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3/8/2004
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ReportingEngines' Formula One

Product Profile

VentanaMonitor™

Summary

Continuing competitive and economic pressures are driving organizations to improve the performance of their business operations. Organizations want both efficiency and effectiveness improvements, especially in areas of the organization where activities are workforce- and not automation-dependent. Companies are deploying information integration and delivery technology used for business intelligence, data integration, and application development to achieve these improvements. Reports are often a part of these operational performance enhancement applications.

Reporting software is evolving at a rapid pace: web delivery is now commonplace, interactivity increases with every new release, and vendors are adding complementary capabilities such as collaboration. Another new technology frontier for reporting has enterprise application developers embedding reporting directly into their applications. Embedded reports have somewhat different requirements than other more traditional reporting systems. In addition to the usual reporting capability needs, embedded reporting systems must be easily adapted to their host application. They must also be low cost, because the reporting function is often only one of many functions of the application and its cost must be balanced with the rest of the application. Organizations developing reporting-enabled applications now use low-cost embedded reporting solutions like that from ReportingEngines to meet their reporting needs.

ReportingEngines is a wholly owned subsidiary of Actuate. Both Actuate and ReportingEngines provide software that enables creation and distribution of reports. However, the architecture and approach of the respective products is different. Actuate's products are for enterprises that wish to deploy information applications to a diverse group of users. Actuate's emphasis is on providing robust production reporting and business intelligence capabilities to large communities of users. ReportingEngines' products allow application developers to embed reporting into Java-based applications. ReportingEngines' emphasis is on ease of implementation within Java development communities.

ReportingEngines Formula One

ReportingEngines' Formula One tool set enables Java developers to design and deploy reports embedded within applications. Formula One is 100% encoded in Java and supports various J2EE compliant application servers such as BEA WebLogic and IBM WebSphere.. Extensive API access is provided to the run-time engine, the development tool, and the data management classes to enable highly customized integration with applications. As with Actuate, Formula One provides robust support for reports encoded as spreadsheets along with other formats. Reports developed in the ReportingEngines environment are not intended to be deployed in the Actuate environment.

Functionality

Ventana Research evaluates functionality to provide a distilled understanding of a product's capabilities. We summarize key functions that are essential to the product's use. These then provide the basis from which we derive other evaluation category assessments in this profile.

Formula One consists of the following products:

  • Formula One e.Report Engine Release 7 — an embeddable runtime reporting processing engine
  • Formula One e.Spreadsheet Engine Release 10 — an embeddable runtime spreadsheet processing engine
  • Formula One e.Report Designer Release 7 — a Java-based GUI report design tool
  • Formula One ActiveX Release 6.1 — a Microsoft Windows-based spreadsheet visualization component

Actuate's e.Spreadsheet Designer can be used to develop spreadsheet 'report' templates used by the Formula One e.Spreadsheet Engine.

e.Report Engine is bundled with the e.Report Designer and e.Spreadsheet Engine is bundled with a version of the Actuate e.Spreadsheet Designer. A version of the e.Report Engine that is integrated with the BEA WebLogic application server is now shipping. The BEA-specific product also includes an integration component for BEA WebLogic Workshop that enables report development and deployment from within that IDE.

Formula One e.Report Engine is primarily focused on Java-based application development. All of the Formula One products are written in Java, with one exception: Formula One ActiveX, a visualization component used for windows-based application development, is not coded in Java.

The following is an overview of Formula One product functionality:

  • Data Access — Multiple source types can be accessed including in-memory Java objects, databases, JavaBeans, XML-encoded data, BEA Liquid Data, and text files.
  • Report Development — Wizards and a report editor enable developers to create reports in a drag-and-drop environment.
  • Report Deployment — Reports are deployed through the e.Report run-time engine. The engine is compatible with IBM WebSphere, BEA WebLogic, MacroMedia JRun, or any J2EE application or Web server.
  • Report File Formats — Report output formats supported are Excel, PDF, XML, DHTML, HTML, CSV, and email. Reports can also be sent directly to the printer.
  • Report Types — Reports may contain the following types of data: nested sub-reports, tables, cross-tabs, grouped and totaled rows, charts, spreadsheets, hyperlinks, text, images, and graphics.
  • Platform Leverage — The e.Report and e.Spreadsheet engines utilize and integrate with services provided by hosting application servers. Services utilized include scheduling, connection pooling, security, and user administration.

Usability

Usability enables software adoption. Usability is the measure of usefulness and convenience the software provides to users as they execute their primary responsibilities. Useful software facilitates or enables execution of difficult or impossible tasks. Convenient software streamlines the interaction requirements of its users to accomplish tasks. Convenient software is easy-to-use. Usability of business intelligence software relates to its ability to facilitate decision making for multiple roles including managers and analysts.

Formula One has many of the capabilities required for it to be a highly usable reporting technology. Multiple environments are supported, data from different sources are accessible, reports can be highly stylized, report content can be presented in various forms, and reports can be delivered in various forms to various viewing mediums.

When compared to hand-coded reports, Formula One provides dramatic usability benefits that include shortened development time, simpler application architecture, enhanced report robustness, simpler report maintenance, and the opportunity to direct development resources on differentiated capabilities. Formula One is also more usable than other non-Java encoded reporting products for Java-based application development. Direct access to in-memory Java objects, JavaBeans, and BEA Liquid data are essential for applications that may require in operational reporting where urgency of data need precludes its presence in an underlying data store.

The Formula One e.Spreadsheet provides three unique benefits to spreadsheet users: 1) automated spreadsheet data extracts; 2) automated spreadsheet generation; and 3) what-if analysis. Formula One e.Spreadsheet engine can automatically populate servers with data from multiple sources and then publish those spreadsheets to users. Unlike spreadsheets exported or published by other reporting technologies, Formula One-produced spreadsheets can include formulas that enable what-if analysis. Totals, variances, and other derived calculations can be represented as formulas, so users can vary input values to observe summary sensitivity. Automatic generation of these formulas is a significant labor saving feature for spreadsheet users.

Bottom line: Formula One provides solid reporting capabilities. Differentiated Formula One usability stems from its combination of Java data sources, application server hosting, and spreadsheet support.

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