RESEARCH & RESOURCES

Business Objects Gets Software-as-a-Service Religion

This week, Business Objects unveiled crystalreports.com, its inaugural software-as-a-service entry. Is Crystal Reports On Demand right for you?

Last week, a Salesforce.com availability outage demonstrated the occasional fragility of the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model.

This week—fragility or not—Business Objects SA unveiled crystalreports.com—its inaugural reporting-on-demand, SaaS entry.

Crystalreports.com, like Salesforce.com, is an off-premises solution. Business Objects calls it Crystal Reports On Demand, and officials say that its Web-based SaaS delivery model could find an eager audience in small- and medium-sized shops, especially. That’s because such organizations are ill-served by most on-premises, prepackaged Web-based reporting tools, which are prohibitively difficult for them to implement and support on an ongoing basis, according to Business Objects officials.

Not so with crystalreports.com, which promises turnkey reporting capabilities and a Web-based delivery model that enables SMB customers to share Crystal Reports with employees, partners, and customers.

In the Crystal Reports On Demand model, an author creates or updates a report, uploads it to crystalreports.com, and then designates a list of users authorized to view the report information. Thanks to Crystal Reports On Demand’s integrated report lifecycle management and distribution capabilities, users are automatically notified when new reports are available, via email or by other means.

Web-based reports have typically been static propositions, requiring in many cases that users manually refresh content to see changes or interact with (i.e., drill down into) report data. Thanks to quasi-new-fangled application development methods such as Asynchronous JavaScript + XML (AJaX), the Web-based applications of today are a different breed, interactivity-wise. That’s the case with Crystal Reports On Demand, which supports drill-down capabilities and lets users navigate (without refreshing content) in large reports.

Officials say Crystal Reports On Demand amounts to a come-to-SaaS moment for Business Objects. “Software as a service is transforming the software landscape. We are the market leader in business intelligence and one of the first to offer the benefits of an on-demand BI solution to our customers,” said CEO John Schwarz, in a statement. “Our top priority is providing customers—regardless of size or IT resources—with BI solutions that meet their unique needs and ultimately improve business performance.”

Schwarz says crystalreports.com builds on other mid-market-oriented efforts, such as Crystal Reports Server, which Business Objects introduced last year.

Crystal Reports On Demand isn’t an all-SMB offering, however. In fact, officials say, large customers (especially users of Business Objects’ Crystal Reports XI platform) can tap SaaS conveniences such as Web-based report distribution and email-driven report notifications by exposing data residing in their on-premises Crystal Reports repositories via crystalreports.com.

Business Objects’ new SaaS entry isn’t entirely unexpected. Last year, the BI giant teamed up with Salesforce.com to promote a SaaS version of Crystal for use with Salesforce.com’s AppExchange product. Its timing, however, could have been better. According to eWeek, Salesforce.com last week experienced a service outage which left users high and dry for most of Thursday.

The CRM-as-a-service pioneer has endured lengthy outages in the past, eWeek reported—including noticeable downtime in late December when services were unavailable for several hours, and in late January, when Salesforce.com applications were once again MIA for several hours.

While these issues are seen as mostly Salesforce.com-specific (the company is struggling to scale its AppExchange platform to support its colossal user base), they also highlight at least one significant drawback of the SaaS model.

We’ll explore this and other issues when we take a more in-depth look at Crystal Reports On Demand next week. Stay tuned...

About the Author


Stephen Swoyer is a technology writer with 20 years of experience. His writing has focused on business intelligence, data warehousing, and analytics for almost 15 years. Swoyer has an abiding interest in tech, but he’s particularly intrigued by the thorny people and process problems technology vendors never, ever want to talk about. You can contact him at evets@alwaysbedisrupting.com.

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