Symtrax Adds Automation to StarQuery Reporting Tool
May 31, 2005 Alex Woodie
Companies will gain greater control over the distribution of their business reports with a new release of the StarQuery business intelligence tool, a graphical and easy to use alternative to Query/400 developed by Symtrax. StarQuery 2.0, announced last week, includes a new scheduling component that automatically runs queries against supported databases, such as DB2/400, at pre-set times. The new scheduling component also brings new distribution capabilities that utilize the ubiquity of the Internet and the PDF format.
Los Angeles-based Symtrax aimed to make life easier for two groups of users when it introduced StarQuery about a year-and-a-half ago. The first group is non-technical employees in an organization, such as salespeople, who make business decisions based on information that is contained in computer-generated reports. The second group is IT professionals who get sick and tired of the never-ending requests by the first group of people to build and generate those reports.
With StarQuery, IT professionals can make it easy for business users to generate their own reports, and allow the IT staff to work on more productive activities. (Of course, this won’t help them escape “value-added” activities, like resetting forgotten passwords.)
The initial StarQuery setup process is accomplished by generating a “map” of the various accessible databases. The data gets pulled using an OLE DB-based component of the suite called the StarQuery MapDesigner. Map files generated by the Windows-based MapDesigner console are basically templates for the queries business users will need, and they enable administrators to do things such as select and organize database tables, link them, create dimensions and calculations, and select certain fields.
Once the map file has been hashed out and the administrator has decided which data sources will be accessible, the map file is then sent to the business users, where the second component of the suite, called StarQuery for Excel, is used to do the final bit of customization work on queries, and also to initiate the actual execution of their queries against the back-end data stores. StarQuery for Excel integrates directly into Excel, enabling users to work from a familiar interface and leverage their report-building skills. No SQL or programming skills are needed to use StarQuery for Excel.
With StarQuery 2.0, Symtrax adds a third component to the mix, a piece called StarQuery Scheduler. The new Scheduler component allows administrators to automate the execution and distribution of reports using pre-defined scenarios, which include a series of tasks that are executed at a specified time. This component also enables administrators to select which groups of users receive the automatically generated reports, and also brings password protection to Excel files.
StarQuery can generate reports in several new document formats as a result of the new Scheduler component. Earlier versions of StarQuery supported only Excel, now users can receive the same reports in HTML, PDF, or XML formats. What’s more, Scheduler also brings the capability to publish reports in new ways, including posting them on FTP and HTTP servers; previously, reports could only be distributed via Microsoft Exchange or a SMTP server.
Users can customize report distribution using Scheduler. Symtrax says certain conditions can be applied to the distribution of reports. For example, a report can be published via FTP on a daily basis, but e-mailed only once a week.
StarQuery Scheduler also enables reports to be grouped and saved as ZIP files, which makes for easier archiving. “The majority of companies that run reports also want to keep them in a safe location for future use,” says Eric Robinson, technical director at Symtrax. “But this can be problematic, as archiving millions of reports can take up a lot of storage space and zipping them individually would be a very time consuming process. Scheduler solves both of these problems by archiving reports in groups to ZIP files, conserving space, and making them easier to retrieve.”
StarQuery supports the following databases: DB2/400 with OS/400 V5R2; IBM DB2 for MVS; Microsoft SQL Server 7 and 2000, Access 2000, and FoxPro 7.0; Oracle 8i and 9i; Sybase ASE 9; MySQL 3.26; PostgreSQL 7.2.1 Beta 4; IBM Informix IDS 9.4 and Domino; and Microsoft Navision 3.7.
StarQuery 2.0 is available now. Pricing was not disclosed. Additional information and trial downloads are available at www.starquery.com.