PLATFORMS: WebFOCUS operates as part of a multitiered, Internet data warehouse application. It is based on a Sun Microsystems SPARC Server 1000, interoperating with Information Builders' EDA SQL Copy Manager and FOCUS Six reporting environment server.

BACKGROUND: Paradyne is a pioneer and leader in digital access products and technologies that facilitate high-speed access to networks worldwide for communications, computing and information. To claim market share, Paradyne must provide high quality service to our distribution network. We have recently implemented a Web-enabled data warehouse that allows distributors to obtain order status information by pointing their browser to Paradyne's Web site. The data warehouse required a tool that could seamlessly generate HTML-format reports using data coming from a variety of sources, including internal shipping, manufacturing and order management systems, which in turn fed a Sybase 11-based data warehouse. That tool had to work in concert with data access middleware and a report server.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: WebFOCUS is a server-based reporting environment which produces HTML-formatted reports accessible by Web browsers. It supports the functionality of the FOCUS 4GL, including its object oriented formatting and styling capabilities. That allows WebFOCUS to format any object on an HTML page without the need for extensive HTML coding. Its dynamic hyperlink capabilities allow WebFOCUS to create conditional hot links to other local HTML pages. Reports can be generated and tested using FOCUS Six for Windows, a visual report management environment, and rapidly deployed to WebFOCUS.

STRENGTHS: WebFOCUS has very strong dynamic Web-page creation capabilities. In fact, the tool supports advanced formats, such as frames, which we may use in future versions of our application. The conditional styling capabilities allow us to adjust font size and colors. Color coding data, such as order status, avoids the need for extended text explanations on the Web page.

WEAKNESSES: The font characteristics created by WebFOCUS may not be exactly the same as those seen in client/server reports. Therefore, when creating reports, you should examine report appearances on a Web browser to check exactly what the reports will look like before deploying them.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Our choice of WebFOCUS was heavily influenced by our selection of data access and copy management middleware, which in this case was IBI's EDA and Copy Manager. WebFOCUS seemed to leverage that infrastructure at a time when we needed a quick solution. Furthermore, EDA was the only product that was capable of seamlessly accessing both relational databases and non-relational data sources across multiple platforms. Because it acts as a client of EDA, WebFOCUS was the natural choice as our Web reporting tool.

DELIVERABLES: Our Web-based data warehouse is a major part of our strategy to improve customer service. Our customers (independent distribution channels) want answers quickly, and they demand a tool which allows them to get the answers they need.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Overall, we have been satisfied with IBI's support. Top priority calls for technical support were always answered very rapidly. With IBI, we have found a partner that shares our concern for using Web technology to retrieve data from multiple legacy data sources.

DOCUMENTATION: There is no hard-copy documentation. It is all provided on-line.

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