Infor Gives BI Tool the 10x Treatment
July 16, 2013 Alex Woodie
Infor last week unveiled the 10x release of Infor BI, a business intelligence suite that includes an in-memory OLAP database. The new release brings all of the apparatus associated with Infor 10x, including a shiny new SoHo user interface, mobile capabilities, and hooks into the Ming.le social platform. The company is also close to announcing integration of Infor BI into SkyVault.
Infor BI is based on the MIS product formerly sold by Systems Union, a German software company that Infor acquired in 2006 for about $200 million. Infor has about 3,000 customers for MIS (also called Decision Ware), mostly small and midsize businesses in Europe, but also some in North America and the Asia-Pacific region.
Incidentally, Infor BI is not a Microsoft SQL Server-based product, as the company said it would create back in 2010, when it committed itself to making Microsoft Windows and related database and middleware products the primary, top-tier platforms for its software. Charles Phillips took over Infor about four months later, and the Microsoft and Windows push was soon dropped.
The Windows-based Infor BI suite has several components, including the in-memory OLAP database, a simplified Web front end for reporting and analysis, a more powerful Excel-based interface, a dedicated interface for dashboards and key performance indicators (KPIs), a financial and operational planning tool, a financial consolidation tool, a statistical package, and a data import tool.
With the 10x release (officially version 10.4.1), Infor has made changes around the look and feel of the product with the SoHo branding. Reworking the interfaces into the SoHo scheme also entails support for the Ming.le social platform, which gives users new ways to interact with data uncovered by the tool.
It has also delivered some functional enhancements that go beyond aesthetics and usability. On the mobile front, the new Infor Motion and BI Dashboards component gives users the capability to consume dashboards from the comfort of a Web browser or an iPad, which will be very beneficial to road warriors and other mobile workers who want quick access to data without having to lug around the laptop. The Motion app is available for download from the Apple App Store.
The Motion and BI Dashboards also bolsters user self-service by giving them the capability to create their own charts and tables, and then mash them up into a dashboard. Infor says the Motion and BI Dashboards offering shares the same architecture and is closely integrated with content in Application Studio, the primary Web-based front end for creating reports and dashboards in Infor BI.
Infor has also hooked its Business Vault into its BI tool with the 10x (10.4.1) release. Business Vault is the Windows-based operational data store for data that’s pushed out of enterprise applications by its ION middleware. As ION moves transactions–in the OAGI business object document (BOD) standard–into the Business Vault, the data is made available to Infor BI.
Business Vault is a good fit for Infor BI and its OLAP capabilities, says Lee Kilmer, a vice president of product strategy and development for enterprise performance management, business intelligence solutions, and Lawson. “It’s receiving information that’s published from the application,” he says. “It provides modeling and shredding capabilities, and will push that information into OLAP cubes that people can use for hierarchical analysis and slicing and dicing.”
Because Infor BI caches data in memory and calculates it on the fly, as requested by the user, it eliminates the need to pre-aggregate the data, which keeps the memory footprint as small as possible, thereby boosting performance, Kilmer says.
This release also brings support for the R statistical package, providing more advanced analytic and forecasting capabilities. Kilmer says results from R analysis will be visible right in line with other information presented to the user.
Infor is also working on hooking Infor BI into Infor SkyVault, which the company announced earlier this year at Inforum 2013. SkyVault is based on Amazon RedShift, an online, multi-node, column-oriented database used to house big data.
The idea is to use SkyVault as a data store for content (reports, dashboards, KPIs, etc.) developed with Infor BI. Infor hasn’t announced the certification of SkyVault and Infor BI, but expects to in the near future, Kilmer says.