Cognos hopes PowerPlay can take advantage

For Cognos, the development of PowerPlay, an analysis and reporting OLAP solution, has meant moving away from the traditional client/server methodology and concentrating on the Web.

Written in C++, it is a multi-dimensional analysis tool that has the capability of looking at various attributes within a user’s data. Originally built as a client tool, the bulk of the business taking place today is over the Internet.

Some of the key features include creating a key performance indicator to measure and monitor business and multilingual server support so that users can choose the language they prefer when viewing data and analysing data. Power Cubes, which allow for the comparison of data, illustrate what the software can do.

“Power Cubes essentially are cubes that are built off of the database, in the spirit of OLAP, to stage or mark the data in a way that our multi-dimensional tool can hit it”, said Anil Dilawri, product marketing manager at Cognos in Ottawa. In essence, it takes a large piece of data from the relational database or data warehouse and puts it into a cube format where it can be compared, he said.

While not responsible for the hosting or security of the data itself, he added the Access Manager handles the security from a software perspective. Dilawri said what he believes the PowerPlay offers over other OLAPs is an integration of tools.

Bob Moran said that product does work well in conjunction with the reporting tools, such as the visualization and analytical applications.

“Cognos has continued to tighten the integration…and has tightened the intersection with the analytical applications that are based on it,” said the research vice-president, managing director decision support for Aberdeen Group in Boston, Mass. He used the example of a hospital, saying they collect an enormous about of data as it relates to when a patient arrives – how long they remained in the hospital, who visited with the patient – to the ordering of medical supplies to business objects. What has been learned is that the raw data often times is merely idle, not truly being utilized in any fashion.

“What has been learned from using analytical technology, even reporting technology, is that by putting things next to each other on the cube (for i.e.) a multi-dimensional database you get the fields lined up next to each other and you see natural comparisons.” He added that a tool like PowerPlay could help in this type of environment or for businesses that are data intensive.

Keith Gile, senior industry analyst for Giga in Norwalk, Conn., said Cognos’ move to the Internet eliminates some of the proprietary management functions that were associated with the client/server technology it needed to incorporate.

“Even though the Web is not a panacea for all of technology’s ills it has to be recognized as a better delivery mechanism, certainly (more) than client/server.” Gile said the advantage Cognos offers is the full integration of products, from the querying or the reporting of the multi dimensional analysis. Technologically, he added, the OLAP concept or the multi-dimensional database becomes an optimized technology for the end-user, “a tool or functionality that begs to be used by a broad audience.”

However, he said the challenge they face now is the entire Web concept, and whether they truly have the integration that they have apparently promised. They must attempt to take a viable client/server product and extend it out to the Web, he said.