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Clear Toolkit Authors: Yakov Fain, Victor Rasputnis, Anatole Tartakovsky, Shashank Tiwari

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Business Intelligence in the world of Rich Internet Applications

One vision of the Business intelligence of the future

There were  a couple  major shifts in the software industry in the past: from Mainframe and dumb terminals to client-server desktop applications (fat client);  from client-server to Web-based plain looking applications (thin client again). With the last move we've sacrificed some speed and power for transparency of deployment and delivery.

Currently, we are about to enter a new era of Rich Internet Applicatoins (RIA), when plain looking Web applications will gradually be replaced with  RIA delivered over the Web. RIA applications run in a virtual machine deliver over the Web (Adobe Flash Player) and have a potential of becoming full featured desktop applications  (remember the Java promise "Write once, run everywhere"). How this will affect  the evolution of Business Intelligence (BI) applications?

As of today, the most popular and inexpensive BI tool is Microsoft Excel. It’s not fancy, but  business users are pretty comfortable with it because it allows them to aggregate data, quickly apply formulas, perform data analytics  and share results with other people because Excel is installed pretty much on every business person’s PC. It's a low automation solution but it works, and works without any help from IT departments.

There is another group of BI tools that offer fancier data analytics features, drag-and-drop of pre-created reports in various formats (PDF, Excel, MS Word, XML et al) and charting. These tools carry six figure price tags, are not easy to install and maintain and can't be installed and maintained without the help form IT.  While end users appreciate the power of these monsters, they are not too happy with the fact that often reports are not at their fingertips, and they need to go through a lengthy process of communications with IT folks each time when a new report is required. A full time IT administrator is required to maintain and prepare the metadata (data about the user’s data) and extensions (the code that execures user functions).

The third group of BI tools falls somewhere in between –  smaller components that can be integrated into other desktop or Web applications by efforts of IT stuff. They are reasonably priced, offer some report designers and end users analytics (i.e. JReports or IntelliVIEW ).

Farata Systems is a RIA company that  works on the new generation BI tool with a working name FlexBI.  As the name tells, this tool is being built using Adobe Flex.   This is an application component that can be integrated in any other RIA application, can be delivered to the end users over the Internet and run in  Flash Player.  This tool is  a so-called SuperGrid that will automatically query the metadata of the relational database, and allow end users to build reports on the fly, enter and evaluate formulas (what-if scenarios), allow drag-and-drop nested grouping, support cross-table analytics, and live charting (charts are being updated in the real time as the underlying data change).

This tool can be used in conjunction with Farata’s automatic code generator (DAOFlex) that takes an SQL statement  and in a matter of seconds generates all required code for deployment in Flex/Java environment ready to be delivered in Flash Player. DAOFlex is an open source component and is the most downloadable component at  Flex Components Exchange.

In Farata’s vision,  a typical  business scenario say for a mutual fund will work as follows:  a  portfolio manager requests several reports on certain securities  from particular portfolios.  IT department writes SQL and using DAOFlex generates ad hoc reports and deploys them at a secured Web site. The business  user goes to this Web site and starts working with FlexBI, applying  formulas that change the report on the fly,  and produces charts, pivot tables et al. These reports can be directly exported  into Excel via two-way communications.

In the first half of 2007, Adobe Apollo (a cross-platform desktop software) will be released and  people will be able  to save these reports on the laptops or PCs and keep working with them while being disconnected from the network. Apollo integrates  Flash VM and the Web browser in a single package, providing secured portable platform for RIA applications that can be used in a standalone, collaborative or Internet modes.

If you are going to the conference  MAX 2006 in Las Vegas, mark your calendar and attend the presentation of Farata Systems called Building an Enterprise Reporting Framework Using Adobe Flex .

For more information  visit http://www.faratasystems.com

More Stories By Flex News Desk

Flex News Desk provides the very latest news on the cross-platform Flex development framework for creating rich Internet applications, and on Adobe's AIR/Flex/Flash product combination.

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