From Real Time to Deal Time

The Iteration Real-time Reporting Suite exemplifies how pure BI [Business Intelligence] is expanding. It does a number of useful things by adding real-time turnaround to data-warehouse reporting. Iteration's impressive interface allows those who haven't mastered reporting technology to craft deliverables though a familiar PowerPoint-style interface, which they're likely to already know.

The Iteration suite is a real-time business management tool. Unlike traditional data warehouse products that rely on a batch-oriented ETL (extract, transform, and load) cycle, Iteration processes and presents business data as a constantly updating stream of information. By making real-time feedback consoles available to data-rich enterprises, it aids in making quicker, better-informed decisions. [Full story at InfoWorld...]

I co-wrote this story with Jeff Angus and enjoyed the experience very much. Jeff is a seasoned writer and has some great insight into the Business Analystics and Intelligence space--a space where I'm just cutting my teeth. Jeff wrote a companion article called "Does BA beat BI?" that differentiates BA and BI.

Jeff compares BI to a rear-view mirror, great at telling you what happened. Analytics tries to add some gaming to the mix so you can play "what-if" scenarios. Iteration is an interesting tool in this regard since I think that rather than telling you what has happened, real-time BI products like Iteration have the ability to tell you what's happening now. I think this is a powerful shift. I was impressed with the product and possibilities it opens up to industries that depend on real-time information like manufacturing, transportation, and finance.

The online piece doesn't include the "How We Tested" box for some reason. Here's some information on that:

The Iteration suite consists of five different servers working in concert. In practice each of these could be installed on a separate server. In our test, we installed all of them on a HP Proliant server with 1Gb of memory and a single 2.2Ghz Xeon processor. A typical production installation requires a minimum of a 4-way SMP server with 8Gb of memory, but a single processor is sufficient for pilot tests and to observe and test the functionality. Iteration requires Windows 2000 with all of the latest updates and patches for the server as well as Internet Explorer 6.0 for the client, so the first thing we did after installing Windows 2000 was to download service pack 3 and 33 additional patches. You'll also need a relational database (we used MS SQL) and the .NET Framework.

The installation of the Iteration suite is fairly straightforward after the pre-requisites have been installed. There are surprisingly few configuration parameters or installation choices. The product relies on the integrated security feature in Windows for single sign-on support.

Iteration relies on being hooked up to real-time data feeds from back office systems, EAI systems, existing data stores, data warehouses, OLTP systems and the like. We didn't have any of that available to us. For testing purposes, Iteration supplies a program that creates a stream of data simulating multiple real-time data feeds. We used this in our testing. Our testing consisted of creating and using dataflow plans that processed and modified the data feeds, creating reports and alerts and using the client to view and manage them over various scenarios.