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Business Objects adds text analytics to BI with Inxight acquisition

Business intelligence, search and text analytics are rapidly converging. Business Objects' combination with Inxight offers the possibility of a BI back end and a search front end.

Business Objects S.A. is adding text analytics to its Business Intelligence (BI) arsenal, announcing today that it will acquire text analytics vendor Inxight Software.

The BI vendor, with dual headquarters in Paris and San Jose, Calif., said at its annual user conference in Berlin that it will acquire Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Inxight and its text analytics, federated search and data visualization technology for an undisclosed sum. The deal is expected to close in July.

"Business Intelligence has been largely focused on a structured, orderly world," said Marge Breya, chief marketing officer with Business Objects. "What we've been missing is a bit of a notion around the softer side of analytics, the human side. With the announcement today we're able to look at not just the quantitative side but the qualitative side of business intelligence."

BI, search and text analytics technology have come together in recent years as organizations attempt to mine intelligence from both structured and unstructured content. Companies are increasingly beginning to integrate BI, search and text analytics, a recent report from The Data Warehousing Institute found. BI vendors are hoping to fill a need as well, acquiring and developing search technology. Cognos and Information Builders unveiled their own search plans last year, preceded by IBM's acquisition of iPhrase and the combination of Verity and Autonomy.

"We're dealing with two worlds of technologies and skill sets that are really quite different," said Henry Morris, analyst with Framingham, Mass.-based IDC. "The BI market is much larger than the text analytics market, though there's obviously much more information in the world stored as text. Search could be disruptive to BI. Rather than be disrupted by people like [search vendors] FAST and Endeca, to incorporate search is a good defensive strategy."

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Inxight's technology allows customers to tap into textual information -- such as writing in the notes fields of call center applications -- and identify customer satisfaction or product issues. It also offers federated search capabilities that let users search multiple information repositories, such as Google, internal search engines and published reports, and it returns one organized set of results.

How Business Objects will combine the technology of the two companies remains to be seen, but Business Objects considers them complementary, allowing users to bring unstructured information into the data warehouse where Business Objects can analyze it and Inxight's search capabilities can serve as a front end for the system.

"Certainly we think that there's a lot of strategic value in marrying both structured and unstructured information in the data warehouse to get a single view of the customer, product, employee," Breya said.

While Inxight can feed the data warehouse on the back end, Morris said, users are increasingly asking for a single point of access to corporate information -- what IDC calls unified access. Inxight offers the chance to put a visual front end on Business Objects analytical back end.

"Inxight is known for very powerful visualizations," he said. "We found people would really like to see a single point of access for text and data. The search paradigm is better known than the BI."

Inxight has more than 120 employees and had revenues above $25 million last year. It has more than 450 customers, including Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and the Department of Defense.

Inxight has existing original equipment manufacturing (OEM) agreements with Business Objects competitors such as the SAS Institute, which officials said will not be an issue.

"Each one of us is operating on the kind of technology Inxight has delivered in different ways," Breya said. "We feel really confident that this technology that has been licensed to many companies has plenty of room for each of us. How we approach the market is very different from SAS, from the other players there."

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