Information Builders unveils its latest WebFocus BI offering

With an eye on improving enterprise data integration, business intelligence (BI) vendor Information Builders Inc. (IBI) launched last month the latest version of its WebFocus BI platform.

WebFocus 7 is based on what the New York-based vendor terms “operational business intelligence.” IBI’s latest BI tool simplifies access and management of enterprise data, said Michael Corcoran, vice-president and chief communications officer for IBI. The tool features a new service oriented architecture (SOA), with full support for Web services. The IT industry is moving away from the traditional BI model and towards an open architecture environment — data needs to be available to a large and more distributed scale of users, according to Corcoran.

WebFocus 7 operates within an integrated environment, meaning that data — from structured databases, transactions and real-time production systems — can be accessed regardless of location, format or the latency involved in the process, Corcoran said.

The new features in WebFocus 7 include data reconciliation, preparation, cleansing and transport capabilities along with native access to more than 210 data formats and sources, such as legacy data and real-time operational system data, said Kevin Quinn, vice-president, product marketing for IBI.

The software connects to data warehouses and data marts and directly into transactional systems, Quinn said. The developer capabilities have also been enhanced — enterprises can quickly design, build and test information systems that enable BI, the company said. Developers can incorporate SQL queries built with other tools into WebFocus 7, according to IBI, and the product has autonomic computing capabilities, which enable the server to self-optimize based on workload and user demand. Quinn added that WebFocus 7 reads data as a Web service, allowing reports and data to be used in BI applications.

With the release, IBI also improved the ties between WebFocus and adaptor integration tools from its iWay Software subsidiary. From the WebFocus 7 management console, users can access iWay adapters to connect with platforms such as mainframe, Unix, Windows NT or Linux. This development connects data integration and management to WebFocus’s existing query, reporting and analysis features, Corcoran said.

Pharmascience Inc., a Montreal-based pharmaceutical company, currently runs WebFocus 5 and plans to migrate to the latest version this fall. Jonathan Despres, manager of information access, BI reporting project leader at Pharmascience, said the firm initially deployed BI to develop its sales and marketing reporting applications.

It currently uses WebFocus across enterprise departments and functions, including finance, manufacturing and human resources. Using BI tools enables Pharmascience to convert data from multiple sources into actionable information in real time and deliver it into the hands of users, Despres said.

Interaction capabilities are becoming an important requirement for reporting tools for enterprises seeking to standardize on a single BI environment. For end users, the challenges with using BI are the same as they’ve been for years — enterprises require easy access to data, a simple user interface and to understand how they or their group is performing against goals, said Eric Rogge, analyst for Belmont, Calif.-based Ventana Research.

Rogge noted that while there are solutions available from other BI vendors that are less developer-centric — a factor which could be perceived as making them easier to use — IBI is on the right track.

The BI market as a whole is moving towards improving overall scalability and configurability, which are significant requirements for large-scale operational BI deployments, Rogge said.

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