Information Builders upgrades WebFOCUS

CHICAGO – At a user conference in Chicago on Monday, Information Builders Inc. announced version 5.0 of its WebFOCUS product, an application development and reporting tool designed specifically for Web-based environments.

This new version is more scalable, includes an enhanced, intuitive interface to support a wider breadth of users and integrates better with third-party applications, according to the company.

It also includes an autonomic server that is, according to the company, self-healing.

“What we’ve really added [to WebFOCUS] is a brain,” explained Gerald Cohen, president and CEO of Information Builders.

This self-aware, self-healing and self-optimizing “brain” automatically configures the server or server clusters running WebFOCUS, so it can resolve glitches and prevent bottlenecks from occurring. Cohen said this allows the network to run reliably 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Other enhancements include streamlined information distribution, enabling the ability to deliver WebFOCUS and third-party reports – such as image files and Microsoft Word documents – to users on a scheduled or alert basis. This enhancement also allows for easier information storage and retrieval, Information Builders said.

In addition, v5.0 allows users to update any data source reported from, so users can drill down from a report and update information. WebFOCUS supports 85 databases across 35 platforms, according to the company.

Another feature new to this edition is the ability to create and publish WebFOCUS reports that are callable from both J2EE and .Net environments. This means reports can be integrated into almost any application regardless of architecture, the company said.

It is also easier for users to create complex financial reports such as profit and loss statements and balance sheets.

With v5.0, less tech-savvy users are better supported by a new intuitive interface. Also account managers are better able to create their own reports with the addition of a thin-client tool that allows organizations to deploy ad-hoc and online analytical processing (OLAP) capabilities. OLAP allows users to drill down into information contained in a report, slicing and dicing the data to better understand a trend.

The City of Montreal’s financial department turned to WebFOCUS last fall when 28 communities on the island of Montreal amalgamated to form one single city. The amalgamation meant the amount of information in the city’s financial department doubled from 200,000 to 400,000 accounts.

As a result, the city faced the problem of centralizing account information through the consolidation of these disparate systems. It had to not only make the information universally available to users, but also had to integrate the Web with the city’s legacy Oasis mainframe.

WebFOCUS allowed the Montreal to centralize all the data that was previously contained in 28 disparate systems, and added an extra 10 years of life to its legacy mainframe, said Jean-Francoise Leclaire, director of revenue and fiscal policies for the city.

While the city currently uses WebFOCUS v4.31 – Metro Montreal’s financial department had already been running it for three years – it plans to upgrade to the new version in coming months because of its new features.

Right now the city has about 85 WebFOCUS users, but plans to increase that number to 250. In the next five to 10 years, it plans to roll it out further throughout the enterprise.

The City of Montreal also created a Web portal using the WebFOCUS Developer Studio that is integrated into WebFOCUS so every user can easily access reports via a Web browser.

Herve Caparros, programmer/analyst for the city, said the solution was easy to deploy – it only took two months – and since implementation last fall, user requests have more than doubled.

Right now, the city runs WebFOCUS on Windows NT, but it is also compatible with Linux, Unix, AS/400, and IBM Corp.’s Multiple Virtual Storage (MVS) server and AS/400.

WebFOCUS also includes Information Builders’ middleware software, iWAY, which is responsible for retrieving data and ferreting it into WebFOCUS. iWAY Software is a separate company owned by Information Builders which sports the same name as its flagship product – iWAY Software.

On Monday, it announced a new version of its iWAY product, featuring new functionalities. Version 5.5 includes an upgraded iWAY XML Transformation Engine (iXTE) with intelligent routing. This ensures that business information is transmitted to all the applications and tools involved in a business process.

In addition iWAY Software has new built-in Java Message Service (JMS) capabilities, and support for Java Connector Architecture (JCA) 1.5. Other additions include a browser-based graphical user interface (GUI), XML enhancement, and more support for open standards. Also, business-to-business (B2B) capabilities have been enhanced.

Information Builders is headquartered in New York while Information Builders Canada is in Toronto. For more information visit the company on the Web at iWAY Software is online at