Firm Makes Web Services Play for BI

Business Objects SA earlier this month announced a Web services API designed to bring disparate information sources together.

Business Objects SA earlier this month announced a Web services API designed to bring disparate information sources together.

The business intelligence software developers new API, known as the Web Services SDK (Software Development Kit), enables developers to build extranets that link organizations with the rest of their value chains by integrating data from their disparate applications, officials said.

It does this by letting developers expose interactive BI functionality such as report listing, viewing, refresh and drill-down as Web services through a portal interface, said Business Objects officials at the companys North American headquarters in San Jose, Calif.

Companies in the value chain can then exchange BI through a central directory built on the Universal Description, Discovery and Integration registry. The Web services themselves will be based on Simple Object Access Protocol.

The goal, according to Business Objects, is to give organizations better visibility into their sales channels and a better picture of customer wants and needs, eventually improving efficiencies along the entire value chain from supplier to distributor to reseller to customer.

Tom Nather, senior systems analyst in the data warehousing group of Penske Logistics and Supply-Chain Solutions, a division of Penske System Inc., said his organization can already share information with customers of its supply chain management services, using Business Objects Web Intelligence software. But the Web Services SDK will allow the company to push information to users through a portal interface.

"The value is that instead of having users click on a link and log in, we can provide information on demand," said Nather, in Cleveland. "Itll make it a lot easier to share information than it is today."

Nather said information can be taken from the extranet Penske has for its customers and embedded in a portal with information from other systems, such as internal systems, to provide "one-stop shopping" for users.

"We provide the technology ourselves today, but this will make it a lot easier to get to the information," Nather said. "All that clicking and waiting for pages goes away."

The Web Services SDK just entered beta and is due for general availability in the second quarter of next year. It will support both Microsoft Corp.s .Net and Sun Microsystems Inc.s Java 2 Enterprise Edition.

Other BI vendors are noncommittal on their plans for Web Services. SAS Institute Inc. officials said developers can build their own Web services with its tools now, but such "out-of-the-box" Web services support will not be offered until the market for the technology matures, which officials at the Cary, N.C., company said will be in the next 12 to 24 months.