BACKGROUND: Analytical Solutions, Inc. is the creator of E*telligence, an analytical application targeted at providing wholesale/retail/distribution companies with a better understanding of their customers, vendors, inventory and products allowing them to implement a one-to-one marketing solution. E*telligence is the first application built using AlphaBlox Analysis Suite 2.0.

PLATFORMS: AlphaBlox is currently running on a Microsoft Windows NT server accessing data found in a DB2/400 database and Hyperion Essbase OLAP Server database. The application layer of the product is running on Microsoft Windows 98 clients using Microsoft Internet Explorer browsers.

PROBLEM SOLVED: As an application provider, we are faced with the problem of developing ­ in a timely manner ­ applications that meet and exceed the needs of our customers. We need a platform we can leverage to easily and quickly develop and deploy custom applications. Time to market is vital. We also require an open platform so we can easily embed our own domain-specific expertise. With AlphaBlox Analysis Suite, we were able to quickly deliver E*telligence, an application designed to reduce marketing costs and increase revenues through our clients gaining a better understanding of their customers.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Customer marketing applications lend themselves to being able to deal with individual customer and product information. AlphaBlox's native support for relational and multidimensional data sources allowed us to seamlessly integrate data from relational data stores with the Hyperion Essbase OLAP Server. Our customers can now work within summary data found in Essbase and drill down to individual customer invoice detail found in relational databases without knowing they are switching database environments. With AlphaBlox's unique building blocks approach, our development time was drastically reduced, enabling us to bring E*telligence to market faster and with more capabilities. By leveraging Analysis Server's access to multiple data sources (data warehouses, data marts, OLAP servers) and with the open server architecture, we were able to integrate our application into our customers' existing infrastructure which ensured they would get the most out of their information investment.

STRENGTHS: The main strengths of AlphaBlox's Analysis Suite include its flexibility, open architecture and unique building blocks approach to application development. With a small team of developers, we were able to build the application layer to E*telligence in only two months. With any other product, it could have conceivably taken months, or even years, to deliver such a solution.

WEAKNESSES: The building blocks found in AlphaBlox Analysis Suite are delivered in the form of Java applets. Developers must be careful in the design of their application as to how to use these applets because too many in a given page can drive up the need for local memory on the workstation. However, we did not find this to be an issue in our overall application design.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Time to market was the single most critical factor for us. With Analysis Suite's unique building blocks approach, developing our initial application was as easy as snapping application blocks into Web pages. Because Analysis Suite's Server and Application Studio are completely open and extensible, we were easily able to embed our specific domain expertise and business logic. We also wanted to be able to leverage the richness of the Web in our application.

DELIVERABLES: E*telligence is an easy-to-use customer intelligence application that leverages the full power of the Web for the CEO as well as sales and marketing executives. AlphaBlox provided us with the capability to produce a Java-based application layer in a very short amount of time. The AlphaBlox architecture allowed us to use the richness of the Web to provide that ease of use. AlphaBlox Analysis Server also provided seamless access to both relational and multidimensional data, and that data is personalized to the user's skill level and information needs.

VENDOR SUPPORT: This is AlphaBlox's strongest area. AlphaBlox responded quickly with a very knowledgeable staff. Never has any software company stood behind its product and worked as hard to ensure our success.

DOCUMENTATION: Documentation is an area that could use some improvement. Although the documentation provides you with enough information to build your first application, it needs some improvement in the area of advanced features and function.

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