BACKGROUND: Waratah Corporation provides statistics, data mining, data warehousing and software development services for a variety of industrial applications. Waratah specializes in distributed systems using Web technologies. Waratah's client roster includes medical informatics companies, Fortune 500 pharmaceutical, agricultural, chemical and medical device companies, hospitals, managed care and physician organizations, and integrated healthcare delivery networks.
PLATFORMS: MathSoft's statistical and data mining products run on various UNIX platforms and Windows NT and 95. The StatServer runs only on Windows NT.
PROBLEMS SOLVED: In one application Waratah worked with healthcare teams in a managed care organization. The healthcare teams were tracking aspects of care for a particular sub-population of patients and contributing patient-level data to a common database, but they had no way of viewing or exploring summaries of their data. A customized application utilizing the StatServer, with just a Web browser as the client, provided this functionality and enabled members of the healthcare teams to graphically explore, analyze and view patient population data over a secure Internet connection. In another application Waratah worked with a pharmaceutical company to distribute statistical analyses for a complex experimental program over a global intranet. This application allowed scientists, who are not regular data analysts, to analyze and visualize their own data and combined data for the experimental program using familiar tools including Microsoft Excel and a Web browser.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: StatServer is a data mining engine and transaction server that allows sophisticated statistical analysis and information visualization through a variety of familiar clients including a Web browser and Microsoft Excel. With StatServer, custom statistical modeling and data mining routines are built in the S-PLUS language and stored in a central server. These analytics are then run server-side with the S-PLUS engine, as initiated by the client, returning results directly to the client. StatServer allows for client data to be uploaded to the engine or for data to be drawn from a variety of relational databases as available over the network on which StatServer is installed.
STRENGTHS: The StatServer COM object model exposes a nice programmatic interface, and Waratah Corporation has developed some highly-functional Web-based applications utilizing Microsoft's Internet Information Server, Active Server Pages and client-side scripting.
WEAKNESSES: StatServer requires significant resources and a dedicated machine. StatServer, like other NT applications (and NT itself), also misbehaves at times. For example, the associated Web-server process needs to be restarted with some regularity. StatServer is not a service, i.e., you have to be logged in to the StatServer machine and start the StatServer program.
SELECTION CRITERIA: StatServer allows organizations to develop, maintain and deploy custom statistical analysis and visualization methods throughout their enterprise from a central location. This provides consistency throughout an organization and allows users with little regular activity as data analysts to perform sophisticated data mining.
DELIVERABLES: Waratah Corporation has been able to develop customized, personalized and highly functional remote data mining and graphical reporting applications for a variety of its clients using the StatServer. The StatServer readily fits the Microsoft NT server architecture, providing a robust reporting environment to complement the MS Active Server Pages engine. The combination of the server-side tools (MS IIS, MS ASP, COM business objects, MS Transaction Server, StatServer and an industrial-strength relational database such as MS SQL Server or Oracle) with simple client-side scripting results in a flexible, robust and scalable remote data mining and graphical reporting system. The interaction and bounce between tools and components results in a fun development environment in which many of the approaches traditionally employed in client/server applications can be realized.
VENDOR SUPPORT: StatServer is well supported by the StatSci division of MathSoft. All requests for information have been handled in a responsive and thoughtful manner. The evolution and application of the StatServer is being approached professionally with StatServer developers continuing to push on the feature and application set.
DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is detailed, comprehensive and very reasonable to work with.
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