Cyberscience Unveils Reporting Tool for iSeries Apps
November 1, 2005 Alex Woodie
OS/400 shops looking for an alternative to Query/400 and other third-party reporting tools may want to take a look at Enterprise Cyberquery (eCQ) from Cyberscience. Last week Cyberscience announced that eCQ now provides out-of-the-box support for a range of OS/400-based ERP applications from SSA Global, including BPCS and PRMS, and the company is looking to further its reach into the operating system and the community.
When you think of ad hoc query and reporting tools, chances are Cyberscience isn’t one of the first software vendors to pop into your mind. While the 28-year-old software company has sold eCQ to 4,000 customers over the years, it doesn’t register on the same scale as a Cognos or a Business Objects (which sells the popular Crystal Reports package), acknowledges Jim Maughan, business intelligence for manufacturing practice manager at Cyberscience’s North American headquarters in Denver.
But Cyberscience’s low-profile ways are starting to change. Since the company augmented its OEM-only approach and started selling eCQ direct to customers about 18 months ago, it has found plenty of demand among SSA Global customers, Maughan says. Much of this has to do with a single implementation of eCQ at a QAD MFG/PRO customer, which has been one of Cyberscience’s most successful areas in terms of ERP suites. The customer had acquired another company that used Baan ERP, and it started using eCQ with the Baan ERP system.
In rapid succession, Cyberscience had sold eCQ to six other Baan users based on good word-of-mouth reports from that first implementation, Maughan says. Now the company is finding other SSA customers are also receptive to eCQ, including SSA’s bread-and-butter BPCS and PRMS customer base.
Enterprise Cyberquery 7.22
eCQ, which is currently shipping at version 7.22, consists the Cyberquery reporting engine, a Web portal called the eCQ Launch Pad, the eCQ Data Dictionary, and the QDirector scheduling system. The engine runs on Windows, Unix, Linux, and some legacy operating systems, although most users choose to deploy it on Windows. Cyberscience supports all the major relational databases, including DB2/400 through DB2 Connect (a pricey but fast option) or ODBC via iSeries Access (which is more affordable but slower). The company recently took delivery on a new eServer i5 development box as part of IBM‘s Partner’s In Development (PID) program, and is currently working to port the CyberQuery engine to OS/400, which will provide some performance benefits, Maughan says.
eCQ enables users to generate all kinds of reports from their data, from simple sales analysis and income statements to balance sheets, Maughan says. The software enables users to drill down and slice and dice their data to patterns and relationships. Users consume the reports in a variety of ways, including electronically via the Web, or through e-mails or printouts generated by the product. The company offers some 200 pre-canned reports, and users can build their own.
The primary interface for eCQ is a Web browser, where users can design reports, as well as consume them. People don’t need any technical knowledge to use eCQ, although some basic knowledge abut the layout of the database helps, Maughan says. Reports are designed in a split-view screen, where users create eCQ tables by dragging elements from one side of the screen to the other. The product does the dirty work of figuring out how to access the data based on the elements the user has laid out on the screen, and generates the necessary SQL.
Cyberscience has created templates that provide basic support for out-of-the-box BPCS and PRMS implementations (although each implementation needs to be tweaked to support any custom changes the user may have made). This support is delivered via the eCQ Data Dictionary, which is a metadata layer that enables the eCQ engine to interrogate the application data and manage the linkages between report elements and data fields.
eCQ Used at PRMS Shop
Cyberscience is aware that SSA has a close partnership with Cognos as part of its “extension” strategy for business intelligence, but that isn’t going to stop it from targeting the vast SSA installed base, which includes some BPCS, PRMS, Infinium, PRISM, KBM, and Masterpiece users. The company is supporting BPCS and PRMS now, and has plans to support the Infinium and Masterpiece products. Technically, there’s nothing preventing the company from supporting any other OS/400 application.
“We have pretty good demand for SSA,” Maughan says. “If a customer said J.D. Edwards, we’d do it in a heartbeat.” The company, which employs about 100 people, has some former J.D. Edwards employees at its Denver office, Maughan says.
Maughan says eCQ can match the more well-known packages feature for feature (if not out-feature some of them), at a much lower cost. “If you’re an SSA customer, and you’re looking for a new reporting tool, ours would win 80 percent of the time, but there are greedy people” who overcharge for the other products, he says. “Cognos in a typical PRMS environment costs about $250,000. Crystal would come in the $80,000 to $150,000 range. Our monthly price is $1,500, and you can convert to perpetual license for about $30,000 to $40,000.”
Cyberscience currently has several OS/400 customers, and a good pipeline for more sales. One of the companies that has implemented eCQ is Reily Foods, a specialty foods manufacturer and PRMS user with operations in New Orleans; Knoxville, Tennessee; and Baltimore, Maryland.
According to Reily’s IT director, John Smith, the company struggled to find a practical reporting solution that met its primary goal: maintaining a single source of data on the OS/400 server, while providing a “feature-rich” reporting environment to users.
Smith saw eCQ at a SSA Global University event, and decided to try the software. Cyberscience personnel imported the data dictionary from PRMS and recreated some of Reily’s critical reports in just three days, Smith says. Within a week, the company was doing a lot of the work itself, including updating the Cyberquery data dictionary and building new analytical reports using the eCQ tools.
“We have been delighted by the speed at which we are now able to develop new reports driven by source data from our AS/400 DB2 database,” Smith says.
Cyberscience is providing a 30-day trial “test drive” of its software to potential customers. For more information, go to www.cyberscience.com.