While most of the world is futzing around building data warehouses and marts cobbled together from relatively complex and (often) expensive subsystems, a little-known U.K. company called AppsCo Software, Ltd. has developed a virtual no-brainer data mart generation system based on the simple concept of application templates. The idea is to provide a solution template that one can easily customize to create a specific analytical application without worrying about the underlying structure of the warehouse.

The product is called AppsMart. Chances are pretty good that you, the customer, won't know that you have it even if you bought it! That is because AppsCo sells AppsMart primarily to application software vendors who, in turn, sell the complete applications solution that you buy.

AppsMart is basically a rapid application development environment that takes advantage of existing BI/DW technologies to develop specific applications. It includes the functionality of ETL, OLAP and report generation tools from Microsoft. AppsMart simply takes advantage of the DTS and OLAP technology of SQL Server and the report generation capabilities of Microsoft Office (namely, Excel 2000). By focusing on Microsoft platforms, AppsCo is able to bring the cost of its solutions down to the point where they are affordable by relatively small organizations.

You might well ask why one might need AppsMart at all if you've already got SQL Server. The answer is that the services of SQL Server are hard to get at and deploy. SQL Server's wizards are, at best, rudimentary. AppsMart's wizards offer sophistication along with ease of use.

The product consists of three modules:

  • Scratchpad is used to design an application via modeling and refinement. It permits existing templates to be customized.
  • Studio automatically generates the SQL code and builds the data mart that supports the application.
  • Template Designer is the tool used to create new solution templates.

Typically, an applications software developer will start with one of a growing number of business-level templates supplied by AppsCo ­ for example, a financial or marketing application template. The developer then customizes the template according to his particular needs and generates the underlying database and OLAP cube structures. The tools and the methodology enable the developer to accomplish in hours and weeks what formerly took months or years. We have heard of complete data mart solutions built in as little as three weeks using AppsMart.
I admit that there is something of the sense of smoke and mirrors when describing the benefits of AppsMart. In its defense, AppsCo points out that more than half the revenues analytical application vendors derive are from service. That means that these companies have to do a lot of customization. Every time an application needs to be modified, the time clock starts. As too many of us know, the process is often slow, laborious and expensive.

By relying on Microsoft, Apps-Mart-based applications will, of course, be pooh-poohed by many, especially some of the big kahunas who have invested millions in BI/DW. If your application uses 10 terabytes and 64-bit floating point analytics, then maybe these guys aren't for you. On the other hand, if you can get what you need on a slightly smaller scale and need it in a hurry, an AppsCo-based solution is certainly worth a look-see.

Several years ago, the CEO of one of my clients (a DW pioneer, long since acquired) said to me, "What we really ought to be peddling is a mart-in-a-box. Every sale we make is a big, expensive deal; and after the sale is made, we have to provide our customers with tons of support and hand-holding." That was about four years ago. In my opinion, little AppsCo is the one company that is closest to the realization of that vision. Their technology brings to the party both ease of use and low cost, two factors that, unfortunately, are often mutually exclusive.

AppsCo is lining up several new analytical application vendors every month. Any list I'd give you now would be obsolete by the time this column gets printed, but a list of partner companies is maintained on www.appsco.com. I recommend you check it out and see if there just might be one that resonates.

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Information Management content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access