ProClarity Expands Beyond SQL Server Data Sources

October 13, 2004

EII technology lets ProClarity use data from many more sources

By Stephen Swoyer

For much of its existence Boise, Idaho-based ProClarity has built its analytic technology stack almost entirely on top of Microsoft’s SQL Server 2000 database. That changed late last month when ProClarity announced a new version 6.0 release of its ProClarity Analytics platform.

As expected, the new release incorporates enterprise information integration (EII) technology ProClarity acquired from the former Juice Software in May. Thanks to its new EII underpinnings, ProClarity’s Analytic Server has gone from a SQL Server-only play to an offering that’s able to pull data from just about any data source—including mainframe green-screen applications.

“All of the live data connection feeds are being created by that data layer, so I can go out and touch virtually any data source,” says Clay Young, vice-president of strategic marketing with ProClarity. “It can be a Web scrape, a Web service directly into an application, a query into a relational database, a query into an OLAP database, [or] a CSV file can go out and create a script.”

Excel remains the default client front-end for ProClarity 6, but Young says the revamped product includes a new middle tier, dubbed ProClarity Live Server, that lets users construct custom analytic views that persist from session to session. What’s more, he says, ProClarity Live Server can also refresh data—on either a pre-determined or a real-time basis—in Excel itself. “It lets you build models, all sorts of models, around these live cells in Excel, so at the end of the day, you’re feeding those models the live data that’s coming out of these disparate data sources,” Young explains.

Just as important, Young claims, is that users can construct their own analytic views of data drawn from a variety of data sources in the Excel environment, too. “They can go in with their Excel environment and start logically integrating those data sources, and that creates that logical integration [with data sources] so the user doesn’t even have to know where this data is coming from,” he says. “It basically lets them glue all of these queries together in their spreadsheets.”

This also has the effect of reducing or eliminating the proliferation of what Wayne Eckerson, director of research at The Data Warehousing Institute (TDWI), has called “spreadmarts”: Isolated silos of business-specific data that crop up when separate business units or user constituencies create and maintain their own isolated copies of spreadsheet data.

Because users can construct unique views that are also centrally managed in ProClarity 6, Young claims, the spreadmart impetus is nipped in the bud.

“A lot of the reason for [spreadmarts] is the business user gets frustrated, because they can’t get this stuff integrated, because BI can’t respond quickly enough to deliver this new content,” he argues. “Now, when the business user says, I need to do a comparison of Unilever’s impact on my market share for Tide, and what implications their pricing model has on that, I can integrate all of that together in 15 minutes.”

This is especially important in budget planning and forecasting scenarios, says Young, where spreadsheet anarchy typically abounds. “Since most of this [planning and forecasting] stuff exists in Excel, the biggest nightmare is that none of it is centralized. In the Live Server scenario, because it has bidirectional synchronization [between Excel and data sources], it’s an incredibly powerful planning environment,” he says.

Because it grew up largely on the back of Microsoft’s SQL Server database, ProClarity has not been a contender in many large organizations with heterogeneous data sources. Young claims that’s already changing, however.

“This technology is already installed and running in six major corporations,” he says. “In some cases we’ve shown [ProClarity 6] to prospects that were trying to stretch the limits of what we could do with our existing analytics. We chose to introduce them into the [ProClarity] 6 concept, and as such they basically became customers by virtue of the breadth that we could cover.”