When a company announces an acquisition, it usually does a round of limited-content briefings, in no small part because the antitrust lawyers won’t let them do anything else. Once the deal closes, antitrust restrictions are lifted, and they do another round of briefings. These, typically, are vague and platitudinous.
Business Objects/Inxight have now reached that point. Even so, my briefing yesterday had some aspects worth writing up.
They are strong and convincing on the claim that Inxight’s OEM business will continue to be an area of emphasis, even when selling to BOBJ competitors. Specifically:
When I pointed out that there had been some intemperate cocktail comments to the contrary, they winced.
They pointed out, correctly, that Crystal Reports had been OEMed to various Business Objects direct competitors. (That said, Hyperion obviously drop Crystal after the Brio acquisition, and SAP has talked about replacing Crystal as well.) And in an Inxight-specific example, their federated search product Awareness Server is partnered with Oracle Enterprise Search, and that partnership is continuing for now.
Inxight’s OEM sales are being folded into the highly successful Business Objects/Crystal Reports OEM channel. Frankly, I think this will go fine. While I wouldn’t necessarily look for much in the way of successful cross-selling between the two product lines, they probably also won’t screw a good thing up. That aspect is no harder than other mergers Business Objects has pulled off successfully.
Actually, there are a lot more than two product lines. E.g., there’s visualization technology from both sides of the merger. So some real synergies may actually exist. Also, there are some ISVs who OEM a full BI product suite, so to the extent general product line integration works in the enterprise market, it could work well in the indirect channel as well.
Their vision for text analytics integrated into business intelligence is airy and obvious, with lots of emphasis on the distinction between “structured” and “unstructured” data, and how great it will be to combine them. To their credit, they mercifully skipped the standard Gartner quote about 85% or so of data being unstructured, but otherwise I think they touched on most or all of the standard platitudes. (At least, they did in their slides. I asked for the slides in advance, and then strongly requested they NOT take me through the deck in the actual briefing. They obliged very nicely.)
In the early interest from existing BOBJ customers, there’s no particular pattern to the types of text analytics application or use envisioned.
Inxight’s classified Federal-business subsidiary will be left standalone, with the obvious intent of having it be affected as little as possible by this merger.
They seem serious about properly productizing Inxight’s visualization technology, which currently is a grab-bag of SDKs. This would include a set of core capabilities, database schemas that are straightforward to populate, and so on. And this would of course be packaged with other snazzy visualization technologies such as Crystal Excelsius.
Inxight seems to have had three primary visualization “products”, namely:
Time Wall, which places events in time along a virtual “wall.” BOBJ says that this is something customers had actually been asking for, although on whiffed on asking which particular applications the customers had in mind. In Inxight’s case, unsurprisingly, the events were typically ones that were extracted from documents. However, one could also use this approach to show cases where, for example, various KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) first deviated from accepted bounds.
Star Tree, which shows relationships, e.g. among people. This has been used by large enterprises to figure out how their own employees work together. It also has obvious potential national security applications.
Table Lens, which displays information of high dimensionality. This may be the one that integrates most straightforwardly with conventional BI.
As a general rule – perhaps because of the programming required to implement them – these visualization products tend to be deployed for very specific applications. Naturally, it is BOBJ’s hope to get them used in broader enterprise deployments.
We also talked about Inxight’s federated search product Awareness Server. Frankly, that discussion was pretty confused. They asserted that this was an IDD (Information Discovery and Display – i.e., BI) product, while classic text analytic information extraction was more EIM (Enterprise Information and Management – i.e., ETL). I guess that’s because it fetches information and displays it directly, as a query tool does, while information extraction merely stages information into a database for future querying.
The problem with federated search as a product is that it’s directly competitive with what focused search engines do. Leading relational DBMS formally have federated search capabilities, but almost nobody ever uses them; instead, the data they index is the data they actually manage. Search engines, on the other hand, VERY commonly index documents they aren’t responsible for directly managing. Thus, Awareness Server competes directly with Google OneBox, FAST, et al. And while I forgot to probe for feature/function details, I’d be surprised to discover that Awareness Server is truly competitive with the much more popular and mature alternatives.