Visual Data Exploration Comes To Db2 Web Query
October 18, 2017 Alex Woodie
The IBM i server isn’t known as an analytics powerhouse — transaction processing is more its thing. But with the latest release of Db2 WebQuery for i, customers are getting visualization capabilities that will let them explore their data in powerful new ways.
IBM announced Db2 Web Query for i version 2.2.1 on October 3 as part of its Technology Refreshes (TRs) for IBM i 7.2 and 7.3. While the release number would seem to indicate a minor update, the improvements are actually quite substantial, says Robert Bestgen, IBM’s product development manager for Db2 Web Query.
“We kind of moved into a new realm in the analytics space,” Bestgen tells IT Jungle. “We’re pretty excited about it. We’ve been looking forward to this for about two years now.”
The excitement stems primarily from new data visualization features that allow Db2 Web Query to present data on the screen using a series of graphical elements, like pie charts and scatter plots, as opposed to reports full of tables and numbers. In addition to seeing data depicted visually, users can visually interact with the graphical elements in real time, thereby enabling them to explore their data and “zoom in” as they see fit, Bestgen says.
“It took us from, ‘I know what I want, I’m just going to build a report’ to the next level, which is ‘I’m not exactly sure what my angle is. I want to explore the data and determine what’s out there,'” Bestgen says.
The data visualization features should make it easier for users to spot trends and anomalies that may be tough to spot from a screen full of numbers, Bestgen says. This will be a useful way for analysts to discover new facts from their data without consuming a lot of time and resources from IT professionals and programmers, he says.
“If the user sees a bump in returns for a given month, for example, they can drill down and try to get the ‘what happened’ perspective, which is harder to do if you have a canned report,” Bestgen says. “If you saw something you wanted to drill into it [with previous versions], you would have to take the time to build a new report, and by then you’ve lost your train of thought. This helps you stay in your train of thought.”
It’s all about making data analytics more approachable for the average user, he says. “You can walk up to the data, in effect, and say, ‘I’m not sure what exactly I’m looking for. I want to start exploring data,'” Bestgen says. “I want to look for trends. I know what I generally want. I want to find things that stand out. I want to find places where I can help the company.”
Data visualization has become a mainstay of business intelligence and reporting tools over the past few years. Tableau Software is widely credited with making data visualization a product category in its own right over the past decade, and now many BI and analytics tool providers are following suit.
Db2 WebQuery is an OEM version of Information Builders‘ flagship BI and analytics tool. Data visualization has been available in the Information Builders product for a while, and now it’s making its way into IBM’s product.
Version 2.2.1 also brings new mapping capabilities thanks to a partnership between Info Builders and Esri, the respected developer of digital map and geographic information system (GIS) software. The mapping data, which is accurate down to the Zip Code level, is included with the product, and users can get more from Esri if they want.
Big Blue also updated a companion product that provides ETL capabilities for data warehousing environments. The version 2.2.1 release of Db2 Web Query DataMigrator gains new transformations, new features for making data flow comments on the developer palette, regular expression support for filtering, and improved scheduling.
IBM sells two versions of the product, including an Express version that costs about $2,800 per core and the full version that costs about $15,000 per core. The new release of Db2 WebQuery for i ships December 8.