Applying Business Intelligence to Business Intelligence

WebFOCUS Resource Analyzer, a tool that’s designed to help organizations accelerate the performance of their WebFOCUS-based BI infrastructures.

Information Builders Inc.’s (IBI) WebFOCUS reporting tool isn’t exactly a spring chicken. With nearly a decade of enhancement and development behind it, WebFOCUS is—by all accounts—a mature, reliable product.

Nevertheless, even the most seasoned of products can be improved.

To that end, Information Builders this month announced WebFOCUS Resource Analyzer, a new tool that’s designed to help organizations accelerate performance in their WebFOCUS-based BI infrastructures. Call it Applied business intelligence—to business intelligence. Or, to put it another way, it’s a case of BI eating its own dog food. Regardless of what you call it, IBI officials say, Resource Analyzer was specifically developed in response to requests from customers.

“The promise of improved business performance has many organizations putting resource analysis and governance assurance at the forefront of their BI needs. By marrying the unique scalability of WebFOCUS and our unparalleled data access capability with subsidiary iWay Software, Information Builders continues to lead the market in providing optimal operational business intelligence capabilities,” said IBI chief Gerry Cohen, in a statement.

The idea, officials say, is to study how WebFOCUS is used—by all different kinds of users, and across a range of different applications and business units—to improve performance by identifying problem areas, allocating resources more effectively, and so on. WebFOCUS Resource Analyzer helps BI Pros monitor and analyze a range of different canned and customized metrics, such as the impact of Web-based reporting on operational OLTP systems, or (similarly) its impact on reporting and decision support systems with OLTP workloads. In the latter case, IBI officials point out, such knowledge can help BI teams minimize the impact of DSS on OLTP.

Ditto for metrics such as average or maximum CPU utilization per request, average or maximum response time, and number of records returned.

Elsewhere, IBI officials say, WebFOCUS Resource Analyzer can help BI teams improve data access design to better address the needs of users; identify and remove dormant data; identify heaviest usage times and consequently determine the optimum window for maintenance, backups, and ETL batch jobs. Similarly, BI teams can use WebFOCUS Resource Analyzer to identify the precise size of the user population for specific requests, enabling them to efficaciously allocate administrative resources such that they can benefit the largest number of users.

To a large degree, WebFOCUS shops—more, perhaps, than other BI enclaves—are primed for just such a BI performance management tool, if only because WebFOCUS is widely embedded into, or invoked from, a range of custom and pre-packaged applications. In fact, officials say, IBI has designed WebFOCUS to be as unobtrusive as possible, such that it can be assimilated, more or less transparently, into just about any Web-based application interface. “It’s a decision we made to be non-invasive in our customers’ applications,” explained Michael Corcoran, IBI’s vice-president of product marketing, in a May interview. “We kind of had an inherent heritage of production systems mentality. We’re used all over the place. [A lot of the places where we’re used are] production systems, the workhorses of any system. For these it’s not important whose logo pops up,” he concluded.

And because IBI encourages customers to embed WebFOCUS into their Web applications—at any number of levels (in a portal, invoked from an application server, or as a reporting component of a Web application front-end, for example)—it can be more difficult to identify and isolate WebFOCUS performance issues—particularly in highly complex environments.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.