OptiMap and PopChart create visually stunning Web front ends for BI applications, databases and customer-related systems.

Mario Morejon, Contributor

August 16, 2004

4 Min Read

Business data is often best viewed and most easily understood in a visual format such as a chart, graph or map. Converting a customer's data to one of these formats, however, is sometimes challenging and the results can be less-than-attractive. Corda's OptiMap and PopChart are ideal for creating visually stunning Web front ends for business intelligence applications, databases and customer-related systems.

Essentially, both tools function as the data presentation layer in dashboard-type implementations to monitor business-critical data. Since the purpose of most dashboard applications is to provide information and not to interact with back-end systems, the coding required to interface with Corda's software is very straightforward.

An ideal dashboard design must allow for changes in data and applications without affecting the overall logic of the GUI. OptiMap and PopChart handle this problem flawlessly using scripting APIs so that all the internal logic required to add new functionality to a dashboard is hidden.

OptiMap and PopChart can pull information from databases, business intelligence systems and proprietary systems simultaneously. In most implementations, OptiMap works with an application server to capture client-side data and pass it to OptiMap.

OptiMap and PopChart build graphs and maps using a text-based XML file called PCXML (Presentation Control XML) that behaves similarly to native SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics). PCXML allows users to override static settings and create maps and graphs on the fly as data changes. This is a powerful feature that is extremely difficult to achieve with other client-side languages. Both products arrive with a graphical editor and script editor within a development environment called Corda Builder. Builder's graphical editor has a graphical view and a script view, where developers can see generated XML attributes corresponding to fields in a pane. Builder also provides default values for PCXML attributes so developers that want to work with the raw PCXML do not have to manually code numerous elements. One drawback to this method is that a lot of functionality is hidden from developers. But when comparing text with graphics, the concise PCXML text helps developers test complex panes by observing one code fraction at a time.

Builder creates graphical elements by encapsulating them into objects. Within Builder's graphical editor, developers can easily arrange elements in a pane and modify properties to change behavior. Drawing maps from scratch is a more complex task. Since the tool only offers basic shapes from XML files, developers have to learn to combine simple shapes to create irregular surfaces.

Fortunately, Builder offers a quick method of generating a new map by superimposing shapes onto a background image. Because modern browsers only offer two-dimensional perspectives, developers can only create flat views of maps. Users can also add fade-ins and even flash animation, but this capability is limited.

Corda's script language is called Presentation Control Script (PCScript). The language is designed to control the behavior of a map or chart and to send the data to other clients. Using PCScript, data can be adjusted to a specific location on a map and shaped through simple commands that automatically adjust output.

Most developers trying to adapt data into a graphical format use ASP, ASP.Net and Java instead of a software-specific language such as PCScript. Even though Corda's server provides direct ODBC or JDBC link to a database, developers cannot create dynamic views and special effects such as drill-downs and pop-up text. PCScript is also unable to import data from a database using Perl, PHP or Javascript.

Although Corda does not have a formal channel program in place yet, the company has plans to launch a program by the fourth quarter of 2004. The program will have two levels based on sales volume and experience. Top-tier partners will be expected to have a history building complex systems for large customers, and will receive margins of around 30 percent. The lower-tier category will be for smaller integrators with less experience, and average margins will begin at 10 percent.

Corda plans to offer all partners marketing, pre and post-sales support and technical support both online and in person. The company will also offer top-tier partners a dedicated partner-relations representative and priority access to technical support. Software demonstration packages, joint-sales calls and a dedicated partner Web site are also planned. Although Corda's channel rating is currently low, Test Center engineers plan to revisit and reevaluate the program after it is fully operational. OptiMap and PopChart are priced at $6,495 and $3,495.

COMPANY: Corda Technologies
Lindon, Utah
(801) 805-9400
DISTRIBUTORS: Direct from vendor

Note: Vendors can earn up to five stars for technical merit and five for their channel program. If the average of these two scores is four stars or greater, the product earns CRN Test Center Recommended status.

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