Faced with growing data volumes and limited budgets, companies, educational institutions, and government agencies are increasingly relying on IT to help them gain a competitive edge and better serve their customers and constituents. DBTA recently asked key MultiValue vendors to explain their strategies for enabling data integration from different repositories and for supporting business intelligence and analytics that provide meaningful insight for customers.
Mike Ruane, President and CEO, Revelation Software
Revelation Software's customers often have multiple computing platforms in their organizations, and usually have multiple database applications. Those customers with OpenInsight-based applications have a number of options to share their data with other applications.
First, OpenInsight has a data warehousing wizard that walks the developer through automatically creating procedures that will update a data warehouse on a SQL platform. Secondly, OpenInsight has its Connector technologies, where OpenInsight developers (or other MultiValue developers) can use their existing knowledge and skill sets to treat data from different databases as if it were native data. So, developers could treat data on SQL Servers, U2 Servers, or D3 servers as if they were working with their local, native application. Thirdly, Revelation Software has a number of external interfaces into our database engine that allows developers on other platforms to request data from OpenInsight databases.
There are a number of tools and interfaces that make it possible to allow powerful data integration between OpenInsight and other applications and databases, but as always it comes down to the knowledge and skill of the developers assisting in the integration. Our responsibility as the vendor is to make sure that we provide our customers with the tools and training that they need to remain competitive and successful. We will continue to provide these to our customers.
Doug Leupen, President and CEO, Entrinsik, Inc.
The combination of understaffed IT departments and the constant need for department-specific information has led to the creation of many silos of data, unattached from the central ERP system and often stored on disparate database management software. Where data files have redundancy, data accuracy becomes suspect and management often makes key operational decisions based on gut instead of all available information.
One approach that IT management has taken to address this challenge is the creation of data stores or warehouses, which require a significant effort to extract, validate, and combine data into a single source. However, this approach has two shortcomings: 1) warehouses often miss data elements that operational management need for tactical decision making; and 2) the information contained is dated.
Entrinsik's Informer Web Reporting software addresses this challenge by enabling organizations to gain an integrated view of all operational data. Informer's Meta tables allow users to link tables within a single database, multiple databases, and across different database types. For example, Informer can link data tables between Oracle, SQL Server, MySQL, UniVerse, Informix, and other databases to provide a single report containing real-time data. And because Informer's query engine is fast and its user interface very intuitive, Informer enables IT to push reporting out to end users who can now do their own ad hoc reporting and analysis.
Lee Burstein, MultiValue Product Manager, InterSystems Corporation
InterSystems recognized that while there are many data warehousing products, virtually all of them deliver business intelligence after the fact with data stored in a data warehouse and used to deliver strategic information via reports that are created on a daily, weekly, or even monthly basis. Those BI technologies don't address the problem of providing operational managers and executives with the information needed to change and improve work processes and decisions in real-time. InterSystems addressed this issue with the introduction of DeepSee, our embedded real-time business intelligence product, that enhances transactional applications to provide real-time analytics to decision makers at all levels of an enterprise. Armed with dashboards that reflect application updates as they happen, operational decisions can be made at the point of action. No external data warehouse is required since DeepSee uses application transactional data stored in the InterSystems Caché database.
MultiValue applications running on Caché can take immediate advantage of DeepSee. And, by using Ensemble, our rapid integration platform, data from external applications and repositories can become part of DeepSee analytics. As a result, users receive the information they need from multiple integrated sources enabling them to make the most appropriate decisions in the tight time frames typical of competitive markets. For example, DeepSee has been added to a healthcare application to enable claims processing activities to be redistributed in real time in order to improve claims handling and reduce claims rejections by insurers. Another customer that manages auto auctions is using DeepSee to constantly monitor the performance of the auto auction lanes. As a result, dealer and sales performance are reported on immediately rather than waiting for monthly reports.
David Peters, Sales Executive, jBASE International - A Member of the Mpower1 Group
Being one of the major data repository providers, our strategy at jBASE is the same as it has always been which is to provide a truly open database. jBASE 5 is now top to bottom 64-bit so it's fast and native to all the 64-bit operating systems. We have the classic ODBC and JDBC interfaces and in jBASE 5 these have been completely upgraded.
A unique feature of jBASE is the ability to use our jEDI to put data directly in to SQL Server, Oracle, or DB2 making the data available in a RDBMS. With major upgrades to the Java JEE functionality in jBASE 5 any company wanting to take an approach based on Java to extract data from jBASE is extremely well provided for.
One of the primary repositories of data for OLAP is Microsoft's SQL Server. The ability to extract, transform, and load jBASE data into SQL Server is therefore potentially very important and mv.SSIS is our key tool here where full files or just file updates can be transferred across to a SQL Server BI engine of choice.
Whatever the reporting or business intelligence requirement, there are a series of alternative strategies available to the jBASE user.
Ken Dickinson, Managing Partner, Kore Technologies
Kore's flagship product, Kourier Integrator, has a competitive edge and distinction in the market for its ability to seamlessly converse with the UniData and UniVerse (U2) MultiValue databases. Our integration tool suite has helped hundreds of companies interface their MultiValue applications to third-party applications and to build robust data warehouses atop a Microsoft SQL Server database with near-real-time refresh rates.
Kore believes that the necessity for businesses to gather, transform, and federate their data into meaningful business metrics and key performance indicators will continue to grow. Therefore, in 2010 Kore plans to announce its Enterprise Edition of Kourier Integrator, which will provide an architecture to support virtually any database source or application's API. Kore's new product will enable companies that need to support an environment with multiple heterogeneous databases and applications to leverage a single solution for handling all of their integration requirements.
Kourier Integrator Enterprise Edition is well-positioned to alleviate the pitfalls and shorten the implementation cycle of even the most complex business intelligence (BI) projects. To date, Kore has remained agnostic to the BI reporting platform in order to remain as flexible as possible for our clients. However, in the coming months Kore plans to begin offering our recommended BI reporting platform as well as the expertise to develop reports and dashboards needed by our clients to be successful in 2010.
Susie Siegesmund, Vice President and General Manager, U2 Brand, Rocket Software
Data integration is of paramount importance in today's business environment. Many of our customers pull data from disparate repositories into a warehouse in order to do analysis, but a growing number are utilizing web services to achieve real-time integration for applications like inventory control. RocketU2's External Database Access (EDA) allows integration at the repository level by enabling read/write to any data store, an alternative solution to creating additional repositories. EDA, combined with U2 replication technology, can enable an optimal environment for high performance transactional applications and timely updates to data warehouses for business intelligence.
Rocket Shuttle is a comprehensive query, reporting, and data visualization platform for workstation and web-based environments. Using a drag-and-drop visual designer, Shuttle allows customers to swiftly build and distribute comprehensive business intelligence and data visualization solutions across the enterprise, including graphical reports and interactive dashboards created from disparate aggregate data. Designed for complex environments, Rocket Shuttle runs on an array of platforms, supports most databases, and provides information in a wide variety of output formats. We plan to have this product enabled for U2 database servers in late Q2 2010. RocketU2 will also release new SQL mapping tools and improved interoperability in 2010 as part of our focus on providing customers with options when it comes to business intelligence and reporting.
Fred Owen, President, MITS (Management Information Tools, Inc.)
For the last generation, a great deal of effort has been expended to develop computer software systems that help streamline, automate, or control a myriad of activities. To be effective and competitive, these solutions must necessarily focus on the problem at hand. These software development processes have produced many not only remarkable, but truly indispensible systems that we depend on every day to capture, store, manipulate, or transmit important information.
A tendency that we see across this entire discipline is that system designers and developers often consider this reporting function only as an afterthought. As a result, there is significant value captured by the system that cannot be realized because the resulting data is inaccessible.
At MITS, we focus on this reporting and analytics problem space, independent of any particular software system. With this focus we are able to make the inevitable design trade-offs necessary to create a usable, maintainable, supportable, and deployable system that can extend the value, usefulness, and life of the primary software system. Some of these design consideration trade-offs include the need to balance open access with the need for security; satisfying sophisticated users but not overwhelming novices; making the installation process simple, yet accommodating scalable deployment; and enabling real-time information and still protecting the live system from non-performing queries.
We bring the results of 14 years of focused development to market in the form of two products: MITS Discover for analytics and business intelligence, and MITS Report for general reporting and ad hoc access of both relational and MultiValue databases.
Mark Pick, Vice President Reality, NorthgateArinso
As needs have changed over the past 4 decades, Reality has evolved viable data access, both to allow external access into its MultiValue database and for applications to access many disparate external data sources.
This evolution has continued through to current-day requirements for web services, where the business logic of applications can be easily exposed. Reality can interface to high-end business intelligence tools such as MITS and Cognos, middle range like Crystal Reports and still the most common analytics tool being used - Microsoft Excel.
It's not just the tools that make BI and analytics work, it's the well-presented relevant data at the right time to the right people. In order to achieve this you need to consider the options available. With Reality, it's not just web services, it can be via SQL with data access and update; either into or out of compliant data sources using ODBC or JDBC interfaces. Alternatively, SQL VIEW can map external SQL sources into MultiValue file definitions - with standard applications then accessing without changes. A foreign database support feature allows Reality to use ODBC-compliant databases as its data store without the need to change the underlying MultiValue applications. For more simplistic data exchange, Reality also offers MultiValue mapped views into host file systems and delimited text files. There's also Java class, webpage, MS ActiveX and TCP/IP socket level DataBasic interfaces to aid application providers.
David Cooper, Lead Developer, BlueFinity International - a Member of the Mpower1 Group
BlueFinity's strategy has always been to create market-leading tools that provide .NET developers with cost effective, easy-to-use ways of accessing MultiValue data. This strategy also encompasses .NET tools focused specifically on the task of extracting data from diverse data sources into a consolidated data warehouse or OLAP cube. For example, Microsoft's SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS) toolset provides a great environment for doing this and BlueFinity, therefore, provides an SSIS plug-in that allows SSIS to extract data directly from practically any MultiValue data source. Once data is inside SQL the developers/users are able to choose from a multitude of industry-standard BI and analytical tools to satisfy their data analysis requirements.
For real-time BI provisioning and data visualization, there are a growing number of .NET tools vendors that provide stunning, cost-effective components that can be hosted in either desktop or browser-based application interfaces. These allow .NET developers to quickly and easily utilize a real-time data source provided by the BlueFinity products for BI and data visualization purposes. Because this technology is inexpensive, easily learned, and highly effective, it is starting to open up the accessibility of BI beyond the realm of the big corporations and will revolutionize the way in which many everyday users interpret and visualize key organization data.
Doug Owens, Vice President, Sales, Ashwood Computer, Inc.
As a VAR, Ashwood offers the most popular MV product solutions available which is a benefit; we do not approach every opportunity as if it were a "nail," just because we have a "hammer" to work with. Ashwood's technicians leverage their knowledge, skills, and experience to provide customized solutions that address business requirements and meet our customer's specific needs.
Specializing in database conversions, migrations, and upgrades since our inception in 1989 affords us leverage as we work integrating data from disparate systems. We also assist our clients utilizing products from BlueFinity and Rocket Software, to integrate with Microsoft's SSIS and .NET-based solutions.
Ashwood's BI solutions may combine component products such as Asent's AccuTerm and Microsoft's Excel to provide an effective BI solution while in other circumstances, we will utilize Tantiva's Velocity, MITS' Discover, or Entrinsik's Informer. We are now also working with Larry Christensen of Wynne Systems to offer InfoManager, a SaaS-based BI solution, to MV database systems users nationwide.
Ashwood's data integration and BI solutions harness corporate data and enable the sharing of that data in an efficient, effective manner with corporate executives, management, and end users so that all can make better informed, improved business decisions.