Raz-Lee Unveils General Purpose IBM i Reporting Tool
May 10, 2011 Alex Woodie
Raz-Lee Security is taking the plunge into the business intelligence market with iBi, a new general purpose reporting tool for IBM i unveiled at last week’s COMMON conference in Minneapolis. Based on Visualizer, Raz-Lee’s security-focused reporting tool, iBi can be used for analyzing practically any aspect of a business that is measured with data in DB2/400.
Visualizer has been a core component of Raz-Lee’s iSecurity suite for many years. The Eclipse-based software enables users to query data that’s been collected from other iSecurity components, such as its Firewall, Audit, AP-Journal, Filescope, and user profile swap offerings. The centralized reporting structure of Visualizer helped auditors and managers identify potential security problems in their IBM i environments, and document them for regulatory compliance purposes.
At some point along the way, Raz-Lee asked business intelligence software developers to take look at Visualizer, Raz-Lee CEO Shmuel Zailer said at last week’s COMMON conference. The BI software vendors were impressed with the product’s ease of use and its ability to whittle away at the useless bits of data to get to what counts.
Based in part on this feedback, Raz-Lee decided to break Visualizer free from its security roots, and sell a version of it that could be used for all types of reporting and business intelligence (BI) workloads in IBM i environments. Thus was born iBi, which Raz-Lee sometimes calls iBi-Visualizer.
iBi works very similarly to Visualizer. The Java-based product uses ODBC to access DB2/400. The software then helps users filter the data, using SQL under the covers, to create a summary view of the requested DB2/400 data. This summary view is then displayed in the iBi GUI.
Each field in the database record becomes a tab on the iBi GUI, or what Raz-Lee calls a “dimension.” These tabs in iBi GUI allow the user to drill down into the data by switching to a new view that summarizes the data in another way–say, by date, user, system, server, IP address, or any other field in the record.
This is not quite the same as a multi-dimensional database, as time is usually one of the dimensions in large dedicated multi-dimensional databases, such as the Essbase product that ShowCase used to develop. But Raz-Lee’s technique does give users a way to navigate through their data, and to get different perspectives on it.
While Raz-Lee foresees iBi being used by security administrators and auditors to analyze their IBM i server’s security and compliance posture, it also expects customers to point it against their ERP systems, to analyze activities in sales, finance, inventory, or other IBM i applications. Security is built into the software, and users will not be able to access data that they aren’t authorized to access, Raz-Lee says.
No programming is required to use iBi, Raz-Lee says. But, as is the case with most IBM i power tools, knowledge of one’s database structure is a strong prerequisite. Systems demonstrators and data warehouse managers are the intended users of iBi. iBi views can be called from GUI or 5250 green-screen applications, Raz-Lee says. In the case of a 5250 application, a function key is often mapped to automatically call iBi to generate a custom view of a certain database record.
Like Visualizer, iBi contains graphing and statistics engines to enhance the look and feel of views. The software can also output its results in XLS, HTML, and CSV formats.
iBi will cost much less than a brand name BI system that requires a full data warehouse. Raz-Lee is using LPAR pricing with iBi, and it will be in the $20,000 to $25,000 range, Zailer says. For more information, see www.razlee.com.