ShowCase 10 Gets a Little Help from Friends
November 18, 2014 Alex Woodie
HelpSystems last week issued a new release of ShowCase, the suite of business intelligence tools that it acquired last year from IBM. With ShowCase 10, HelpSystems borrowed the user interfaces from its SEQUEL product line, which gives ShowCase customers spiffier features like drill downs and pivot tables. ShowCase also got a little help from another sister company for report distribution and scheduling.
HelpSystems’ April 2013 transaction with IBM, you will recall, netted three major products, all of which run on Windows but are almost exclusively used by IBM i customers. These included Query, which allows users to generate and submit queries to a variety of databases without knowing SQL; the report generation and distribution product Report Writer; and Warehouse Builder and Warehouse Manager, which help users create data warehouses on IBM i. The transaction did not include Essbase, the OLAP database for IBM i that had been discontinued.
With the launch of ShowCase 10 last week, HelpSystems has shuffled the deck and has borrowed extensively from other product lines a bit in an attempt to give ShowCase customers access to more advanced BI features. To that end, HelpSystems brought in and integrated with ShowCase two SEQUEL products, including SEQUEL Web Interface and the ViewPoint Explorer.
According to HelpSystems’ website, ShowCase now “pairs seamlessly” with SEQUEL Web Interface (SWI) to enable users to access and work with ShowCase objects, such as dashboards, views, reports, tables, scripts, and applications. “With SWI, you can run your view and table objects (static and prompted) to display results, store as local files or System i files, or send as an email attachment,” the company says.
ShowCase users must buy SWI separately, unless they buy the new ShowCase Deployment Bundle, which was also unveiled last week as part of the ShowCase 10 announcement. In addition to getting browser-based access to ShowCase objects through SWI, the bundle introduces job scheduling through a license for the Skybot Scheduler, which is HelpSystems’ job scheduler for Windows, Linux, and Unix systems. The job scheduler helps by continuously running and re-running queries to ensure that users get the latest information. Lastly, the bundle includes ESEND to allow customers to distribute ShowCase reports automatically via email.
There are several other ways to access ShowCase with version 10 besides SWI. For starters customers can now use ViewPoint Explorer, the traditional Windows-based user interface used in the SEQUEL product lineup. If users have a lot of data to manipulate, they may opt for ViewPoint, which has direct access to RAM and may run faster than SWI for actions drilling down into data, resizing columns, and manipulating data with pivot table-like functionality. SWI also has pivot table-like functionality as of the May SEQUEL release, but it will likely run slower than ViewPoint on large data sets.
Using ViewPoint gives ShowCase customers other advantages, such as access to the ViewPoint Repository for storing ShowCase objects on the IBM i IFS. The repository lets users store and access a variety of content, including traditional ViewPoint queries, ViewPoint Shortcut files, Skybot job definitions, and “converted ShowCase objects . . . created as part of the optional C&DS migration process,” the company says on its website. Using the ViewPoint Repository requires having the SEQUEL Web Server installed and configured, which requires additional licensing.
If none of the ViewPoint, SWI, or traditional ShowCase screens are your cup of tea, you can rest easy knowing you can now access all ShowCase features through good old 5250.
“Anyone with access to a command entry line can use them simply by using the appropriate ShowCase command,” the the company says on its website. “ShowCase can be used to relieve programs [and programmers] from the tedium of acquiring the exact set of data required for processing. Complex processes can be designed and executed within programs that use ShowCase to access data rather than performing the laborious task of accessing the data directly.”
ShowCase 10 also brings changes in the report writing component. HelpSystems is offering two reporting options, including the Client Report Option, which is a graphical environment aimed at generating reports that contain IBM i-based data but will be printed from a PC-attached printer. All reports customers had defined in ShowCase 9 must be migrated to CRO reports in ShowCase 10, the company says on its website.
Alternatively, ShowCase customers can now use the SEQUEL Report Writer option. Like CRO, this also gives customers a graphical report-design environment for IBM i data, but outputs to IBM i-attached printers instead. Users also can distribute reports via the IBM i server’s FTP facilities or use the ESEND capability that’s included with the ShowCase Deployment Bundle.
ShowCase 10 demonstrates HelpSystems commitment to continued product development, says Janet Dryer, CEO of HelpSystems. “This release offers our customers exactly what they’ve been looking for and more,” she says in a press release. For more information, see www.helpsystems.com/showcase.