Oco adds enterprise features to its on-demand BI

System availability improvements and integration with SAP's BusinessObjects BI OnDemand highlight Oco's play for enterprise business

On-demand BI (business intelligence) vendor Oco announced version 4.0 of its platform on Wednesday, a release that contains multiple new functions aimed at serving large enterprises.

Some new features, such as support for multinational character sets and around-the-clock system availability, target the needs of companies with operations in multiple countries. Another alerts users in real time about whether a report they are using has become outdated by new information being added to the system.

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Oco has also added a data-export tool for SAP applications, easing the burden of pushing ERP (enterprise resource planning) and CRM (customer relationship management) data into its system.

In addition, Oco 4.0 features integration with SAP's BusinessObjects BI OnDemand software, and increased ability to create mashups with other Web applications. Oco has an existing partnership with SAP.

"All these developments provide incremental improvements that suggest that deployments will be easier to accomplish," said IDC analyst Dan Vesset via e-mail. "The emphasis seems to be on various aspects of data integration which continues to be a bigger challenge for most organizations, rather than end-user data visualization. So they're investing in the right places."

Forrester Research analyst Boris Evelson echoed Vesset.

"These are all must-haves for any enterprise BI deployments. If BI SaaS vendors want to compete effectively with traditional BI vendors, features like SAP connectivity and 24x7 operations support are must-haves, not nice-to-haves," he said via e-mail.

Vesset also flagged the 4.0 release's ability to update users on the presence of new information as a positive.

"Our research shows that when this type of metadata about data freshness and lineage is exposed to end users, they tend to have greater trust in the data, which promotes more pervasive use."

Oco counts large enterprises among its customers, including Fidelity Investments, as well as mid-sized companies like Welch's, said president and CEO William Copacino . Its target market is companies with revenues between $300 million up to $5 or $6 billion, he added.

The vendor's global customers have operations around the clock in various parts of the world, and therefore needed the system to be up at all times, said CTO Mike Beckerle . "We're following the sun here. Different divisions will be pushing data up to us at different times of day."

Previously, Oco had scheduled outage windows for data warehouse updates, but with the help of some added technological plumbing, the outages are no more, he said.

Oco constructed the new SAP export tool in anticipation of customers' likely concerns. It is read-only and does not require inbound paths into customers' networks, instead pushing the data in encrypted form out to Oco. "Admins of SAP systems are very conservative," Beckerle said.

Data export tools for other platforms, such as Oracle, are on Oco's road map.

Pricing for Oco 4.0 varies depending on the number and complexity of source systems, but are a third to one-half the range of traditional on-premise offerings, Copacino said.

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