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New Efforts Underway to Spread BI Around

As enterprises look to increasing productivity and doing more with less, business intelligence (BI) will move to every desktop in the enterprise.

At least, that's the expectation among the growing number of firms already pushing BI, which has traditionally been the preserve of business analysts. Now, however, insiders see new interest in getting the benefits of BI to everyone.

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) is one big name pushing into this area with its upcoming Kilimanjaro SQL Server release.

Kilimanjaro will focus on personalized or pervasive BI, Bob Kelly, the corporate vice president of its Servers and Tools division, said in a presentation at the Barclays Technology Conference in San Francisco earlier this month. The release is scheduled to debut in the first half of 2009.

Likewise, rivals pushing other approaches are also banking that customers will ultimately want BI spread throughout the organization.

"The closer you can push decision-making to people who interact with people on the front line, the faster the organization can move," Brad Peters, co-founder and CEO of on-demand BI vendor Birst, told InternetNews.com.

The news marks a new stage in the development of BI. Over the past several years, businesses' efforts to find ways to analyze data and make decisions quicker and more efficiently has propelled BI to the status of a major enterprise software segment.

Now, facing a harsh economic climate, enterprises are seeking ways to make their operations run even more intelligently -- and many insiders see that translating into efforts to widen access to BI.

"Data and access to data for analytics and reporting is, in our estimation, a massive play," Kelly said. "Anybody that uses Outlook or Office should be able to get access to data and have the kind of analytics that will be provided with the Kilimanjaro release."

The pervasive BI project in Kilimanjaro, code-named Gemini, will provide self-service analysis capabilities and deep integration with SharePoint, Herain Oberoi, group program manager for SQL Server, told InternetNews.com in an e-mail.

Gemini will have an all-new engine for which Microsoft is expected to get more than a dozen patents, according to The OLAP Report. The report's author, Nigel Pendse, predicted that Gemini will be delivered as an extension to Excel, probably as a free add-in, and said it would be able to handle more data than Excel 2007.

"The new capabilities enable end users to share and collaborate on published user-generated content and enable IT to monitor and manage the published assets," Microsoft's Oberoi said.

The first new features for Gemini and Kilimanjaro will be available within the next nine months, he added.

BI for everyone

Others have a slightly different view in how best to deliver BI to the desktop. Compared with the expense of installing and maintaining traditional BI systems, on-demand solutions promise cost savings while delivering the same benefits.

In addition to vendors like Birst, SAP's (NYSE: SAP) Business Objects is already pitching an on-demand development environment that comes with a tool that enables those using Salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM) to easily create a data warehouse in days, instead of weeks.

Other BI Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) players include 1010data and LogiXML.