PLATFORMS: Windows NT, Sun Solaris, IBM AIX and HP-UX.

BACKGROUND: The Enterprise Reporting Group, based in Los Angeles, is a consulting firm focused on the architecture and implementation of enterprise reporting systems in both client/server and Internet environments.

PROBLEM SOLVED: A significant challenge facing our clients was efficiently distributing reports to a large numbers of users who are geographically dispersed throughout the organization. Increasingly, companies are using the Internet as the preferred distribution mechanism in order to minimize cost and leverage existing infrastructures. Additionally, report distribution over the Internet is desirable because the Web provides access to a wide variety of business information. A potential issue with this approach is that as more reports and other content become available, users can have an increasingly difficult time locating and identifying what is truly mission critical. With Actuate ReportCast Channels, this problem is solved by alerting users in their Web browser when new reports arrive, and custom headlines help users decide whether to view individual reports.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Actuate Reporting System lets companies design, generate and distribute reports throughout the enterprise over either the Internet or client/server. All of Actuate's benefits, including security, performance and interactive viewing behaviors, can be realized in both of these computing environments. The Actuate Internet solution is comprised of the following Actuate components: Report Server, Web Agent and Report Encyclopedia. The Web Agent enables any Web server to dynamically create a Reporting Web site based upon the reports stored within the Report Server's Encyclopedia. Actuate Live Report Documents, viewable from client/server or the Internet, are reports with browsing, searching, context sensitive help, report queries and links to other reports and systems. A cornerstone feature of the Report Server is its demand paging architecture called Virtual Report Distribution. Instead of sending the entire report to each end user, only the pages of a report that the client requests are sent over the network, thereby making efficient use of network bandwidth and minimizing response times. Actuate ReportCast Channels utilize Web-casting technology to securely and efficiently deliver reports through channels to groups of subscribed users. Instead of searching for the latest report, users subscribe to channels that contain the categories that interest them. Only report links and headlines are pushed through the channels. Reports can be generated as either HTML or an Actuate Live Report Document. Viewing reports in Actuate's native format allows users to take advantage of advanced report navigation features, drill through to other applications and use hyperlinks to jump to related information on another page in a report, in another report or access any other Internet content.

STRENGTHS: Minimal effort is required to extend Actuate from a client/server architecture to an Internet environment. Actuate provides template HTML documents which are easily customized for seamless integration into corporate Web sites. In addition to the HTML templates, there is a powerful scripting language that allows developers to quickly integrate ReportCast into an existing Web environment.

WEAKNESSES: Actuate's rich development environment requires training, precluding unsophisticated end users from taking full advantage of the products. SELECTION CRITERIA: The Enterprise Reporting Group recommends Actuate's suite of products because they are by far the most flexible and extensible on the market. Further, the underlying architecture integrates very well into the Internet.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Actuate provides high quality technical support via telephone, e-mail and their Web site.

DOCUMENTATION: Product documentation is extensive and well organized.

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