Calif. "The real challenge is the next phase, delivering an integrated product on the same back-end technology and getting customers to adopt it. That stuffs not easy. Customers would have a lot of patches and maintenance releases to deal with."

Business Objects intends to complete the next step of the integration by years end by making Crystals Enterprise, Reports and Analysis products a part of Business Objects Version 11, according to officials. That puts all of its existing applications and Crystal applications on a common infrastructure with common administration, they said. Business Objects Version 12, expected by the end of next year, will complete the integration, bringing feature parity to Web and desktop clients.