DI Dives into AS/400 BI

There is a little less elbow room in the world of AS/400 business intelligence solutions with the recent launch of Dimensional Insight's DI-Atlantis AS/400, a data mart solution that runs natively on the AS/400.

DI-Atlantis AS/400 reads data directly from DB2/400 or any AS/400 stream file, giving end users access to AS/400 data warehouses, data marts and application data. It presents the data to the desktop for instant ad-hoc reporting without SQL or a report writer. "We drive directly against the DB2 tables," explains Fred Powers, president and CEO of Burlington, Mass.-based Dimensional Insight. "There's no extraction."

Atlantis contains three modules: Builder, Data Integrator and DiveMaster. Builder runs native on the AS/400 and either extracts the data directly from DB/2 or accepts a denormalized (flat) stream file and builds a multidimensional model based on user specifications. Data Integrator allows multiple data files to be integrated into a single denormalized file, which is then used to generate a model in Builder.

DiveMaster is a Windows client that creates standardized report files which describe to DI-Diver or to DI-WebDiver (Dimensional Insight's client-side and Web-based analysis tools, respectively), how a model or multiple models should be viewed. With these files, DiveMaster joins multiple models together in a single virtual model, so quarterly models may be joined for analysis of the entire year's data. It can also connect models to lookup tables, allowing the IS manager to change lists such as part descriptions or employee numbers without rebuilding the model.

Dimensional Insight has recently changed some of the terminology of data warehousing. DI-Atlantis users "dive" down into their data, rather than drill down. In addition, Atlantis data models are represented as spheres rather than cubes since users can view the data from within the sphere from any direction and move anywhere. Powers also points out that data cubes can only be examined from a few specific directions without extensive programming.

"[DI-Atlantis AS/400] handles quite large databases very efficiently, gives you a good user interface and allows you to manipulate large amounts of data fast," says Dave Folger, program director of workgroup computing strategies at the Meta Group (Stamford, Conn.)

Working closely with Rochester, Dimensional Insight has extended Atlantis to the AS/400 after it found its wings on Unix, then Windows NT. Powers says he relishes going head-to-head with other players in the AS/400 data warehousing market. "We have a proprietary (OLAP) engine that's never lost a benchmark to Arbor Essbase (ShowCase Strategy's engine) or Silvon on other platforms," he notes. "There's a tremendous market in the AS/400 for this that's not tapped."

Powers says DI is advocating building data marts over data warehouses and is, therefore, more focused on department level accounts than the entire enterprise. "For ease and speed, you can't beat a data mart," he says.

According to Powers, the "sweet spot" of the AS/400 market for DI-Atlantis is the middle tier, P5 to P30 machines. Those are the kind of shops Dimensional Insight is looking to target for Atlantis.

Howard Dresner, research director at the Gartner Group (Stamford, Conn.), says Dimensional Insight has always been an innovator in the business intelligence marketplace, but has not had enough focus in the past. That's starting to change now. "What I'm starting to see is a measure of focus from these guys in the area of AS/400 and some specific industry alignment, which is very good news and probably is going to be a winning strategy for them," he says.

"They do have some unique, differentiable technology, especially the indexing technology for DI-Diver. I think the AS/400 is probably a good market for them. Of course, there's always a challenge of figuring out how to get to all the resellers out there and get them to adopt your technology, but I think they're making some inroads," Dresner concludes.