Intelligence as a service

As business intelligence (BI) functionality becomes increasingly standardised and assimilated into application suites, the pure-play vendors find themselves under mounting pressure to alter the rules of the BI game to maintain their technology lead.

US-based BI vendor Business Objects, more than any of its competitors, sees software-as-a-service (SaaS) as an opportunity to do just this. Its website, launched in May 2006, allows customers to access reports and dashboards over the web, and to integrate them with portals and SaaS applications such as’s on-demand customer relationship management suite. 

But SaaS technology has advanced rapidly in the past year, with SaaS vendors now offering customers the ability to not only consume applications via the web but to customise on-demand applications to a much higher degree than was previously possible and, in some cases, to build new web-based applications.

It is this emerging area of functionality that Business Objects hopes to tap into through its December acquisition of on-demand quote and proposal SaaS provider nSite. As well as further application services for channel management, online time sheets and expenses and purchase requisitions, nSite offers its customers an on-demand application development platform known as On Demand Enterprise for building ‘enterprise-ready applications’ for use online.

Although Business Objects has promised to continue supporting nSite’s quote and proposal software customers, it is this tool and the expertise of the team behind it that is the real prize.

As user organisations become more comfortable with SaaS and service-oriented architecture (SOA), the ability to offer highly customisable applications as web services will become an increasingly important differentiator in all corners of the software industry. BI vendors, however, are in particular need of differentiation, and Business Objects’ SaaS vision should serve that goal.

Meanwhile, two specialists in automated compliance management software were also snapped up in December. Privately held Dutch company Consul Software, which has focused on mainframe security software during most of its 20 years, was acquired by IBM, and email management tool vendor Singlecast was purchased by information management specialist Zantaz. Figures for both deals were undisclosed.

IBM cited a recent research report that found that 86% of internal security breaches are committed by a company’s most privileged and technical users.

Consul’s ‘auditor-in-a-box’ technology monitors the actions of employees, and sends an automatic warning when sensitive data is accessed or compliance processes are violated.

The software is to be integrated into IBM’s system management range Tivoli.

Zantaz’s buy will help company’s classify their email data before it is stored in a content archive, cutting the time, costs and risk associated with producing this data for any number of purposes including electronic discovery.

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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