Seagate bridges gap between reporting tiers

Thanks to new support for Microsoft Outlook, users of Seagate Info 7 now have more ways to access and analyse information.

Formerly known as Seagate Crystal Info, the new integrated suite of business intelligence tools from Seagate Software Inc. includes enterprise information management features (EIM) such as integrated monitoring tools and archival and critical backup.

Enhancements to user access include portable cubes and reports, a new HTML desktop interface, improved Java components, plus the ability to view reports, cubes and queries directly from Microsoft Outlook.

According to Andrew Handford, product director for Seagate Info 7 in Vancouver, the software’s back-end is connected with Exchange Server, where the bulk of the integration with Outlook is done. This simplifies the deployment, he said.

“We simply send out a message to those users who want to be a member of the system and they click on a little executable which installs the minimal DLLs on the client machine. From that point, that Outlook client can connect, using Exchange messaging and mail transport, to the Info system,” he said.

The suite – comprised of Seagate Query, report packages and an enhanced version of Info Worksheet – allows users to create reports from OLAP data and includes an improved cube designer. The Info Worksheet includes new integrated charting with drill-down, advanced calculations and increased display options.

The improved support for Java also simplifies the user’s life, Handford said.

“For the majority of users who just come to the desktop, browse and get the reports and queries they need, the system understands whether they are using a 1.0 or a 1.1 JVM and downloads the appropriate applet for them.”

Info 7 also includes a superset of Seagate’s Crystal Reports design tool. “We embed the entire report designer and all of its power and use pieces in the architecture to process the reports and queries,” he said.

However, the developer tools, APIs and run time licences of Crystal Reports are not part of Info.

“So if you are a VB developer or a C++ developer who needs to integrate reporting into an application, you would still need to buy Crystal Reports (separately),” Handford said.

“But within Info, you can start to tie those together. Those applications create reports, and Info can then inherit — or inhale — those reports and deliver them across the organization. And, with our complete API to Info, it’s becoming more and more of a developer tool that allows people to build applications on top of its infrastructure.”

Seagate Holos, the company’s development environment for building high-end applications, will also snap together with Info.

“So not only is Info very complete in itself, but it is supported at the edges with tools like Crystal Reports and Holos,” he said.

Jacqueline Sweeney, senior research analyst at International Data Corp. in Framingham, Mass., described the software as a rounded-out version of a bunch of point releases rolled into one.

“[Seagate] already had an enterprise solution, but what’s interesting about this is that they have combined reporting and OLAP in one. So it’s really just more of a complete suite,” she said.

“They have been targeting users on the high end and at the low end… but now they are covering a wider range.”

Mike Schiff, director of data warehousing strategies for Sterling, Va.-based Current Analysis Inc., calls Info 7 a logical evolution, and said it is especially useful as a bridge between some of Seagate’s other products.

“You get people interested in Info, and then potentially they can scale up to Holos. So, it’s a middle ground, but it’s also a way of integrating their whole product set. They have basically put together an architecture that can work with a variety of OLAP sources.” This is especially helpful in a mixed environment, he said.

“It’s not Holos; it’s not the specialized OLAP – but it definitely fills a good product space.”

However, Schiff did express some concern that Info 7’s compound architecture can not get to Oracle’s Express OLAP product line. “That’s one piece that’s missing that is a major OLAP source. But that’s certainly no reason not to buy it, unless you are an Oracle Express user,” he said. “They get to all the other big ones.”

Client licences for Seagate Info 7 ( sell for US$295 per user, and developer licences for US$395 per user.

Seagate Software in Vancouver is at 1-800-877-2340.