Business Objects is roll out a full suite of on-demand business intelligence (BI) software.

The service, initially aimed at Salesforce.com users, allows customers to use Business Objects' BI tools without having to maintain the software themselves or buy extra servers. Business Objects maintains a copy of each customer's data in its own data centres, and employees access the data through a web browser.

Business Objects took its first steps in on-demand software last April with therelease of Crystalreports.com, for sharing reports online. That service has attracted about 50,000 customers, the company said. The new service announced Monday, called Intelligence OnDemand, includes a broader set of applications for formatted reporting, running ad hoc queries and analysis, and displaying BI "dashboards" on a user's desktop.

The first version of the service, available now, is for customers who have data stored in Salesforce.com's online CRM applications. Business Objects will load a copy of the customer's Salesforce data to its own data centers and build a data warehouse that customers can use to run their BI queries.

The service is aimed at sales and marketing staff and business analysts at companies with a high volume of Salesforce data, and is the first in suite of similar services that Business Objects plans to roll out, the company said. It includes on-demand versions of its Crystal Reports service, Crystal Xcelsius and Web Intelligence products.

Business Objects has staked out an early lead in on-demand BI, although SAS Institute and some smaller BI vendors are also getting into the game.

Proponents of such services say they helps customers to cut costs because they don't have to manage applications themselves or buy servers on which to run them. Business Objects said it's new service will take the "heavy lifting" out of building and maintaining a data warehouse. The trade-off is that customers must trust a third party to look after and provide access to their sensitive company data.