MicroStrategy, Information Builders Extend Business Intelligence Apps

Business intelligence vendors MicroStrategy and Information Builders this week offered new and updated software tools.

Enterprises looking to consolidate their business intelligence applications on a single platform got new reporting tools from MicroStrategy Inc. and an update to existing reporting technology from Information Builders Inc.

Both companies are vying for customers looking to lower their costs and infrastructure requirements by turning to a single BI vendor.

MicroStrategy on Monday announced its Report Services, a Web services-based platform that adds reporting capabilities to the companys core analytical and data-mart building software. Meanwhile, Information Builders announced version 5.2 of its WebFocus reporting platform, adding single sign-on capabilities and several usability enhancements.

MicroStrategys release of Report Services follows moves by long-time rivals Business Objects S.A. and Cognos Inc. to expand their offerings into reporting; Business Objects announced the acquisition of reporting software developer Crystal Decisions Inc. in August and Cognos released its ReportNet reporting platform in September.

With the launch of Report Services, MicroStrategy officials said they are delivering a more complete reporting offering than their chief rivals. Reports available include scorecards and dashboards; data-intensive operational reports; classical business reporting, including grids and banding; managed metrics reports; and customer-facing reports such as for invoices and bank statements.

The reports are all delivered as Web Services, integrated with MicroStrategys 7.5 platform, which is required to take advantage of the technology.

21st Century Insurance Group Inc. has used Report Services in beta in a test server environment since September. The company currently runs Crystal Decisions Crystal Reports on top of MicroStrategy, since MicroStrategys current technology cant handle formatting and reporting of different data sets on the same page, as would be used for scorecarding applications, according to Brett Gourley, senior project manager at 21st Century in Woodland Hills, Calif.

But Gourley said Report Services is a "solid" technology that should be able to displace Crystal Reports in 21st Centurys environment. He noted though that Report Services does not yet support reporting of mainframe data, which may be an issue in some companies.

"We can leverage one set of metadata and one set of development metrics," said Gourley. "We can save on dual development costs and consolidate licenses to one vendor. And we wont have to run separate servers for reporting."

Gourley said reporting environments generally require less development overhead than analytical environments and are easier to replace, so 21st Century would be less inclined to keep Crystal Reports and replace MicroStrategy with Business Objects. Plus the company currently has more users on MicroStrategy than Crystal Reports.

Meanwhile, Version 5.2 of Information Builders WebFocus product integrates Netegrity Inc.s SiteMinder product to provide single sign-on capabilities. That will allow users to sign-on once to any WebFocus applications or reports theyve been provisioned for.

Other features in WebFocus 5.2 include ad hoc graphic capabilities, such as new graph defaults and styling options; interdependent filters for simplifying report development; the ability to drill down to different reports, locations, or applications from a single item within a report; expanded mainframe support for WebSphere and z/OS; real-time visualization capabilities through the WebFocus Visual Discovery tool; and the ability to map the geographic component of business data.