QlikTech Targets iSeries Base with Business Intelligence App
November 29, 2005 Alex Woodie
OS/400 shops on the hunt for a new business intelligence tool may want to check out QlikView from QlikTech, an up-and-coming Swedish software house. QlikView is a Windows-based program that gives users the capability to create graphical reports, perform data manipulations, and view key performance indicators (KPIs) for data originating from a variety of sources, including DB2/400. With last month’s release of QlikView 7.2, the scalability factor has been ramped up, and the product now supports billion-record data sets with its in-memory associative database.
QlikTech positions its QlikView business intelligence software as an easier-to-use and more-affordable alternative to on-line analytical processing (OLAP) and data warehousing applications, which for decades have been business intelligence’s standard-bearers for analyzing large amounts of data, usually utilizing powerful and expensive 64-bit RISC servers. With QlikView, QlikTech is making a plausible argument for simplifying business intelligence and making it available to a wider audience through the use of increasingly powerful X86 and X64 workstations and servers, and browser-based interfaces.
The heart of QlikView is its in-memory associative database and Associative Query Logic (AQL) engine, for which it received a U.S. patent in 2001. But this product goes back farther than that, to 1993 in fact, when QlikTech’s founders were looking for an alternative to time-consuming OLAP load sessions. The founders wanted to bypass this step by allowing users to perform queries against large data sets in real time, but doing that required storing all the data in memory, and back then, memory was prohibitively expensive. QlikTech’s solution to this was coming up with a way to shrink and compress relational data stores so that they could be stored in memory in a cost effective manner, and that is what AQL is all about. A 10-to-one reduction in storage is common, the company says.
QlikView features a wizard that generates extract, transform, and load (ETL) scripts that pull data from load sources. For OS/400 applications, the software supports the Data Interchange Format (DIF) provided with IBM‘s iSeries Access tools. The company offers pre-packaged solutions for popular OS/400 ERP systems, including BPCS, J.D. Edwards World and EntepriseOne, and Intentia‘s Movex, as well as enterprise applications from SAP and SalexLogix.
Once the data has been sucked into the associative database, application designers can start building their QlikView applications, which are called, as you may have guessed, “QlikViews.” The basic element in a QlikView is a list box, which is essentially a one-to-one rendering of a database record, including a field descriptor and its value. Developers and users can then perform a number of actions on a list box and its contents, including sorting the values in a variety of ways, such as by state (an optional value), by frequency of occurrence, by numeric values, by the order in which it was originally loaded, and others.
List boxes and groups of list boxes are the starting points for QlikView apps, but there is a lot more to QlikView. In addition to the basic list box, users have an array of other objects to choose from, including a statistics box, a multi-box, a table box, charts, pivot tables, straight table, and expressions; all of these are accessed and used in drag-and-drop fashion. The QlikView interface, or sheet, can be further customized with a variety of static objects, such as text, pictures, background images, lines, and arrows, as well as interactive mechanisms, such as input boxes, buttons, “slider” objects, bookmarks, and an update button that automatically grabs the latest data from production systems. Like Excel spreadsheets, QlikView supports tabs for simultaneously working with multiple sheets.
This high-speed part of the associative database equation comes into play when people start using their QlikViews. Whenever a user clicks on any object or element on their QlikView screen, a query is run, under the covers, using AQL generated by the application to access the data loaded into the associative database. The gist of this is whenever a user makes a change to the sheet–such as sorting a list box by sum rather than by the highest value, or changing the view of a graph–the rest of the QlikView sheet and all objects that are linked to it are automatically updated to reflect that change. The only limit imposed by QlikView is that a single field cannot contain more than 2 billion distinct values. Even at that level, recent tests have shown the software offers sub-second response times to queries.
With QlikView 7.2, the company has made tweaks to maximize the performance on 64-bit X64 and Itanium servers. This performance boost is most apparent on “extremely large applications,” and on the server version of the software, the company says; it’s also available in a version that runs on a local machine. All chart calculations are now cached, which significantly improves query response time following re-calculation of commonly accessed graphs. The software now supports multi-threading across multiple processors, further boosting performance. The other major enhancement with QlikView 7.2 is support for Mozilla Web browsers with the thin-client version of the QlikView client that works with the QlikView server.
Experience with iSeries Apps
The OS/400 installed base is one of QlikTech’s target markets, and accounts for anywhere from 30 to 50 percent of the company’s 2,500 customer installed base, according to company estimates. In addition to the pre-configured QlikView packages for J.D. Edwards, Intentia, and SSA Global ERP suites, the company was an exhibitor at the Fall COMMON conference, and about half of the customer case studies available on its Web site are for OS/400 shops.
OS/400 shops using QlikView include Art In Motion, an EnterpriseOne customer that uses QlikView to generate reports in its sales, purchasing, finance, and IT businesses; iSi North America, a Movex shop that used QlikView to identify unprofitable customers; Blyth HomeScents International (BHI), which used the software to consolidate sales and financial data from its Movex and BPCS systems; and Fibermark, which uses QlikView to generate reports from data stored in Oracle, SAP, Excel, and Access systems.
QlikTech, which is privately held and therefore not required to publicly disclose revenues figures, has enjoyed solid sales over the last few years and is now one of the 20 largest business intelligence software vendors, according to market researcher IDC. “QlikTech’s innovative analysis server and query interface have helped the company achieve 90 percent compound annual growth rate over the last three years,” said Dan Vesset, research director, analytics and data warehousing software, in a recent report titled “Worldwide Business Intelligence 2004 Vendor Shares.”
Anthony Deighton, vice president of marketing at QlikTech, says his company’s growth is part of a larger trend in business intelligence. “The market is looking for simplicity instead of complexity. End users want analysis tools that can be deployed in days, are easy to use, and adapt to the needs of the business,” Deighton says. “QlikView puts users in touch with the information they need to be successful at their job.”
Deighton is one of a several executives to come to QlikTech this year from major software players. Deighton, previously of Siebel Systems, joined Rick Pitts, formerly of SAP, at QlikTech’s U.S. headquarters in Raleigh, North Carolina; Pitts is the CEO of U.S. operations. Other industry veterans joining QlikTech include the new vice president of international markets, Leslie Bonney, formerly of Oracle and Siebel, and new board member Paul Wahl, formerly of SAP and Siebel.
QlikView 7.2 is available now. The product is licensed on a named-user basis, and each seat costs, on average, about $900; that cost includes the QlikView server component. Free trials are available for download from the company’s Web site at www.qliktech.com.