CATEGORY: Data Mining and Visualization

REVIEWER: Barbra Marranzino, BaseCase director at RDI.

BACKGROUND: Resource Data International Inc. (RDI), based in Boulder, Colorado, is the most comprehensive provider of global energy industry information, including news, data and unbiased analysis. The RDI product line includes publications, database information systems, conferences and consulting groups. The products are designed to help senior managers in all energy-related fields make informed decisions and keep pace with industry trends. RDI provides expert analysis of retail markets, power generation and distribution, oil and gas, coal and mining, and environmental issues.

PLATFORMS: The first RDI product to incorporate JWAVE from Visual Numberics is BaseCase Imager. JWAVE is embedded in BaseCase Imager as the data visualization engine and tool for building graphical user interfaces (GUIs). BaseCase Imager runs on a Linux- based server with an Intel processor. The code development for BaseCase Imager, and therefore JWAVE, is done primarily on Windows NT workstations.

PROBLEM SOLVED: BaseCase Imager is a powerful new online tool that provides a faster, simpler way to examine quantitative data relationships in the energy industry ­ all via the Web. As power markets grow increasingly complex, quick and intuitive access to information can sharpen a company's competitive edge. Often, the best way to rapidly comprehend the significance of this data is through visualization ­ the use of graphs, charts and maps. BaseCase Imager combines information on the operating characteristics and costs of individual generating units with hourly data on power generation, system load and cost of power to create vivid, full-color graphics. JWAVE allows RDI to create a consistent GUI for BaseCase Imager and display graphical results over the Internet. RDI's clients use a variety of computer platforms and often have limited resources with which to handle the immense volume of data included in BaseCase Imager. JWAVE creates an environment where clients can select the data that fits their needs and display that information in a fast, efficient form.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: By utilizing JWAVE as the GUI-builder and data visualization engine, BaseCase Imager provides users with flexible plotting routines and standard tools for representing industry data (coincident stacks, load duration curves, etc.) and time-series and scatter plots for several industry-standard data sets.

STRENGTHS: The database connectivity features in JWAVE are outstanding. Because of the size of the data sets in BaseCase Imager and the need to deliver this information via the Internet, speed is a critical concern. By enabling direct database connectivity with the graphical interface, JWAVE has allowed BaseCase Imager to create a real-time display environment with a great deal of flexibility for users around the world.

WEAKNESSES: Because JWAVE is a relatively new product, we have discovered a number of bugs which have lengthened the development time. Many of these bugs were machine- dependent or only in the context of how we were trying to use the product. Because of the relative obscurity of these issues, Visual Numerics' product support staff often needed to engage in research before providing its usual high-level of service.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Performance was the primary criterion. The creation of BaseCase Imager required a tool that would be fast and reliable. The decision to use JWAVE was made easier by the fact that RDI has successfully used its sister product, PV-WAVE, in the past and has invested considerable resources in code development. In addition, we needed a scalable, Web-based tool that offered high-end visualization, animation, world- class statistics and numerical algorithms that could attach to many data sources.

DELIVERABLES: Because of the size of the database and variety of users for BaseCase Imager, we needed a very flexible visualization package. The JWAVE engine works very well in this regard. The ability to create customized charts, graphs and plots dynamically through a Web browser, rather than canned images, is essential for RDI clients.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Visual Numerics' product support staff has been very good at accommodating our needs. We have called, frequently in desperation, trying to solve last-minute glitches; and they have consistently been a highly responsive partner.

DOCUMENTATION: JWAVE's online documentation is excellent. Most questions are easily answered without leaving your desk.

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