New Gen Drives Web Features into Version 7 of BI Suite
May 19, 2009 Alex Woodie
System i shops that rely on New Generation Software‘s NGS-IQ suite for business intelligence and reporting functionality are about to gain several new Web features with version 7, which is due to ship in June. Customers get a new Web interface that supports the capability to drill down into reports, as well as new Web report design features that make it easier to spruce up reports with logos and hyperlinks. Other components of the NGS-IQ will see enhancements, too.
Before we get into the version 7 enhancements, let’s take a look at the entire NGS-IQ suite and see how the different components interact. This will give you a better idea of what NGS is doing with the planed enhancements. There are a number of products, some of which have overlapping functionality, so you may want to reference this helpful NGS-IQ product diagram on the NGS-IQ suite as you read the next section.
NGS IQ Architecture
At the center of the suite is IQ Server, which processes queries of data residing in DB2/400 (DB2 for i) and offers a native 5250 interface for generating interactive queries, which output to printers or 5250 displays, or are automatically distributed as PDF, HTML, or XML files via e-mail, FTP, or the Web. (IQ Server can also consume Query/400 queries through an API unveiled in 2007, or even suck data from other databases through IQ Connexion, which was launched in 2008.)
Surrounding IQ Server is a series of products for designing and consuming reports in a number of different ways. Chief among these is IQ Client, a Windows-based query development tool that offers all of the report-writing capabilities available in the native IQ Server green-screen environment. Then there is Qport Builder, a Web-based query development tool that is delivered as a Java applet (it was designed with Seagull Software‘s JWalk interface technology) that runs in a Web browser. Another product, Qport Access, is used to initiate IQ Server queries remotely and to have results sent to other applications, including Qport Builder, Excel, or even SmartView, which is NGS’ Windows-based OLAP product. NGS also offers a series of pre-built Business Performance Dashboards that display key performance indicators (KPIs) in Web browsers utilizing Flash technology, as well as a series of pre-built data marts for specific ERP applications and industries., called Decision Assist.
Version 7 of IQ Server
As we mentioned earlier, enhancing NGS-IQ’s Web functionality was New Gen’s biggest goal with version 7, although a number of other components were also enhanced. Perhaps the most important new Web feature is the delivery of a Web reporting interface for IQ Server. This supplementary piece of code, which doesn’t have a formal name, is delivered as part of IQ Server, potentially eliminating licensing fees and the need for NGS-IQ customers to buy another New Gen product.
The new Web reporting interface for IQ Server allows users to run pre-defined queries and then view the results, all from a Web browser; it can also be embedded into a Web portal or dashboard. What’s more, thanks to the new “Web links” feature in the Web reporting interface, users can drill down from the summary data in a report break value, and see the detailed data behind it. Best of all, users can do this without having to write any code.
The Web links feature is especially helpful because it automatically runs a new IQ Server query to grab the latest data. This compares with previous versions of IQ Server, which could generate static HTML pages with hyperlinks to drill down into more detail. But users were restricted to viewing data that was on-hand when the report was initially run, making the Web links feature an excellent way to get the latest data on demand.
Easing access to reports is the goal of the Web reporting interface, says Bernard Gough, NGS president and CEO. “Customers increasingly want to extend business intelligence and reporting features out to more employees, customers, suppliers, auditors, and others,” he says in a press release. “Our new Web reporting features make that possible.”
IQ Client Enhancements
Version 7 also brings updates to IQ Client, the popular Windows-based report designer and viewer, which also offers a bunch of Web functionality. With version 7, NGS has overhauled IQ Client’s Web functionality, such as the capability to add logos and graphics, to customize the report layout, and to add hyperlinks to the final Web-based report or dashboard under design.
IQ Client also gains new offline development features with version 7. While many people strive to maintain a constant connection to the Internet (Starbucks, anyone?), there are still times when we must venture into the dark, network-less zones that dot our landscape.
To that end, with version 7, NGS allows IQ Client users to copy DB2/400 file structures to their local work spaces, and create temporary objects in a virtual QTEMP library on their PCs running IQ Client. When the programmer, analyst, or consultant is done working on the query or report in offline mode, they can upload the object to the System i server when they get back to the shop (or find a Starbucks finally!).
“Our customers are increasingly dependent on a flexible and mobile workforce and, even in today’s always-connected world, there is an advantage to enabling people to work without signing on to the network,” Gough says.
IQ Client also gains a version of the “Join Wizard” functionality in version 7 that’s been available in the green-screen interface for IQ Server. This feature can suggest to users how they should join two files together, based on how a user has done it in the past. Changing the relationship between two join files is also easier with this release.
When downloading DB2/400 files to IQ Client, the software now gives users the option of downloading logical, physical, or meta data, or a combination thereof. Files are marked with an L, P, or M to designate data type. Version 7 also brings the capability to have IQ Client automatically open a query after it has been downloaded, and introduces a new history log for downloaded files.
Last but not least is an enhancement to SmartView, the multi-dimensional database (OLAP) software that runs under Windows. With version 7, the software gives users the capability to create new fields based on calculations that reference other data fields in users’ files.
New Generation Software expects version 7 of the NGS-IQ suite to become generally available in June. For more information, visit the company’s Web site at www.ngsi.com.