Aura Equipments Pushes i5/OS-Excel Integration
March 4, 2008 Alex Woodie
Aura Equipments, the French developer of i5/OS software utilities, has repackaged its i5/OS-Excel integration tool to make it more affordable. Launcher 400 Excel, as the product is called, allows Excel spreadsheets to be automatically updated with data from System i servers, providing a productivity boon to Excel junkies who would otherwise be rekeying data or playing with Query. Previously, the product was only available as part of a bigger, more expensive suite of products.
There are more than 500 million users of Excel around the world, according to Microsoft, making it the most successful business intelligence tool of all time. While IT managers may cringe at the prospect of their data being so decentralized (and perhaps used in a less-than-totally-secure manner), the fact remains that Excel will continue to be a mainstay in their IT toolbox for years to come.
So, considering the ubiquity and momentum that Excel has in your shop, you might as well make the best of the situation, right?
There are several tools available that can simplify your job of serving up data from corporate data sources to Excel. Aura Equipments has offered System i-to-Excel automation for years with its Launcher Office product suite. Last week, the company announced that it is breaking out the Excel component and offering it on a stand-alone basis for about $600 per server.
Launcher 400 Excel provides automation for a range of integration tasks between the DB2 for i5/OS database (sometimes called DB2/400) and Excel. At the top of the feature list are templates that automatically generate Excel spreadsheets, or update existing spreadsheets, from data in DB2. Once the columns and cells have been mapped, formulas applied, graphs created, and objects inserted, the product will automatically pump DB2 data into Excel.
The benefit of this approach is the automation of low-level data integration tasks. Users no longer need to futz around with writing queries to get data out of DB2, which requires technical skills. Nor do they need to copy and paste data into individual cells, which is error prone. Instead, once the templates are generated, the spreadsheets can be generated and periodically updated, by batch, without any action required by the user–a feature that could be very useful for mobile salespeople or remote executives who need the latest figures in a format they understand: Excel.
Once a spreadsheet has been created, Launcher 400 Excel gives administrators the option of keeping it in the XLS format, or converting it to PDF, HTML, or Word formats. The software also allows spreadsheets to be automatically printed or distributed via e-mail, according to Aura.
Launcher 400 Excel also allows data to go the other way–to be uploaded from Excel into the DB2 database, providing a quick and powerful way to update production databases with data massaged using macros, formulas, and other tools in Excel. (Of course, it goes without saying that administrators should think through the security implications of allowing such a setup. Or does it?)
Launcher 400 Excel supports Excel 97 through 2007. Licenses for Launcher 400 Excel start at $599. For more information, visit www.easycom-aura.com.