BACKGROUND: Aegis Analytical Corp. develops software solutions for the demanding needs of regulated manufacturers in pharmaceutical and other capital-intensive industries, deploying a technology called Manufacturing Informatics. Discoverant, Aegis' first product, is a data mining and information discovery system that addresses a significant need for process improvement in regulated manufacturing operations. Aegis recently announced that Hoechst Marion Roussel has signed a contract to install Discoverant site-wide at its manufacturing facility in Kansas City.

PLATFORMS: Aegis' Discoverant is a three-tiered application for which JWAVE from Visual Numerics is the data visualization engine. The client and middle tier support Java platforms, while the third tier supports Windows NT and UNIX servers.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Aegis' customers are under pressure to provide the highest level of product safety, quality and consistency. They face stiff competition, resource constraints and cost containment. In addition, companies subject to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations experience additional constraints. Discoverant satisfies the complex manufacturing failure analysis and process improvement needs of FDA-regulated manufacturers. Discoverant improves the management and tracking of process changes and allows better compliance with regulatory requirements. Rather than trying to develop Discoverant's data visualization engine from scratch, Aegis conducted an exhaustive search of commercially available products that could be embedded into Discoverant. We selected JWAVE from Visual Numerics, a leader in data visualization technology.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: We needed a robust analysis and visualization engine that was capable of handling large amounts of data very efficiently. We needed powerful statistical analysis, pattern recognition and data visualization capabilities combined with interactive connectivity to several disparate manufacturing-related data sources. Three- and four- dimensional visualizations are also a key requirement of our customers, as is the ability to distribute Discoverant across an enterprise. We had a substantial list of requirements, and JWAVE met a large majority of them. JWAVE is a three-tiered solution that uses Sun's Java components to rapidly develop and deploy applications across an enterprise. These JWAVE applications let users perform numerical analysis and visual interpretation of large, complex data sets.

STRENGTHS: JWAVE provides significant value not only because of its powerful visualization tools, but also because of the strong data analysis capabilities offered through Visual Numerics' IMSL Numerical Libraries, which are included in JWAVE. This is an area that clearly separates Visual Numerics from its competition. We considered embedding other products as Discoverant's data visualization engine, but none offered the advanced mathematical and statistical analysis functionality that is included with JWAVE. The ability to deploy JWAVE-based applications across an enterprise is also huge. Visual Numerics embraced Java technology very early in its development. As such, JWAVE is the only product we tested that combines highly sophisticated visualization and analysis tools and the ability to easily distribute that functionality over the Internet.

WEAKNESSES: A weakness of JWAVE could be its reliance on Java Swing Components for some functionality, although it's not required for all functionality. Not all browsers include a Java Virtual Machine (JVM) that supports the Java Swing Component Set. A JWAVE user may have to upgrade the JVM in his environment to take advantage of this cutting-edge technology.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We sought a tool that was Web-based and scalable, offered high-end visualization and animation, world- class statistics and numerical algorithms that could attach to many data sources. We also needed a callable interface that would give us the flexibility to develop easy-to-use applications. We also sought a company with a stable product, outstanding technical support and the flexibility to accommodate our contractual needs.

DELIVERABLES: Our customers use JWAVE's 2-D, 3-D and 4-D visualization tools as well as its statistical analysis and pattern recognition capabilities to turn their complex manufacturing data into information that yields dramatic cost savings.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Visual Numerics is a highly responsive partner. Everyone at Visual Numerics is supportive, involved and focused on strengthening Discoverant's functionality as it relates to JWAVE and maximizing Aegis' return on investment.

DOCUMENTATION: JWAVE's documentation is thorough and easy to follow. Manuals are provided both in print and online.

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