Crystal Reports Takes an Eclipse Path

Business Objects makes available a 100 percent Java-based Crystal Reports for the open-source Eclipse development environment.

Business Objects, hoping to inject its Business Intelligence software into the vibrant world of open-source, on Aug. 14 made available a 100 percent Java-based Crystal Reports for the open-source Eclipse development environment.

Its bound to be good for Business Objects, which came out of its second quarter with teetering software license earnings as the company awaited the payoff of key initiatives, including a build-out of its services sector, customer migration to its new XI platform and mid-market penetration with new on-demand offerings.

Its also a vote of confidence in Eclipse, according to Tim Lang, vice president of developer programs for Business Objects.

"Historically, Sun [Microsystems] also has had NetBeans, its own Java IDE," said Lang.

"What weve seen over the last six months specifically is a very significant clustering around Eclipse. A couple years ago, when we started working on Java and Eclipse projects, we saw and believed Eclipse would be the direction we should follow, and thats the direction we took."

Through the IDEs beta phase, which began in January, Crystal Reports for Eclipse had more than 50,000 unique downloads, Lang said—demonstrating both the popularity of Eclipse as the Java IDE of choice and the open-source communitys hunger for a full-featured BI platform, he said.

Crystal Reports has run on a Java-based engine since Version 9, Lang pointed out, and is in its fifth iteration on that engine, meaning that the Eclipse flavor is based on "very proven technology," he said.

"With Crystal Reports for Eclipse, were able to fully leverage that engine," Lang said.

"We were able to then put time and energy into building a great set of user interfaces for developers. … One thing thats a testament to the engine was that we were able to build [the report designer] using 100 percent public APIs in the engine.

"What that basically means is theres no proprietary API were interacting with. From developers perspective, whether youre leveraging the designer or the public API, you know its robust. Thats something developers really care about."

Hopefully, Crystal Reports for Eclipse will also be something partners will care about—in a good way. The companys partner channel, which is about 6,000-strong, has been making unhappy noises lately, such as murmurs of discontent around Business Objects recently announced EIM (enterprise information management) and data quality service offerings.

EIM—or data quality and integration—is a new division within Business Objects that came about as a result of its Firstlogic acquisition.

The services include platform services for companies that want an enterprise-wide strategy that goes beyond ad hoc BI; data services that include a set of services designed to support EIM; and decision services for customers looking to implement higher-level and industry-specific BI software.

In an earnings call July 26, CEO John Schwarz addressed partners rising concerns about those offerings.

"Some have expressed concern as we grow our services channel. Let me put that in perspective: Our channel remains strong and important," Schwarz said at the time during an after-market call with analysts and news outlets.

"Ive also been making direct calls to personally better understand the opportunities with partners, and where we find issues, we take action immediately."

The service offerings are designed to be complementary to partner offerings, moving in places where partners typically are not focused, according to Eklund.

Lang said that in contrast, open-source offerings are something for which partners are eager.

"I know that weve been happy to speak to a number of OEM partners and have been happy to speak of channel partners around Crystal Reports for Eclipse," he said.

"They feel its a great release and quite responsive to trends in the market."

From a channel perspective, there hasnt been a "huge amount of commercial offerings" that take advantage of opportunities in the open-source community, Lang said.

"This creates another great name brand technology that channel can really focus its attention on and help to sell and advocate to their customers."

Indeed, the channel is seeing an increased awareness of Eclipse, Lang said.

"Obviously, with an awareness, theyd like some solutions to help them sell into that base. [System integrators], VARs, OEMs, they see this as part of a strategic offering as they build solutions for customers and as they do so on a Java/Eclipse stack."

With the launch of Crystal Reports for Eclipse, Business Objects simultaneously launched Diamond, an online developer community for developers, report designers and other Business Objects users.

Crystal Reports for Eclipse is generally available now. The free, basic edition can be downloaded from the Diamond site.

Crystal Reports for Eclipse Professional includes support, higher throughput and other add-ons and costs $495.


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