CATEGORY: BI Tools

REVIEWER: Neil E. Armstrong, chief technology officer, and Michael J. Cummings, vice president of product development, for stealthCFO.

BACKGROUND: stealthCFO provides executive solutions using business intelligence for predictive supply chains and competitive benchmarking for more than 8,500 companies.

PLATFORMS: Compaq 8500 8-way processor servers, 550 MHz Intel P-3, using NT 4.1 server O/S.

PROBLEM SOLVED: We needed a sophisticated OLAP capability to provide fast, complex comparative analysis capabilities on 500+ performance metrics for 8,500 companies with five years of historical data. Solutions had to be deployed in an ASP model for delivery to a client browser via the Internet.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: The Essbase product has worked very well for us. It is reliable, stable and highly capable. The distributed Internet architecture with clustering and failover technologies will serve us well as we grow our customer base around the globe. Additionally, the native Java interface should allow us to develop even more robust OLAP applications.

STRENGTHS: The GUI interface for developing OLAP cube designs in Essbase is intuitive and very quick to assimilate. For individuals with good understanding of data structures, even in the PC database world, Essbase has a very rapid learning curve. It is very easy to install, configure and manage. Since Essbase runs in both Windows NT/2000 and UNIX environments, it can scale to very large cube sizes and numbers of concurrent users. Essbase also allows the use of dynamic data, such as stock price fluctuations during the day, to have near real-time calculated metrics based upon dynamic data sources. Essbase also features a spreadsheet add-in for Microsoft Excel and Lotus 1-2-3 that makes Essbase very quick to learn and perform ad hoc analysis on the data. Essbase is not purely an application technology enabler, but comes to market with applications running on it effectively. This has significantly benefited us in performance, security and new features.

WEAKNESSES: Hyperion should improve testing prior to releasing new versions. We have had a few issues when transitioning to a new release, although they were very quick to address those issues. Lastly, Hyperion was not that quick to embrace the Internet in their technology suite. They have addressed this on a number of fronts and now have brought several products to market demonstrating their commitment to Internet architectures and technologies.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We based our decision upon three criteria. First, we were looking for a vendor that is a leader in the OLAP marketplace. Hyperion has been the leader in the OLAP space for quite some time. In our findings, the RDBMS vendors did not pursue the OLAP market in a serious way. We were also seeking a leading technology that is scalable and flexible. Essbase has continued to push the envelope from a technology perspective on the core OLAP technology. An excellent example of this is the attributes feature, which can greatly decrease the size of your cube and significantly improve overall performance. Finally, we needed a credible path for leveraging the Internet for solution delivery. In our product road map discussions with Hyperion, we gained the confidence that they were bringing Internet technologies into the Essbase product line.

DELIVERABLES: stealthCFO has developed a suite of business intelligence applications using OLAP as a core database technology. These sophisticated applications allow corporate executives to gain insight into their markets, customers, competitors and suppliers. The applications include predictive customer and supply chain analysis, competitive benchmarking analysis and industry scorecards, and value-based selling applications.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Overall, we have received excellent support. The best part is very quick responses and solutions to any problems or bugs that have surfaced. Technical support and customer support personnel have been very knowledgeable and responsive. Hyperion has excellent support processes and tools to ensure customer issues and inquiries are properly addressed and resolved.

DOCUMENTATION: Online documentation is very good, although offline documentation manuals are average to above average. The online site is very understandable, with good examples and illustrations. It is easy to navigate and search to find the appropriate product feature content.

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