I just got back from the Business Objects Insight Conference and wanted to talk about their new OLAP product, Voyager. Before I go on, I want to disclose that my company, Simba Technologies, does work for BOBJ and we are a BOBJ Technology Partner. Also, what is written here is only my opinion.

A side comment: The big question hanging over everyone at the BOBJ conference was “What does the acquisition by SAP mean?” It was interesting that the BOBJ people were told not to comment on this. So, even though I know a lot of people at BOBJ, no one was talking. What was interesting was at the keynote, they had a video from Henning Kagermann, the CEO of SAP. Basically, Henning’s message was that SAP was happy to acquire BOBJ and would be running it as a separate group within SAP. BOBJ’s CEO, John Schwarz and BOBJ’s Founder, Bernard Liautaud, both also spoke in the keynote and also said the same thing. They said they are excited to be part of the SAP Group. The reality is that this deal has not yet closed at this time, so the two companies must still operate as independent entities. Everyone is figuring this deal will close in Q1 of 2008; my guess is don’t expect a lot till then.

Many of you know that BOBJ has a new OLAP product called Voyager – http://www.businessobjects.com/pdf/products/queryanalysis/ds_businessobjects_voyager.pdf. Voyager has been around for about a year now and it is an interesting product. It is a good offering from BOBJ in the OLAP space. BOBJ has had a lot of success in SQL reporting and if they keep investing solidly in Voyager, I expect they will have a lot more success in OLAP/MDX reporting and analysis. Previous to Voyager, BOBJ’s OLAP solutions were based on Crystal Reports and Web Intelligence with OLAP Universes. Voyager does more – it is an AJAX client and it also allows you to access and analyze multiple OLAP sources.

The Voyager session that I attended was titled “OLAP Analysis with Voyager – What’s New, What’s Planned”. It was presented by John MacGregor (Product Manager) and Ian McAlpine (Program Manager). They talked about the product and gave a very nice demo. They explained a lot of the features of the current product and talked about futures. It is interesting that they plan on supporting AIX and Linux. What is also interesting in this product is that “Supported OLAP databases include those from Microsoft, SAP, IBM, and Oracle (including Hyperion Essbase).” Being a connectivity person, I find this interesting. Voyager is an OLAP client from the largest BI products company that will support all of the major MDX OLAP servers. If you read my previous October 24th blog posting about MDX being the de facto standard for OLAP and multi-dimensional servers, you will understand why I find Voyager’s connectivity story interesting. Voyager will have native MDX connectivity to more MDX OLAP servers than even Microsoft Excel. Anyone wanting to have an OLAP client that works in a heterogeneous MDX server world will find Voyager to be something that they should definitely consider.

Yes, there are other products out there like Panorama that support MDX across all the major OLAP servers (http://www.panorama.com/news/news/archives/2007/aug-20-2007.html), but having a company the size of Business Objects doing this definitely is a game changer. If SAP continues to support Business Objects as an independent division and keeps investing in Voyager having open connectivity to all MDX data sources, I believe we will have achieved with MDX in the multi-dimensional world what we have with SQL in the relational world – true standards-based interoperability between clients and servers from different vendors.

One other thing that I also enjoyed during John and Ian’s session is that they asked the audience for feedback on what additional features and functionality customers were looking for from Voyager. A number of people threw out ideas, and the discussions about Voyager futures continued after the session with a few people for a good 15-20 minutes. It is nice to see people who enjoy what they do and are so willing to listen to what their users and customers think.