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Business Objects Pitching BI-as-a-Service

As interest in software as a service (SaaS) grows, fueled by the recession, Business Objects has beefed up its on-demand business intelligence (BI) offering, BI OnDemand.

Business Objects, owned by SAP (NYSE: SAP), is pitching an on-demand development environment for customers, designed to save them the cost of creating a copy of their database for development and store that on their servers on premise.

It has also unveiled a tool that lets users who are Salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM) customers easily create a data warehouse within days instead of weeks.

With these announcements, Business Objects is trying to strengthen its position as enterprises increasingly turn to BI on demand solutions by making it easier for them to manipulate data. David Hatch, principal analyst at research firm Aberdeen Group, told InternetNews.com by e-mail that on-demand BI deployments have doubled over the past year.

According to Hatch, 16 percent of firms he surveyed deploy BI on demand, as compared to eight percent a year ago. "Much of this deployment has been focused on gaining visibility to data within existing SaaS applications like Salesforce.com," he added.

Business Objects' on-demand environment is CCDE, the content creation and development environment. While the company hosts customers' data warehouses, their customers would need a copy of the database on premise to build a dataset, chart or graph, or to make any changes, Carl Dubler, its senior product manager of OnDemand business, told InternetNews.com. The customer would also need to have all the necessary tools.

"With CCDE, once we deploy the data warehouse, both the subset of the data they need to work on and the tools they'll need will be available on demand," Dubler said. CCDE incorporates technology that lets users do keyword searches on the data warehouse, browse the warehouse, and publish the data with charts and graphs online without having to involve the IT department, according to Dubler.

Even using CCDE, someone has to build the data warehouse and populate it. And, like many on-demand BI players, Business Objects is seeking to tap the nearly 52,000 businesses that use Salesforce.com's applications, so it has created the Accelerator for Salesforce.

The push button data warehouse

This lets users who have Salesforce.com applications populate their data warehouses with data from those applications within days. "It's almost a push button data warehouse, if you will," Business Objects' Dubler said.

According to Dubler, many enterprises use Salesforce.com to track their sales pipeline and prospects, and other systems to track fulfillment and transaction management, and this is where integration with Salesforce.com data becomes important.

Salesforce.com is beginning to introduce its own transaction management applications, and that may help get rid of on-premise systems completely over time, Dubler said. "You'll see more and more momentum going towards the SaaS model, but currently customers are in a position where they're using both on premise and SaaS solutions," he added.

By offering the Accelerator for Salesforce, Business Objects is keeping pace with a trend emerging among newer SaaS BI companies, which are basing their offerings and capabilities around Salesforce.com's products, Aberdeen's Hatch said. These include Dimensional Insight, Cloud9 Analytics, Hard Metrics, LogiXML and MyDials, he said.

Hatch predicts this trend will strengthen. "The increase in interest in Salesforce.com as a corporate CRM or sales enablement solution will drive more need for analysis of the data contained within the systems," he said. "True analytics need to be added on to the solution to gain BI capabilities."