Cognos enters the Web services arena

Ottawa-based Cognos Inc. is jumping into the Web services fray with the recent announcement of Cognos Web Services.

This integration platform extends Cognos Series 7 business intelligence (BI) to other applications and environments. Using XML and SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol), the toolkit allows enterprises to integrate Cognos into Web, vertical market and wireless applications, according to the company. It takes information from Cognos services and translates it to XML, then another translator is put on top of the XML to bring Cognos to other applications.

Colin Saravanamuttoo, product marketing manager for Cognos in Ottawa, said the product started out as a mobile application project.

“Wireless and Web services often go hand in hand. Everyone wants to have wireless play,” he said. “The wireless side is always of great interest, but not the greatest uptake.”

Customers wanted to extend Cognos services to other applications, according to Saravanamuttoo. After it looked at ways to solve this business problem, the company decided the Web services offered the best solution.

He stressed that this toolkit is using industry standards, so it does not require people to learn new skills to use it.

In addition, Cognos will team with Macromedia to combine Cognos Web Services with Macromedia Inc.’s Flash to provide responsive, “desktop-like” applications for delivering customized BI visualizations and reports.

Companies will be able to integrate reporting capabilities from Cognos, as opposed to developing reporting functionality from the ground up, into an existing application, Saravanamuttoo said.

“It’s all about taking information from many different sources and linking it all together … extending business intelligence throughout the organization, putting business intelligence on as many desks as possible,” Saravanamuttoo said.

“If you can pick and choose the functionality you need and embed it in an existing application … you’re going to have a much greater opportunity for people to use business intelligence. You will have greater uptake because it is so seamless.”

Shannon Ryan, president of Ottawa-based non-linear creations Inc., an application development firm that specializes in Web content, said Cognos may be leaping into Web services before IT departments are ready.

“I don’t see a lot of buying yet. People are cutting costs,” he said.

But Peter Pawlak, lead analyst for server applications at Kirkland, Wash.-based Directions on Microsoft, which covers all aspects of Microsoft publishing, said the time has come for companies to start producing enterprise applications for Web services.

The first phase of Web services is the means for doing enterprise application integration (EAI), according to Pawlak.

“Cognos has had BI products on the market for some time now, but they haven’t been able to integrate. So this product fits in to EAI really well,” he said, adding companies have shown that they are ready to buy these types of applications.

“Anytime they can find a way to gain competitive advantage, companies are not that short on budget that they won’t jump on technology that creates an enabling situation like this,” Pawlak said.

Cognos Web Services will support Unix and Microsoft platforms. It will also give users the ability to extend Cognos capabilities into .Net and J2EE.

The product allows for content from a Cognos application to be displayed in a custom fashion, within an existing user interface. BI functionality can then be added to existing portals, the company said.

– With files from IDG News Service

Basic features of Cognos Web Services:

– Fully documented, open XML API with support for industry-standard Web protocols

– Full integration with Cognos business intelligence servers, Web portal, and security service

– Firewall compatible

– Complete visual test studio environment for testing and verifying applications

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