ProClarity Analytics Platform Business Intelligence (BI) 05 September 2003 Alan H. Tiedrich Document Type: Product Report Note Number: DPRO-101520
ProClarity Analytics Platform is a component-based product family for building business intelligence (BI) applications using Microsoft's Analysis Services as the online analytical processing (OLAP) server.
Table of Contents Overview Analysis Pricing Competitors Strengths Limitations Recommended Gartner Research Insight
List of Tables Table 1: Overview—ProClarity Analytics Platform Table 2: System Requirements Table 3: Features and Functions—ProClarity Analytics Platform Table 4: ProClarity Analytics Server Publishing Properties Table 5: Price List—ProClarity Analytics Platform 5.2
List of Figures Figure 1: ProClarity Analytics Platform
Corporate Headquarters ProClarity Corp. P.O. Box 8064 Boise, ID 83707, U.S.A. Tel: +1 208 344 1630 Fax: +1 208 343 6128 Internet: www.proclarity.com E-Mail: [email protected]
Overview [return to Table of Contents] [return to List of Tables]
Table 1 Overview—ProClarity Analytics Platform Product Type A component-based BI platform for building and deploying BI applications using Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Analysis Services as the OLAP server. Version 5.2. Date Announced and Delivered October 2002. User Interface Web browser. Platform Support • Server—Microsoft Windows 2000. • Client—Windows 95/98, Windows NT 4.0 with Service Pack 5 or greater, Windows 2000, Windows Me. Relational Database Support • None as data source. • Briefing Book Server uses SQL Server 2000 for storing views and Briefing Books. OLAP Server Support Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Analysis Services. Base Price (US$) See Pricing table. Number of Users/Installations • Over 1,400 corporate customers. • Over 40 Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs). [return to List of Tables]
Table 2 System Requirements Server Hardware
• Minimum—Pentium-class processor with 256MB RAM • Recommended—server-class multiprocessor computer with a minimum of 512MB RAM per processor • Windows 2000 Server product family (with Internet Information Server [IIS] 5.0) • SQL Server 2000 Analysis Services, Service Pack 2 • SQL Server Enterprise Edition may be required for HTTP access to Analysis Services in situations involving firewalls¹. • Pentium-class processor • 80MB RAM minimum, 128MB recommended • Video driver configured for a minimum of 16-bit color • Minimum 800 × 600 pixel screen resolution • Windows 98SE, NT 4 with Service Pack 6 or greater, 2000, ME, XP Professional • Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.01-6.0 • Netscape 4.7 The following third-party components are either installed automatically with a typical installation of ProClarity Analytics Server, or they are among the minimum software requirements: • Microsoft Data Access Components (MDAC)—a collection of technologies used by Web-based applications to integrate information from relational (Structured Query Language [SQL]) and nonrelational data sources, including: —Microsoft ActiveX Data Objects (ADO) —Object Linking and Embedding (OLE) DB —Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) • Microsoft PivotTable Services (PTS)—a calculation engine that connects OLAP client applications to the Analysis Services server. • IIS—a tool for managing Web servers: —IIS is integrated with Microsoft Windows 2000 Server and uses the same Windows NT user accounts. Also available from the operating system (Windows NT/2000) are tools such as: • Microsoft Management Console (MMC), which hosts the ProClarity Administration Tool. • Event Viewer, which is used by the event-logging feature in ProClarity Analytics Server.
¹This is a requirement of Analysis Services, not ProClarity Analytics Server. ProClarity's Standard client connects to the middle tier via HTTP regardless of the SQL Server Edition. This comes into play if the ProClarity Analytics Server is separated from the Analysis Server by a firewall, or if it is necessary to deploy ProClarity Professional outside a firewall. ²MDAC and PTS are required to connect to Analysis Services. These are installed with ProClarity Professional and also are installed on the ProClarity Analytics Server.
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Table 3 Features and Functions—ProClarity Analytics Platform Components
• ProClarity Analytics Server is a middle-tier server for storing, managing and delivering secure business views to users: —Includes managing access for clients and collaboration among users. • ProClarity Standard (formerly ProClarity Web Client) is an interactive, zero-footprint Web client that is used to analyze OLAP data through a browser. • ProClarity Desktop Professional is a customizable analytic client designed for analysts and power users that can be deployed as a stand-alone multidimensional data analysis tool or as an analysis component of Analytics Server. • ProClarity Web Professional (formerly ProClarity Rich Client) offers the functionality of the Desktop Professional from within a Web browser. • ProClarity Selector is designed for analysts and power users to use in extracting custom data sets from OLAP cubes. • ProClarity Business Reporter is an Excel-based analysis tool. • ProClarity Analytics Server & Professional Client SDK is a customization kit for middle-tier and thin client. ProClarity Analytics Server architecture consists of three tiers: a presentation tier, a business logic tier and a data tier.
Business Logic Tier ProClarity Analytics Server (Analytics • Residing on the business logic tier, supports much of the functionality of the ProClarity Analytics Platform. Server) • As the communication and processing hub, is the main component of the architecture and: —Acts as the communications hub for all other components and coordinates and processes requests from all other components. —Directs communication (like queries and query results) between the other components and processing information sent to and from the components. • Communicates with the ProClarity Data Source Hub—which controls the connection to Microsoft PivotTable Services and manages queries and results—and ProClarity ActiveX controls, which generate the graphical views that are displayed by the Standard client. • Houses the Briefing Book Server. • Can be scaled with multiple instances running on multiple servers all pointing to one Microsoft SQL Server. Analytics Server Architecture • Analytics Server is deployed on IIS as a collection of application service provider (ASP) pages, ActiveX controls and Component Object Model (COM) components, and supporting tools and files such as Microsoft PivotTable Services (PTS). • Comprises components that can be distributed independently to users, allowing Administrators to tailor their deployment to the specific needs of groups within their organizations: —ProClarity Desktop Professional —Authoring Tool —ProClarity Standard —ProClarity Web Professional —Analytics Engine —Briefing Book Server —Administration Tool —VBScript functions embedded in the ASP pages • Receives requests, instantiates objects and call methods, and sends responses. • Data transfer between components of the Analytic Server is accomplished primarily through use of Extensible Markup Language (XML). • Data is transferred back and forth from the Briefing Book Server and the Authoring Tool using Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP). ProClarity Analytics Server 5 • Scalability and performance (ProClarity Claim): 10x improvement over 4.0 through connection pooling and caching. Enhancements • Collaboration: query results and views can be saved to ProClarity Analytics Server or e-mailed. • The ability to create central and shared business logic, such as custom (calculated) measures or members, in either the base product or Selector. Caching Data and Images • ProClarity Analytics Server supplements the caching capabilities of Analysis Services with an integrated feature that caches the result set data and chart images of a particular briefing book page so that subsequent requests of the same page can bypass the OLAP query and chart generation: —Makes periodic checks to make sure that the cached result set and image data is current with OLAP cube data. —These checks ensure that cached data is regenerated within one hour after the underlying OLAP data has been updated. • ProClarity offers a cache-clearing option, which works on a user-specified periodic basis. Analytics Engine A facility that processes user queries, creates the views for display on the user desktop and caches results. Briefing Book Server • Manages briefing book data. • Resides on the business logic tier. • Provides access to briefing book data stored on the data tier. • Applies security, stores user settings and manages view history. • Because the Briefing Book Server resides on the middle tier, users access briefing books from the same central location, regardless of the client tool they are using. Briefing Book Architecture • The Briefing Book Server comprises a SQL Server database, which stores metadata and briefing book data. • The Portable Batch System (PBS) application programming interface (API) is used to manage data stored on the SQL Server database: —This includes activities such as retrieving briefing books and user preferences, adding libraries and briefing books and creating security roles. —The Briefing Book Server uses XML as the format for storing, describing and transmitting data.
Presentation Tier ProClarity Standard Client
Data Tier Data Sources and Access
Connect to either an OLAP server (Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Analysis Services) or a local cube: • The local cube option is available if the user has the Microsoft OLE DB for OLAP (ODBO) Provider. • Users can open a local cube without being connected to the OLAP server and perform most ProClarity Desktop Professional functions with it: —Only features available to Analysis Services cubes and supported by ODBO are available in Local Cubes.
Application Development Examples
The ProClarity Analytics Platform can be used to create custom three-tier BI applications. Various types of customization are possible. Some examples include: • Customization of the Web client, which could be using user permission and security features or creating a custom user interface: —Creating a custom user interface could involve setting a custom color scheme, changing the visibility of Web Client components, arranging Web Client components or creating custom selection controls. • Managing the Briefing Book Server through Enterprise Manager, which could be managing the Briefing Book Server database or managing the Briefing Book Server database structure. • Integrating ProClarity Server with a portal by creating Web-based building blocks, which populate a Dynamic Hypertext Markup Language (DHTML) shell: —This allows for creating "n-up" displays. • Using the Authoring Tool in custom environments to allow users to manage the documents stored on the Briefing Book Server, including tasks such as publishing briefing books, creating and organizing libraries, and applying security roles. • Creating linked books, which allows developers to link non-native document types. • Creating a custom Web Professional client download: —ProClarity Web Professional—a collection of ProClarity ActiveX controls and COM components—encapsulates ProClarity Desktop. —Professional's analytic functionality, but resides within a browser and can be downloaded directly from ProClarity Analytics Server. —Can customize to integrate with most security platforms: single sign-on, LDAP and so on.
Software Development Kits (SDKs) Analytics Server SDK ProClarity Analytics Server SDK
• Includes all ProClarity Analytics Server components and controls required by developers to customize client-side and server-side components. • Developers can install ProClarity Analytics Server to customize server-side components and the Web Professional to customize client-side components. Web Professional Object Model • Represents exposed functionality for displaying the Web Professional, supporting interactivity and communicating with the Web server. • Much of the object model is based on the ProClarity Data Source Hub. • Session, command and result data is generated by the Data Source Hub in response to a query. • Data is exchanged between the Web Client, and the Analytic Server is formatted as XML. Web Service Method Calls • The Briefing Book Server is designed to be used as a Web Service that can be accessed by remote applications across the Web. • Using a combination of SOAP schema, XML data formatting and Web Service method calls, a developer can build a client application that will retrieve and transfer PBS data using HTTP. Communicating With the Analytic • When the Web Professional home page is initially opened, an HTTP request is sent from the browser to the Analytic Server, which reads the request and generates the HTML for the basic user Server interface. • Subsequent queries are sent from the Web Professional to the Analytic Server following any action from the user that requires additional information from the Analytic Server. • When a query is executed, the current state of the object model is packaged as an XML data stream and sent to the Analytic Server. • When the Analytic Server receives the request, it parses the data into its object model, processes the query and sends the response back to the Web Professional. • Each time a response is received from the Analytic Server, the browser interprets the script and updates the Web Professional. Analytic Server Object Model • Exposes functionality that enables the exchange of requests and responses. • Is organized into two main groups: —The objects created and referenced through PEngine.asp, which creates and references objects that parse XML data received from the Web Client, create instances of the Data Source Hub to run queries and load the XML to return to the Web Client. —The objects created and referenced through Ppage, which creates and references objects that render the graphical views of the data, such as a chart or Decomposition Tree. Briefing Book Server Object Model • Represents exposed functionality for managing information stored on the SQL Server database. • Is organized in three general groups: —The briefing books architecture encapsulates the objects and collections that comprise a briefing book, including a library, which is a collection of briefing books; a book, which is a single briefing book; and a book element, which is either a page or a folder contained in a briefing book. —The user architecture encapsulates Briefing Book Server users and their preferences and settings, including an optional language designation. —The security architecture encapsulates members, roles and role associations. • The Briefing Book Server's main object provides central access to the three general groups of objects and, in addition, provides convenient access to common actions. Authoring Tool Object Model • Represents exposed functionality for using the Authoring Tool to communicate with the Analytic Server and to manage the Briefing Book Server. • Is organized in three general groups (see Briefing Book Server Object Model). • The Authoring Tool's main object provides methods to display dialogue boxes and to log on or log off the Analytic Server. Briefing Book Server XML • Contain all of the information that represents how a view is formatted, including visualization types (chart, grid or both), display properties, publishing properties and the MDX query. Documents • After receiving a method call requesting data, the data from the specified object in the Briefing Book Server is converted to an XML string and returned to the requesting object. • The XML documents related to the Briefing Book Server include: —Libraries document —Histories document —MDStore document —Book document —Page document —Books document —Elements document —Publishing Properties document —Roles document —Members document —Role Associations document —Languages document —Users document —Server Maps document Desktop Professional SDK ProClarity Desktop Professional SDK • The ProClarity Desktop Professional application is a collection of COM and ActiveX objects operating within the ProClarity Desktop Professional shell, including components and controls, support files and Active Book files. • ProClarity component classifications: —Data Source Hub —Selection Controls —ActiveX Plug-Ins —Other ActiveX Controls and COM Components Components Data Source Hub (DSH) A group of COM objects that: • Establish and manage the connection to PivotTable Services. • Expose cube metadata. • Formulate and issue queries. • Retrieve result sets. ActiveX Plug-Ins • Visual components that conform to the ProClarity Desktop Professional plug-in interface. • Include objects that display data in the graphical format: —Chart Control —Decomposition Tree Control —Explorer Control —Grid Control —Perspective Control • In addition, other ActiveX plug-ins can be designed to work within the ProClarity Desktop Professional environment. ProClarity Desktop Professional • Include objects used to define the data selection for display by the ActiveX Plug-ins: Selection Controls —Dimensions Tree Control —Dimension Tool Control —Measure Control —Timeline Control • Display the cube's metadata in a point-and-click interface, enabling the user to select the desired cube pieces for display. Other ActiveX Controls and COM • ProClarity Desktop Professional executable. Components • ProClarity Control—encapsulates much of the ProClarity Desktop Professional functionality in a single ActiveX control: —Allows developers to create applications that use multiple Desktop Professional controls with minimal coding. • KcommonInterfaces library—a shared library for functionality that is accessed by both ProClarity Desktop Professional and the ProClarity Control. • Page Control—Acts as a container for ActiveX plug-ins: —Can behave as a two-up display by simultaneously displaying the Grid Control and one other ActiveX plug-In (Chart Control, Decomposition Tree Control or Perspective Control). • Briefing Book component—Allows users to create and modify briefing books. • Briefing Book Viewer Control—Displays a hierarchical view of the folders and pages stored in a briefing book and provides a way to access the dialogue boxes for adding and organizing pages. • Create Active Books component—Allows the creation and publication of an Active Book. • Active Books Wizard component—Provides a user interface wizard for creating and publishing an Active Book. • Create Cube component—Allows the creation of a local cube from the cube to which a user is connected. • Create Tuple Control—Allows the selection and grouping of items from multiple dimensions. • Drill-Thru Control—Displays the detailed, transaction-level values that combine to total a member-level sum. • EnterMDX Control. • Slicer Control—Displays up to three slicer dimensions as drop-down menus: —Users can formulate multidimensional queries using the items from dimensions placed on the Page, Section and Chapter axes. • Connect Control—Encapsulates the process of connecting to a data source and selecting a cube or .cub file. • Export to Excel add-in—Provides a user interface wizard for exporting the current view to Microsoft Excel. • Export to Outlook add-in—Provides a user interface wizard for exporting a briefing book to Microsoft Outlook. • Export to PowerPoint add-in—Provides a user interface wizard for exporting a briefing book to Microsoft PowerPoint. • Export to Web Part add-in—Provides a user interface wizard for exporting a briefing book as a Web Part. Common Development Scenarios • Use Microsoft VBA (integrated into ProClarity) to customize applications or to automate tasks within that application. Using the Desktop Professional SDK • The COM-based architecture of ProClarity Desktop Professional allows users to extend other applications with ProClarity controls, using any application development environment that provides support for COM objects. • Develop ProClarity Add-Ins to modify or extend the functionality of ProClarity Desktop Professional. • Develop ProClarity Desktop Professional Plug-Ins—ActiveX controls—to work within the ProClarity Desktop Professional environment: —The Desktop Professional plug-in interface is a tool for integrating these ActiveX controls. • Use the ActiveBook Component to communicate directly with the OLAP server, allowing users of ProClarity Desktop Professional to analyze their current data.
Administration ProClarity Administration Tool (Administration Tool) Administration Tool Functions
• An MMC snap-in based on the Authoring Tool that is used to administer the ProClarity Analytic Server and the Briefing Book Server, and implement security. • Only members of the Administrator role can access the Administration Tool. Allows the Server Administrator to: • Centrally manage: —Administrators do not need to install software on individual users' computers in order to distribute ProClarity. • Register and administer servers: —Using the interface of the MMC, users can register and administer single or multiple instances of the ProClarity Analytic Server, either from the server itself or from a remote computer. • Set default user properties: —Can be applied like a template to either new users as they access the Briefing Book Server or to multiple active users whose security settings need to be updated. • Set and edit user properties: —Change a user's name. —Enable component download—grants users permission to download the Web Professional components and the Authoring Tool. —Enable Web Professional access. —Enable e-mailing of views—e-mail the URL of a ProClarity view that is stored on the Briefing Book Server to other ProClarity users. —Allow user to modify grid row and dimension. —Perform item counts. —Designate a Frame URL. —Can be done for multiple users at once. —Grid Row Count sets the maximum number of additional rows that will display in the grid view when the Web Client user clicks "Get more rows." —Dimension Item Count sets the maximum number of additional members that will display in the Dimensions tool pane when the Web Client user clicks "Get more items" to expand a dimension. —Allow User to Modify Counts allows users to set grid row counts and dimension item counts in the Web Client. —Designate a Frame URL allows the user to customize the Web Client user's view of the ProClarity Analytics Server by directing the Web Client user to a customized frame URL that serves as the entry point for the Web Client user, essentially embedding ProClarity into a Web page that also contains such items as company logo and links to other sites on an intranet. • Manage roles, which includes: —Using established Windows NT users and groups to create ProClarity Server roles. —Granting Reader and Author access to the items on the Briefing Book Server. —Enabling publishing properties. • Register multiple instances of ProClarity Server. • Modify Server properties. • Enable or disable the Event Logger. • Specify caching options. • Configure security on the Server: —Create roles that are used to grant or deny access to items on the Server. —Specify whether users have permission to e-mail ProClarity views or download the Web Professional and the Authoring Tool. • Edit the Briefing Book Server connection. • Specify Publishing Properties (as described above in the Professional Client): —Allows an administrator to allow or restrict certain application functionality based on user credentials. • ProClarity Analytics Server's event-logging feature allows activity on the Briefing Book Server to be monitored, as well as diagnoses and resolves error messages. • The Event Viewer logs the following types of events on a continual basis: —Information. —Success. —Error. —Warning. —Audit Failure. —Audit Success. —Log usage, that is, attempts to access an item on the Briefing Book Server. • By reviewing event log entries, the administrator can identify: —Which users have accessed the Briefing Book Server and what items they retrieved. —When users attempt to access items for which they do not have access rights. —Which briefing book items are no longer accessed and should be archived. • The ProClarity Analytics Server Administrator can create a security system that can be used by both Administrators and Authors to enforce security on the Server: —The primary responsibility in developing this system is to create meaningful roles that Authors can use to selectively grant or deny access to the items contained on the Server. • Roles define categories of users and groups of users that have the same access permissions: —Access permissions define users as Readers or Authors. —By associating roles with items on the Server, Authors and Administrators determine whether the items are visible to the role and what publishing properties are enabled. • Although Administrators and Authors share the ability to associate roles with Server items, only Administrators can create or delete roles, add or remove role members, rename roles and grant Author access. • Access permissions define users as Readers or Authors. • By associating roles with items on the Server, Authors and Administrators determine whether the items are visible to the role and what publishing properties are enabled. • Incorporates elements of both Microsoft Windows NT/2000 security and the Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Analysis Services security model: —Because Analytic Server security is based on the Microsoft Windows NT security model of managing users and groups and assigning roles and permissions, Server administrators can integrate these two systems using the Administration Tool. —Allows administrators to readily integrate ProClarity Analytics Server into their established operations. • Similar to the Windows NT/2000 environment, ProClarity Analytics Server uses roles and permissions to control access to a central server, in this case, the Briefing Book Server. • Similar to the SQL Server 2000 Analysis Services model, roles and permissions are applied to items on the Server in order to grant or deny access at a specific level: —Server. —Library. —Briefing Book. • The ProClarity platform allows for integration with alternate security models, such as LDAP.
Event Logging and Monitoring
ProClarity Analytics Server Security Model
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Table 4 ProClarity Analytics Server Publishing Properties Publishing Categories Publishing Properties
Applicable ProClarity Feature(s) In Standard Client¹
MDX Editor Application English Query Application Dimensions Tool Visible Dimensions Tool Visible Application Drill to Detail Drill to Detail (or Drill Through) Application Chart view Decomposition Tree Grid view Modeling Enabled Modeling Chart view Grid view Navigate Background Cross Drill Chart view Grid view Pivot Chart view Grid view Change View Chart view Grid view Decomposition Tree Perspective view Decomposition Tree Wizard Decomposition Tree Perspective Wizard Perspective View Ad Hoc Query Wizard Application Timeline available Application Dimensions Tool available Application Reset to Defaults Application Navigate Foreground Drill Down Chart view Grid view Decomposition Tree Drill Up Chart view Grid view Isolate Chart view Grid view Eliminate Chart view Grid view Expand Grid view Collapse Grid view Slicer Paste Timeline Visible — —
No No Yes Yes
No Yes Yes Yes
No No No No No No Yes
Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
¹All functions are present in the Professional clients.
Analysis [return to Table of Contents] Classified by Gartner as a BI platform, the ProClarity Analytics Platform is organized into three logical tiers: a presentation tier, a business logic tier and a data tier. Its distributed component technology is based on the COM model and for the future will be based on Microsoft .NET. (ProClarity uses the term "component" to mean a "collection of objects" that is developed, tested and documented independently. A ProClarity component may or may not be a single binary, like an EXE or DLL. The form of the component depends on the technology used to create it. Many of the components are COM components and ActiveX controls. The Analytics Server and Standard client are the only two ProClarity components that consist of a collection of script files. The Authoring Tool, Briefing Book Server and Administration Tool are in the form of dynamic link libraries [DLLs].) The basic ProClarity Analytics Platform—Analytics Engine, Standard client and Desktop Professional—is functional out of the box for query and analysis and does not require customization. It is a starting point for building custom applications, or customers can use the ProClarity components to build custom application development platforms for their enterprises. ProClarity Analytics Platform is based on two SDKs—Analytics Server SDK and Desktop Professional SDK, which support building applications from components and deploying these applications. The SDKs contain the ProClarity components and other tools that can be used to construct custom applications and custom clients. All ProClarity functionality is completely exposed via APIs. Visual Basic (VB) is the application development language, with the ProClarity Analytics Platform providing analysts with access to VBA. The architecture is designed to enable ProClarity BI applications to interface with each other and with other COM-compliant applications. For example, using the COM model, the Analytics Platform can be invoked from Microsoft productivity applications, like PowerPoint, Word and Excel.
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Figure 1 ProClarity Analytics Platform
Microsoft Analysis Services—Data Tier The ProClarity Analytics Platform is optimized for the Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Analysis Services environment, using Analysis Services as its data source and analytic functionality. ProClarity applications require a multidimensional (Multidimensional OLAP [MOLAP]) or star schema (relational OLAP [ROLAP]) data structure to be built in Analysis Services, with appropriately structured aggregation and hierarchy. Thus, the data tier consists of at least a Microsoft SQL Server 2000 database, which stores information for the Briefing Book Server, and OLAP structures, which provide the OLAP data against which queries are run. Other relational DBMSs can be used in conjunction with Analysis Services. Analysis Services functionality is supported by OLE DB for OLAP (ODBO), so ProClarity queries are compatible with ODBO. In theory, ProClarity Analytics Platform should be able to use other ODBO-compliant OLAP servers, but this is not supported. The Analytics Platform uses the Analysis Services metadata.
ProClarity Analytics Server—Middle Tier The Analytics Server, the main component of the three-tier architecture server, resides on the business-logic/middle tier. It contains much of the functionality of the ProClarity Analytics Platform and is built entirely from components made available in the ProClarity Analytics Platform. It includes the Analytics Engine and the Briefing Book Server, as well as several client components that can be distributed independently to users: ProClarity Desktop Professional, ProClarity Web Professional, Authoring Tool and ProClarity Standard. Analytics Engine is a facility that processes user queries, creates the views for display on the user client and caches results. The ProClarity Analytics Server also manages the distribution of components and views. It delivers BI analysis to Web-enabled users and enables business analysts and power users to create analyses for Web access by other users. The Analytics Server, a collection of ASPs, COM components, DLLs and supporting files, acts as the communication and processing hub, coordinating and processing requests from all other components and processing information sent to and from components. The protocol for managing data and documents is XML. SOAP is used for transferring XML messages between Analytics Server components. Using ASPs and COM components to transform and exchange data, generally formatted as XML, the Analytics Server leverages Web server technology to underpin the middle tier. It also uses ASPs to connect the presentation tier with the middle-tier COM components, which process queries and generate views. For performance and scalability, the Analytics Server also manages connection pooling and multithreading. The Analytics Server also communicates with the ProClarity Data Source Hub and ProClarity ActiveX controls, which generate the graphical views that are displayed by the Standard client. The ProClarity DSH is a group of COM objects—nonvisual components—that control the connection to PivotTable Services, expose cube metadata, formulate and issue queries, and retrieve result sets. Components' capabilities are registered with the ProClarity Hub, and the Hub maintains a record of what components can do. Customers can extend the ProClarity Analytics Platform by creating their own components or buying them from third-party developers and registering them in the Hub.
Briefing Book Server The Briefing Book Server manages and provides access to briefing book data stored on the data tier in an SQL Server database. In addition, the Briefing Book Server applies the security model, stores user settings and manages view history. It uses XML as the format for storing, describing and transmitting data to other components. Data is transferred back and forth between the Briefing Book Server and the Authoring Tool using SOAP. This includes retrieving briefing books and user preferences, adding libraries and briefing books and applying security.
Authoring Tool The Authoring Tool, an add-in to ProClarity Desktop Professional and ProClarity Web Professional, is used by analysts and power users to connect to the Briefing Books Server, publish briefing books, manage libraries and briefing books, and apply access rights and privileges.
ProClarity Clients—Presentation Tier ProClarity supports both a Web architecture that places the business logic processing on the middle-tier and a client/server architecture in which the workload is divided between client and server. ProClarity uses the middle-tier approach for the zero-footprint Standard client, with business logic (for example, Microsoft Analysis Service's client services—PivotTable Services or ProClarity COM components) running on the middle-tier server rather than being in the client (as is true of the ProClarity Professional clients). This can be an advantage in large-scale Web-based analytic applications because the cache mechanism of PivotTable Services and the Analytics Server ensures that once an analysis is completed by one person, it can be shared by others with good responsiveness. Thus, in the Standard-client environment, scalability is achieved by using multiple middle-tier services (like competitors). In its earlier versions (and the current version supports this too), ProClarity's alternate client/server architecture puts functionality in the client. Thus the ProClarity Desktop Professional and Web Professional clients can perform not only presentation functions, but contain the business logic as well. In this architecture, Microsoft Analysis Services' PivotTable Services performs the work in the client-side component. There is merit to both approaches discussed above, and the bottom line is that which approach is best will depend on an enterprise's specific application and reporting requirements. In the two-tier environment, ProClarity Professional clients communicate directly with Microsoft Analysis Services, which returns stored aggregations to the clients. In the three-tier environment of ProClarity Server, both Professional clients use the Authoring Tool, a binary add-in, to communicate with the Analytics Server. All of the Desktop Professional components are in the Analytics Server, which can automatically download the components to the Web Professional and Standard clients (if component-download is enabled). This gives them the same analysis functionality as the Desktop Professional, except Standard client users cannot publish views by using the Authoring Tool. Desktop Professional or Web Professional is needed to create and publish views. The Enable Rich Access feature, if enabled in a ProClarity Web Professional client, allows the download and use of the Authoring Tool and, if enabled, rich components. The Desktop Professional has VBA, which is its only functional difference from the Web Professional. ProClarity Analytics Server's export function exports not only the data or view, but also the ProClarity components that are needed for viewing and analysis. These are reassembled in the client, providing full functionality for viewing and exploring the related data set. ProClarity features online interactive viewing, and so it does not have a true or production reporting tool. However, the interactivity can be tailored for the particular audience by the use of Publishing Properties or by tailoring the user interface. Views can be deployed with full interactivity, with limited interactivity or as static views (so that ProClarity can be used to distribute OLAP-style reports to the enterprise). In addition to being an analysis client for ProClarity Analytics Server, ProClarity Desktop Professional also is a stand-alone OLAP analysis tool. The ProClarity Desktop Professional application is a collection of COM and ActiveX objects operating within the ProClarity Desktop Professional shell. The COM objects, which are a COM abstraction of the query language, define a platform for developing systems specific to ODBO providers. Many of the Desktop Professional components are incorporated as Analytics Server components. The Authoring Tool, a compiled DLL installed with ProClarity Professional clients, works within an established ProClarity Analytics Server application or as a component in a third-party application to manage the Briefing Book Server. The Authoring Tool and Briefing Book Server communicate by exchanging SOAP envelopes across an HTTP connection. The Standard client, residing on the presentation tier, is an interactive Web application displayed through a browser. It communicates with the Analytics Server through the HTTP protocol and uses DHTML technology to display an interactive environment for data analysis. Standard client users access briefing books and ProClarity analysis features without downloading any software. Being DHTML-based, ProClarity Standard is not as powerful as ProClarity Web Professional, with its downloaded components. The Standard client has full analysis capabilities, but does not have access to the Authoring Tool, so it cannot create views. By caching as much information on the client machine as possible and only querying the Server for new information, server traffic is reduced. The ProClarity Analytics Server manages communication between the Standard client, Authoring Tool, Briefing Book Server and Administrative Tool.
Pricing [return to Table of Contents] [return to List of Tables]
Table 5 Price List—ProClarity Analytics Platform 5.2 Product
ProClarity Analytics Server ProClarity Analytics Server SDK
• Per physical server. 20,000 • Price for one named developer. 8,000 • Includes both Analytics Server and Desktop Professional SDKs. • Includes all ProClarity Analytics Server components and controls required by developers to customize client-side and server-side components. • Price for each additional developer. 2,000 ProClarity Desktop Professional • Price per named user. 695 Authoring License • Authoring License (to publish briefing books to ProClarity Analytics Server). 1,450 per named user ProClarity Selector — 1,990 per named user Business Reporter for Excel • Requires Professional Client. 225 per named user Standard or Web Professional Users • Per named user. 425 per named user • ProClarity Analytics Server required.
GSA Pricing Yes.
Strengths [return to Table of Contents] Standard Component- and Web-Based Technology ProClarity Analytics Platform's uses standard distributed component technology, which is based on the COM model, and for the future will be based on Microsoft .NET. The COM objects define a platform for developing systems specific to ODBO providers. Reusing tested and documented ASPs, ActiveX controls and COM components, developers can quickly build multitier custom BI applications.
Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Analysis Services Support The ProClarity Analytics Platform is optimized for the Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Analysis Services environment (which is becoming widely used as an OLAP server), using Analysis Services as its data source and analytic functionality. Furthermore, ProClarity Analytic Platform can leverage almost all the Analysis Services functionality, whereas the majority of other BI platforms vendors support only a subset.
Component-Based BI Application Development ProClarity Analytics Platform is based on two SDKs—Analytics Server SDK and Desktop Professional SDK—which support building applications from components and deploying these applications. The SDKs contain the ProClarity components and other tools that can be used to construct custom applications and custom clients.
Rapid Application Development In addition to supporting component-based applications using standard COM technology, ProClarity also offers the new Selector, which enables analysts and power users to build scripts for capturing and sharing best practices without programming.
APIs All ProClarity functionality is completely exposed via APIs. This provides developers with the great flexibility to include desired ProClarity functionality in their applications.
All ProClarity Clients Have Common Analysis Functionality All of the Desktop Professional components also are in the Analytics Server, which can automatically download the components to the Web Professional and Standard clients. This gives them the same analysis functionality as the Desktop Professional; however, Standard client users cannot publish views.
Limitations [return to Table of Contents] OLAP Data Sources ProClarity Analytics Platform is tightly integrated with Microsoft Analysis Services, which is a strength, but ProClarity is limited to Analysis Services as an OLAP data source. ProClarity claims that Hyperion Essbase and MicroStrategy, which are ODBO-compliant, also can be used, at least in theory. (However, this depends on the extent of ODBO compliance of these other products, which ProClarity states is not close to where Microsoft is in terms of supported functionality.) Thus, using these other products is not realistic.
Relational and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Data Warehouses ProClarity Analytics Platform does not provide direct access (it can drill through to an underlying schema built in any mainstream relational database) to relational star-schema data marts based on non-Microsoft relational database management systems (RDBMSs) or to BI data warehouses offered by ERP vendors.
Lacks Inherent Analysis Functionality ProClarity does not have its own calculation functions, but relies on and is limited to those provided by Microsoft Analysis Services and so is limited to the Analysis Services function set. Some competing products have their own analysis functionality geared to particular applications; for example, financial.
Reporting Facilities ProClarity lacks conventional (printed) reporting functionality.
Unix Support ProClarity lacks support for Unix platforms.
Failover Support ProClarity Analytics Platform lacks failover support. However, ProClarity can leverage Microsoft load balancing and failover, so customers can implement ProClarity Analytics Server in a failover environment.
Restoring Deleted Views If users delete a view and want to restore it, they cannot. An administrator must restore it.
ProClarity Corp.'s Ability to Execute ProClarity Corp. is a small and emerging company.
Recommended Gartner Research [return to Table of Contents] Magic Quadrants for EBIS/Reporting and BI Platforms, 2H03, M-20-4294
Insight [return to Table of Contents] ProClarity Analytics Platform is focused on building BI applications on top of Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Analysis Services. Its component-based approach provides the reusability of tested components to build multitier distributed Web applications. The ProClarity Analytics Platform supports stand-alone OLAP analysis with its Desktop Professional and Web-connected analysis with the Standard and Web Professional clients, with common analysis functionality. Although ProClarity pushes business logic to the Desktop Professional and Web Professional clients, the zero-footprint Standard client relies on these functions being performed on a middle-tier server. The ProClarity Analytics Platform relies heavily on Microsoft Analysis Services and Microsoft's PivotTable Services to do much of the calculation and data analysis and thus is limited to this functionality. Two SDKs, the Analytics Server SDK and Desktop Professional SDK, contain the ProClarity components and other tools, and APIs expose all Analytics Server and Desktop Client functionality. Although it is a small company, ProClarity has attracted a core of large customers, so the product is worth careful consideration if it meets a company's needs in a purely Microsoft environment (Unix is not supported). © 2003 Gartner, Inc. and/or its Affiliates. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction of this publication in any form without prior written permission is forbidden. The information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of such information. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof. The reader assumes sole responsibility for the selection of these materials to achieve its intended results. The opinions expressed herein are subject to change without notice.