More Scalable Tool Slips BI into Enterprise Front Line

By Lisa Vaas  |  Posted 2004-10-18 Print this article Print

With the update of WebFocus, Information Builders has deepened its commitment to do what just about all BI vendors are now doing: getting business intelligence in the hands of the masses.

Information Builders Inc. last week deepened its commitment to do what just about all BI vendors are now doing: getting business intelligence out to the masses. To do that, the New York company put out an update to its WebFocus software that ties in tighter with Microsoft Corp.s Office and Excel, scales better, and integrates with customers existing security instead of coming with its own security infrastructure to add to IT departments workload. The emphasis on integrating with Office and Excel means that the software is thereby usable by people in the tools with which theyre familiar, said Kevin Quinn, vice president of product marketing. "People using these types of systems are not classic users of [BI tools]," he said . "Customer support reps dont run and analyze data. They sit at terminals. If they have a new phone call they need to service, what comes up on their screen is a BI report. They didnt know about it and didnt ask for it—its just a part of what theyre doing. They dont have to go out of their way to request an analysis."
Quinn said that WebFocus 5.3s enhanced scalability is pivotal when it comes to getting strategic information out of the hands of managers and into the hands of people who man the front lines of an enterprises operations. "BI in the past was reserved for a few managers in the back office," Quinn said. "Now companies are starting to recognize [the importance of] pushing information out to people at an operational level, that every employee needs to make decisions on a daily level."
The update features improved scalability in the Java-based middle tier of the server, which now can perform up to 80 percent better than the previous version, he said. Such scalability is a big deal to First Rate Investment Systems, which has been using the updates beta version. John Watkins is the technology manager for the Arlington, Texas, company, which is the developer and provider of portfolio analysis and performance measurement software for financial services companies. Watkins said that WebFocus scalability, which was already good in the previous version, enables First Rates clients to handle analysis on thousands of portfolios without straining their databases. "You can take a lot of workload off SQL Server and spread it out to these [Information Builder iWay servers]," he said. "We can have [the iWay servers] chug away at a small result set, and [we dont] have to worry about record locking. You have a small result set local, and [the iWay servers] can chug away fast with a small database, with just 300 accounts in it. And it frees SQL Server up for people to be doing other [projects]." Tighter integration with Excel spreadsheets is another way to get more end users up and running with BI, Quinn said. "HTML, Excel or PDFs—thats what everybodys experienced with," he said. "We provide information in a tool customers or users already feel comfortable with." Next Page: Update integrates with resident security systems.

Lisa Vaas is News Editor/Operations for and also serves as editor of the Database topic center. Since 1995, she has also been a Webcast news show anchorperson and a reporter covering the IT industry. She has focused on customer relationship management technology, IT salaries and careers, effects of the H1-B visa on the technology workforce, wireless technology, security, and, most recently, databases and the technologies that touch upon them. Her articles have appeared in eWEEK's print edition, on, and in the startup IT magazine PC Connection. Prior to becoming a journalist, Vaas experienced an array of eye-opening careers, including driving a cab in Boston, photographing cranky babies in shopping malls, selling cameras, typography and computer training. She stopped a hair short of finishing an M.A. in English at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. She earned a B.S. in Communications from Emerson College. She runs two open-mic reading series in Boston and currently keeps bees in her home in Mashpee, Mass.

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