A Vancouver company says its technology will make it easier for users of Microsoft Excel to tap into the features of SAP’s business intelligence tools.

Simba Technologies Inc. on Monday said it had licensed its MDX 2005 Parser to the Waldorf, Germany-based business software giant for use in the BI component of its NetWeaver middleware platform.

MDX refers to multidimensional expression reference, a query language created by Microsoft in the mid-1990s to pull out information from its SQL Server product. The Simba technology will be integrated with SAP so that its users can natively tap into features of Microsoft products, specifically Excel, without having to use the plug-ins that third-party vendors would otherwise provide.

Amyn Rajan, Simba’s president, said the company had previously worked with SAP in 1997 to provide connectivity to Excel, but the 2007 edition of the Microsoft spreadsheet program added a number of features that require special handling.

“You just see a day and night type of difference,” he said, referring in particular to changes in the pivot tables of Excel 2007. “If anybody is using Excel in a Microsoft stack and now want to use Excel in an SAP stack, this will allow them to do that.”

SAP Canada officials did not respond to requests for an interview at press time.

Rajan would not comment on whether the company was also licensing its technology to Oracle, but he said Simba has a long history with a number of other BI players. Other licensees of its MDX Parser include Business Objects, for example, which was acquired by SAP last year.

Far from reducing his potential customer base, Rajan said the consolidation within the BI sector actually increases the demand for Simba’s technology.

“All of the products they’re acquiring, they all have to interoperate, and we help different products connect,” he said, adding that Simba earned its track record by working closely with Microsoft, partnering with the Redmond, Wash.-based software firm on the XMLA Council to try to standardize the MDX language.

Microsoft has been making greater investments in BI technology lately, including its Dynamics line of applications and PerformancePoint Server, which it launched last year. Ryan Dochuk, who manages BI products at Microsoft Canada in Mississauga, Ont., said one of the company’s advantages is in offering BI through familiar products like Excel. This, in turn, is causing changes in the way BI is managed and owned within the enterprise.

“You’re always going to have IT involved in a BI project. It’s the end users that change,” he said. “IT used to fulfill their role in creating reports, doing ad-hoc analysis and reporting. Now the opportunity is for end users to essentially monitor information, analyze, do planning and have less reliance on IT.”

Rajan agreed.

“They have a lot of other great products – reporting services, analytical products . . . it’s just that Excel is ubiquitous. You see it, it’s everywhere.”

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