Friday, November 26, 2010

Panopticon

I had another look at Panopticon today. I had seen it before, but they have a new version out. Panopticon is probably most noticeable at first glance because of its spectacular data displays. Their marketing material usually features very busy charts of two types – tree maps (heat maps with a drill down) and what Panopticon calls horizon graphs, which only they offer, as far as I know. Horizon graphs are too busy for most applications and only seem to me to be useful for trying to get an overview of a large quantity of data. It sees itself as a competitor of Tableau and Spotfire.

Similarly, Panopticon’s data layer is specialized in supporting large quantities of multivariate data, often in real time, or near real time. Typical applications include real time monitoring of telecom networks and financial trades. Product is notable for its ability to access disparate data sources including column-based data sources and enterprise buses. This makes a bit more like middleware than most BI. The company is particularly active in the financial services industry, where about 80% of its customers are found. Panopticon offers semantics in what it calls a Stream Cube, a multidimensional model with data access and caching functions.

Panopticon’s newest release includes an easier way for end users to design dashboard that are embedded in third party systems. This product, which the company refers to as the Rapid Development Kit(RDK), is a reminder that the product is often used in very technical applications, such as as an embedded dashboard in a custom solution. The RDK is intended to allow business users to deliver content to such technical environments.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Cognos 10

I had look at Cognos 10 today when IBM’s Andrew Popp and Andrew MacNeill dropped by in W├╝rzburg on a whistle-stop tour of Europe. On the whole I was pretty positively impressed.

Cognos says it is moving back towards the business user. That was the main message I picked up from the meeting. I have been noticing this interesting trend with many vendors. About ten years ago there was a big swing away from the business user, and vendors started focusing more and more on the enterprise. The main reason for doing this was that they were chasing the bigger deals.

But vendors often forgot about the end user in their rush to establish themselves as enterprise standards. In fact, the BI Survey 9 found that buying choosing BI software for a project because it is the enterprise standard leads to the worst project results. It is refreshing to see vendors making a real effort to address this issue.

Cognos is focused on making the product easier to get started with. They have identified the issue of jumping between multiple studios as the key issue for end users. Removing the “studio hop” is a big part of the new product. Actually this never seemed to me to be such a big deal. However, I have often seen users confused about it in the field – at least during sales presentations. I wonder if it is also an issue for users with a day’s training.

Be that as it may, the new version of Cognos provides a new way of accessing the system. Now the user starts in a Workspace that provides easy self service features and can add to that by clicking a button automatically attached to objects that brings the user to the appropriate authoring tool. Cognos is also moving away from the recursive grid concept that is the basis of Report Studio. This is probably a good idea as well, because you need quite a bit of practice to get a complicated layout right.

Cognos also introduced disconnected analytics with Report Studio’ ability to create prepackaged reporting applications. These single file packets include a slice of data and one or more interactive formatted reports. They are called Active Reports and are a lot like Information Builder’s Active Reports. They have also developed a set of query optimizations called the Dynamic Query Mode.

Another interesting side remark that IBM made was that they were considering using the name Dashboard for the Workspace. In the end they decided against it, and I think it was a good decision, although it is probably easier to get attention using the totally overhyped term dashboard which seems to be used to mean just about anything.